Dear friends and family,
It has been some time since I last wrote, over the past few weeks a few things have happened which I would like to update you on. Two weeks ago, I was casted for my first prosthetic leg. In the process of about forty-five minutes, the prosthesis technician, Bob, created a mold of my leg using simple plaster. Over the course of the next week, Bob worked with the product and on Thursday November 10th, he presented me with my first artificial leg. As stated in previous messages, this leg is a very basic “starter leg,” known around here as a “stubby.” With no knee joint, and holding me only around ten inches above the floor, Bob helped me insert my leg into the prosthetic – For the first time in six months I was able to stand up. There to witness this event was my mother, Joan, my girlfriend, Summer, and my college friend, Harry. They took photos and watched as I pulled myself up out of my wheelchair, and up onto my new leg, bracing myself between two parallel bars in the gym at the CFI.
While the experience was definitely a big step, I sometimes feel as if it was overrated. The hard plastic rim of the prosthetic dug into my groin as the few pressure points where my leg held onto the prosthetic supported all of my body weight. With only one leg and no knee joint, I stood there, took some pictures, and a couple minutes later sat down in my wheel chair.
I must admit, however, the moment was also joyful. A warm feeling of happiness and accomplishment slowly began to sink in, as Bob told me that he would work with me in the months ahead to refine the prosthetic to be more comfortable, and would create a prosthetic for my other leg in the following week. In addition to my prosthetic leg, I turned in my electric wheelchair in exchange for a “power assist” chair that, with minimal push from both arms, allows me to travel faster than a traditional, manual wheelchair. It is still quite difficult as the brace on my right arm is unable to grip the wheel enough to get an even tread. While more difficult than the electric wheelchair, it is a big step in regaining my independence. With the “power assist” wheel chair, I am able to travel easier on my own then with the heavy, electric one.
Unfortunately, despite these advancements in my rehab, my momentum forward was again slowed by another infection in my right arm. The infection was caught early, and is being treated as cellulitis, an infection in the skin surrounding some of the pin sites where the brace is drilled into my bone. Along with the infection, I have been experiencing intense pain from my neck down to my fingertips. The soreness I have been experiencing over the course of the past two weeks has put me in states of agony, which I have not felt since I first lost my legs back in May. I was hospitalized late last week to begin taking care of the infection. I was sent home on Friday with intravenous antibiotics, and was able to enjoy a wonderful weekend trip to nearby Austin with Summer. This was my first time outside San Antonio since I arrived here in May.
While the infection and my struggling with the severe pain held us back from some activities, our trip was refreshing and finally allowed me a true vacation. We returned on Monday looking forward to the week ahead, in which I was scheduled to continue working with my new prosthetic. After two sleepless nights of dealing with increasing pain in my arm and shoulder, I had my doctor’s readmit me to the hospital for pain control. While I am still experiencing occasional pain, for the most part I am beginning to feel better, and am getting some much-needed rest.
This upcoming weekend, members of my platoon who were on patrol with me on the day of my injury will finally visit me. These men were responsible for applying immediate first aid and coordinating the dispatch of MEDEVAC helicopters to pick me up. In other words, these men saved my life. I cannot express how much I am looking forward to this visit, and I only hope that I won’t have to be in the hospital while they are here.
With Thanksgiving approaching, we all know that this year I have many things to be thankful for. Not the least of which is the fact that I am still alive. I am not sure that I will have the chance to write again before next week, so I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all of you for your continuous support and overwhelming love that you send my way. Whether it be a hand stitched afghan, a box of Halloween candies, autumn leaves from our National Mall, brownies from the best bakery in New York, a fresh fruit basket, or a thoughtful card or voicemail, I deeply and truly appreciate every small token of your kindness. I will be spending Thanksgiving here in San Antonio with members of my family. I hope each one of you is able to spend the holidays with your loved ones. Until we speak again, my love to you all.