All heart, no legs: a story of strength and determination
This is Jaydee. He's all heart.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…
In 1983, the professors in graduate school emphasized that we were to use the
more respectful term, “residual limb,” when referring to a patient’s
amputated arm or leg. “Stump care” became “residual limb management.” So when
I first met Jaydee, who had just come home
with a recent left leg above-the-knee amputation, I was careful to use the
appropriate wording during my initial home care occupational therapy visit.
He responded so matter-of-factly, “Oh, you mean my stump?” That’s when I knew
he was special.
The amputation was still healing, the wounds were deep. He endured daily,
painful, wound care treatments and dressing changes, often followed by
occupational and physical therapy. He had a hospital bed and a variety of
medical equipment and supplies set up in his library. When I first visited
with Jaydee, the hospital bed was his immediate and
only environment. It was where he slept, ate, bathed, dressed, shaved,
brushed his teeth, listened to music, watched TV, and talked on the phone.
Stairglides were installed outside and inside.
Access to outside meant access to the car, medical appointments, and more
importantly, the community. Access upstairs meant showering and the healing
effects of water. The library was located on the main floor of the house,
along with the kitchen, living room, dining room, work area and a powder
MASTER OF THE HOUSE: INSIDE AND OUT
Jaydee endured much pain in those beginning months
as the wound was debrided and healed. His wife
diligently supported and provided his care (and still does). Despite
unnerving pain, Jaydee persevered daily. His
willingness to try any proposed suggestion, technique or maneuver is a
To be a part of the transition of a man in bed, to a man in, about, and out
of house is a thrill and an honor.
At the time of discharge from home care occupational therapy, Jaydee had achieved mastery in his ability to take care
of himself, as well as mastery of his home environment – inside and out.
He either sponge bathed at the sink in the powder room or rode the stair
glide up to the bathtub equipped with a bench for showering, toileted himself
in the powder room on a special seat, emptied the dishwasher alternating
sitting and standing on one leg, and even cooked a mean bacon and egg
breakfast. He could ride the stairglide down to the
street level, ride in the front passenger seat of
the car or toil about the garage. He was hopping short distances on one leg
with a walker, looking forward to the day when his wounds healed and he could
begin prosthetic training.
Months later, I ran into Jaydee’s wife in the
grocery store. She informed me that Jaydee would
soon be coming home from his second amputation. This time, it was the right
leg above the knee amputation, which was recently revised to be at an even
higher level than the initial surgery. He had sustained pressure sores as
I was cautiously worried about his spirits when I arrived for this second
round of home care occupational therapy.
I should have known better than to question my faith in this heroic man. Upon
my arrival, he was his cheery self, waiting with open arms and ready to go to
work again. The concentration at in-patient rehab was primarily on obtaining
the proper wheelchair for him -- a custom, tilt-in-space, power chair. His
wife received training on how to use a mechanical lift and body sling to help
him get in and out of bed. We were starting again at the same location: the
hospital bed, the place for sleeping, eating, toileting, bathing, grooming,
watching TV, reading, and talking on the phone.
ANOTHER ROSE BY THE SAME NAME…
Jaydee, as casual as ever, referred to his legs as
his stumps. I have worked with other double amputee patients before, but the
level at which his most recent and revised amputation was done left very
little leverage length. His new stump was even shorter than his old stump. Jaydee in his bipedal days, stood at 6 feet, 3.
Consequently, sitting up and balancing on short stumps would be challenging.
Furthermore, a sacral (tailbone) pressure wound had developed during his
prolonged hospitalization which required an alternating air mattress for
Sitting up in bed, Jaydee was like a buoy floating
on rough waters. Fortunately, his arms are what his wife and physical
therapist lovingly dubbed “orangutan arms,” since they extend beyond the
length of his torso. He adeptly learned to use those long arms to hold onto
the bed rails, the hanging bed trapeze, the arms of the wheelchair….anything
to keep himself from falling. Yet, when we did try
to work on sitting balance and he couldn’t right himself, his falls to the
mattress were nothing less than “gracious,” only encouraging him to get up
and try again.
REGAINING CONTROL OF HIS CASTLE
His physical therapist and I worked together and brainstormed various
techniques and equipment to help Jaydee regain
mastery over his environment… to extend his world beyond that hospital bed,
He quickly learned how to maneuver from the bed to the power wheelchair and
back by himself without a mechanical lift. Always up for challenges, he soon
re-conquered the commode, the stairglide, the
upstairs tub with the bench for showering, and the backseat of his Prius.
Using the joystick, he can power down the ramp to the street for strolls with
friends or to get the mail. He can fill the cat’s bowls with food and water
and has even run the vacuum from his wheelchair. He is back at the computer
with the help from a friend who constructed a wheelchair accessible desk from
an old door. He has once again moved beyond the hospital bed. Best of all, he
can make his famous bacon and eggs again.
Through it all, Jaydee has never said, “no.” To
every suggestion, recommendation or crazy idea, Jaydee’s
consistent unfailing response has always been, “Okay, let’s try it.”
In rehabilitation, there is no one correct way to accomplish a task.
Individual strengths, weaknesses, desires, values and environments are too
Jaydee listens and participates with an open mind
and open heart to solving everyday problems, which to him, are only temporary
obstacles to his independence.
His legs are missing, but his heart is ever present.
(Lynda has been an occupational therapist for 26 years)