Empowering others: sharing experiences, ideas; offering creative solutions to common challenges.

Write to me at b.able2@yahoo.com

Monday, August 30, 2010

How Do You Do... Cutting Food?

I'm hungry; aren't you? Eating is something that we do at least a few times a day! Since I have a hand, I use it to hold my fork while dining. I do not use special equipment for this task, but that does not mean it wouldn't be helpful for others. For example, if I lost use of my left hand, I would use my prosthesis to hold the fork or spoon -But a better utensil might be one with a bent angle; especially since my wrist component does not have a flexion action. A great way to grasp utensils with the hook is by pinching it between the 'fingers' and resting the handle on the outer side of the medial or 'thumb-side' finger.

And I would probably use a rocker knife or a rolling pizza knife to facilitate better cutting with the prosthesis.

But this is really about cutting the food. I hold the fork in a similar fashion when I'm cutting my meat. The difference is that I face the fork downward and use it to spear the food.

I then use a knife in my hand.

Once the food is cut, I switch utensils and hold the fork in my hand to eat.

I use a similar technique with my Adept,

only after grasping the fork with the terminal device, I click the button on the Sure-Lock system and it does the work of active pinching for me.

My energy is saved for cutting... and then of course eating!

If I am not using a prosthesis (I admit, that's rare! -I wear my prosthesis typically 15-18 hours per day.), I grasp the fork in the crook of my elbow (residual limb side, of course)

and cut holding the knife in my hand.

Then I transfer the utensil to my hand.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Do You Do...?

I haven't forgotten about you! In fact I've been diligently working on the next 12 postings! We'll be talking about cutting food next... but not today. The text is near completion but the photos are stuck in my camera.  Be patient with me; I hope to have it all posted soon. In the meantime, I've added a few suggestions for useful tools and will be adding suppliers.  Although I may not personally use some of these, I have found them to be helpful for others at times. Watch for the subtle changes to this blog and stay tuned for more strategies, information and insight.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Do You Do... Shoe-tying?

Let's talk about tying shoes. It's been one of the most frequently-asked questions (#1 is how do you put on panty-hose, but we don't quite know each other well enough to discuss that yet!)
Shoe-tying has been made easier of course with the advent of velcro and elastic laces.
That being said, I like to tie my own shoes, especially if they match the rest of my ensemble!
Since I am typically wearing my prosthesis, let's examine the steps involved:
1. I cross laces at the onset of the task--it saves a step:

 2. I use my hand to push the (left hand) lace under the crossed laces:
3. Then I form a loop with my left hand:
4. And I wind the lace held by my TD around it, and push it through the 'hole' created by the lace with my left hand :
5. I then grasp both laces with each hand (yes, I often refer to my prosthesis as my hand; it is truly an extension of my 'self') and pull laterally:
6. Voila!
Tout fini! (All finished!)
That wasn't so hard, was it?
I'd love to show you how I tie shoes without my prosthesis... I use basically the same staps, only I use the crook of my elbow to 'grasp' the lace. Positioning is key (remember that; I tend to say that alot...)!
1. Cross the laces;
2. Use the hand to push the lace under the crossed laces;

3. Form the loop with the hand;

4. Wind the lace with the crook of the elbow and push it through the 'hole' created by the lace with the hand;

5.  Then grasp both laces with each side--hand and elbow crook-- and pull laterally:

6. Voila!

Fait accompli! (Task accomplished!)
Again.... easy! -Though the old adage, "practice makes perfect" certainly carries alot of weight! I remember being 5 and 6 years old and practicing ad nauseum tying shoes with and without my prosthesis. I remember being so angry and crying in frustration because I just couldn't get it together. But, I also remember the sweetness of victory; of practicing, correcting error, perfecting technique until I got it. The sweetness of victory; of overcoming and being able to achieve.... beautiful. I re-live it now; I re-live it in the successes of those empowered.
Hooray! What shall we practice next??? Let me know; otherwise it's my pick!

Monday, August 16, 2010

How Do You Do.... Series Introduction

What an encouragement to receive your responses both publicly via blog and privately!! Thank you so very much.  To give you an idea of what to expect  in the very near future, and as part of the 'introduction', I was thinking about the phrase we have used so commonly when we meet another: "How do you do?". Frequently, after I meet someone I am asked, "How do you do.... (a specific task/activity)?"
So.... let's chat about that! I will be commenting on how I address specific bimanual tasks both with and without my prosthesis... When applicable, I may provide additional info between the voluntary closing (Adept) and voluntary opening (hook) terminal devices.
I've used the hook for most of my life. Believe it or not, it is by choice, and no, not because I loved being called names (you guessed it, Captain Hook was the most common, least imaginative!) It was because even early on, I recognized that for me, (and that is key) function takes precedence over cosmesis. At the time... and we are talking decades ago, there were not many choices! So as I introduce the How Do You Do series, let's talk about the 'times' and the culture of the times for a moment.  We now live in a culturally-diverse and culturally-aware society. Everything in medicine, education, government, economics, entertainment, commerce and religion speaks of it. But that was not always so...
I was born in the mid-1950's. If you were to Google those years you would find that Eisenhower was president, racial segregation was ruled unconstitutional, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on public transportation, the first US satellite completed orbit around the earth, Alaska and Hawaii became states and domestic airlines opened their passenger service between NYC and Miami. It was in this time that I was born; and in spite of not having all 10 fingers and all 10 toes; was "wondrously formed" (Psalms 139.14). Why is this important? It is important because:
a. it was the reality for that period of time; b. it would be a full 20 year time period when the period of 'tolerance' would then emerge; c. it paves the way for the period of  'acceptance' that we now experience.
My reality was this:
1. I was born without my right forearm and hand;
   (for the record, as scarey as this probably was for my parents, I do have multiple siblings who were born after me, all with 10 fingers and 10 toes!)
2. my parents taught me that God made me this way;
3. there was a measure of expectancy/accountability:
        -they also taught me that I could do everything  that anyone else could do,
        -especially if I wanted to, though I might need to do it differently;
        -they would help me to figure out those diffent ways
        -and that I was not 'lesser' for any of these reasons.
So the impact of these realities was this:
1. I could not change how I was born: "it is what it is";
2. there was a divine purpose and plan for me to be this way;
3. the opportunity of using a prosthesis (at that time, for that culture) was a privilege and the expectancy was that I would learn to tolerate and use it to the best of my ability with their encouragement and support to be the best I could be and on a par with my peers.
During early childhood through adolescence my options were a body powered hook, a body powered cosmetic hand, a passive cosmetic hand, or nothing. 'Nothing' was not really an option. -Not in my family culture! For me, in the 1960's and 1970's the body-powered hook was the best option: lightweight and functional. In my very pragmatic mind, I knew that I did not have 2 hands, was highly unlikely to grow a hand and decided that I did not need to look the part, but wanted to function the part!
Stay tuned for the next installment: How Do You Do......?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why are you starting a blog now?

GREAT QUESTION!! Someone once told me that some questions are best answered with a question. That being said; Why NOT? I have over a half century's experience of living with a congenital limb deficiency, the blessing of fantastic parents who taught me that "can't" was not an option; and knowledge that possibilities are only as limited as the mind will allow and creativity, humor and will are the keys to ability.
In an age where we are seeking the benefits of maximal independence and quality of life, how could I not share my own nuggets of empowerment?!
NOW is a great time to begin... so let's, shall we?
I use a body-powered prosthesis and have since I was about 2 1/2 yers of age. I received my first prosthesis (passive) at a little over a year old.  I joke that some mothers save their children's shoes; mine saved my arms! And yes, I still have most of them.
Let me tell you about my new prosthesis. It has a black carbon-fibre forearm with a jet black Adept Prehensor voluntary-closing terminal device fabricated by TRS of Colorado. (Check out the website!) Its function is enhanced by the Sure-Lok Cable Lock and Control System also offered by TRS. Access to body power is achieved by my own invention, the Anchor, a harness-less technology currently offered to patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children and hopefully soon available to the public.
This is my favorite prosthesis. I love the savvy look, the ability of the thumb and that I can continue to do everything that I need to do and want to do, easily! You can see how happy I am in the photo above!
This blog is intended to share experiences and to serve as a venue to answer questions... from others who experience  upper extremity 'one'ness be it congenital or acquired, or those providing care, guidance or support. Please feel free to post your questions.... I'll use this column to answer inquiries.... and will post at least one a week!! In the meantime: be well, be happy, be at peace!