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

Write to me at b.able2@yahoo.com

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reader Inquiry

I know that I promised an entry devoted to swimming... and it's coming! Sometimes my readers send requests to me via my posted personal e-mail; and I do try to respond. With permission, I like to post your questions or dilemmas and even some of my tips/tricks for solving these inconveniences. Since I have permission, and the problem is a common one it is worthwhile to share. So, read on...

My reader wrote:

"It was great meeting you... Thanks for helping me out with those tricks and tips.I love your blog. There is so much information that I had questions to and you answered them for me.
I have a problem, I have a few pants with zippers on the left side. Because I'm missing my left forearm, it makes it impossible to wear these pants. Do you have any suggestions on how I can zip up the pants, without me tossing them in the trash?
And if you have any other tips, please send them to me. I'll keep checking your blog."

The suggestions:
Tell me more about the clothing... is there a button also? And does the fabric have any 'give' to it (stretchiness) vs being stiff like denim? Pants with a little lycra are easier because the fabric moves around our curves better.
     *If the pants have a button, you can use something called a "button extender" typically sold in the men's department because many shirts fit a man's body but the neck is often too tight. There is also a pant button extender on the market, typically sold on line. If you use the button extender, you could pre-button the pants, and pull them up.
     *To fasten the zipper, you can "hold" the bottom of the zipper by pushing up against a wall or a table. Run a string through the hole in the zipper pull and reach across your body with your right hand and pull the zipper up. Then tuck the string into your pants. It works really well if you use clear plastic thread---- it's strong and invisible if it works its way out of your waistband.
     *You can also use an assistive device called a zipper pull. It's a little hook with a long handle, typically about 6 inches long. It will help you to reach the zipper on the left side ofyour body with your right hand.


There is often more than one way to accomplish a task. You change the outcome by simply re-positioning your self or the objects being used.
Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to write to me at b.able2@yahoo.com

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dancing Feet.. and even Wheels!

Although I have every intention of addressing the topic of swimming ... accompanied by some 'tips and tricks' for those of us with apparent upper extremity asymmetry... please indulge me while I digress. Truthfully, the weather here has been less than helpful; I am disinclined to photo-shoot with tornado warnings and thunderstorms looming. In the meantime however, and in the spirit of fun and happiness I am sharing something that a dear friend (you know who you are!) sent it to me..... Check it out, enjoy and pass it on.... it is sure to bring a smile to even the grumpiest curmudgeon!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

UH OH...Summer is ...

Oh my goodness... It's AUGUST!! Where has the time gone?! I hope that you are all enjoying the summer as much as I am! I apologize (again!) for so very much time having passed since writing. Truly, we have been enjoying the amazing weather and the great activities that summer in New England offers. One of my favorites is biking. My husband I purchased new bikes this year. Let me tell you about mine... It's made by Specialized and has 21 speeds. This model is a hybrid style that can be used both on- and off-road. (We bought our bikes from Family Bike, East Longmeadow. The technicians there were fantastic about making my accommodations, offering suggestions and getting me on the road!) We had the rear brake lever and the rear sprocket shifter moved to the left handlebar so that I can more easily control the speeds, and more safely use the brake system. I have been practicing using my terminal device (the Adept, by TRS) to rotate the right handle grip. Although my system is not perfect yet, my adaptive strategies continue to evolve and this is the best set-up I've ever had. You will also notice that in addition to wearing my helmet (forget about fashion; safety first!) I also am wearing UPF 50+ skin protection sleeves (Coolibar, sold by the pair, multiple styles, colors) which protect my skin but also seem to keep my carbon fibre forearm from heating up, especially inside the socket. And I'm using a neoprene glove (Swede-O) with wrist strap to give my left hand and wrist extra support.
When we're not at work, enjoying family or riding our bikes, we're at the pool! We'll talk about swimming next!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Some New Trends

Yesterday I shared my latest jewelry find, the Bali Designs bracelets. I should specify that I wear these bracelets on my left wrist (not my residual limb side). -They are easy to don and to doff because of the hinged cuff style. They make other styles as well: clasped and bangles.
What I wanted to share with you today is another latest rage: jewelry for the prosthesis! Why not?! I've long observed that many users of the passive/cosmetic and myoelectric hands wear watches and bracelets on the prosthesis. It's a bit of a challenge for those of us who use body-powered to accomplish this without interfering with our control mechanisms. Until of late. Here are some easy tips:
To wear a bracelet, I've had two holes drilled into my prosthesis forearm ('body-piercings', if you will!) on the same side as my cable and distally near the wrist but just proximal to the wrist unit. I thread the bracelet through the holes so that it doesn't interfere with the control of my terminal device and it stays in place. Re-visit this blog and I will insert photos this week-end. I wear a black leather cord Pandora bracelet with beads pretty much all of the time.
To wear a watch or a cuff style bracelet (typically further up the forearm), I use the loop velcro on the underside of the piece of jewelry and the hook velcro on the prosthesis in the desired area. This stablizes the jewelry in place so it doesn't slide up and down my arm and the loop protects my carbon fibre from getting scratched. The velcro I prefer is the adhesive-backed black dots because they are camouflaged by my carbon fibre forearm. You can find these at a craft or notions store can be peeled off when not in use.
Ring-bling: Have you discovered elasticized rings? They are the rage among the younger set, can be found at any costume jewelry site and because they are typically inexpensive (unlike the bracelets) one need not fret if they get lost. -This style will definitely slide off easily once stretched.
There is a cool shop in Thorne's Market, Northampton that sells unique items. Among them are a wooden cuff bracelet that I love to wear on my prosthesis forearm and a ring that I admire. It's carved wood; I always check to see if the shop-owner has any large enough to fit on my Adept thumb... for special occasions, of course. I love the look of the wood... set against the modern sleekness of the carbon fibre, it is a nod to the days when the prosthesis was hand carved of wood! My, haven't we come a long way!!!
Again, please re-visit this blog soon... I will insert photos of these pieces this week-end.
And stay tuned... next entry I will show you my 'freckles'!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Eve's Addiction Ad


I notice that this company has advertised on my blog. Although I have not (YET!!) puchased from them, they do carry some jewelry that I like. -You might enjoy it as well. This particular line is called Bali Design and it is made in ... you guessed it; BALI! I particularly like the silver and gold cuffs. The design is such that it has an opening and a hinge. There are no clasps to fasten! HALLELUJAH!!
One merely opens the hinged area and slides the bracelet on the forearm. This is wonderful for those of us with one hand, or those who are experiencing decreased fine motor abilities. Check out their website for yourself! This particular line is referred to as a Vintage Style Sterling Silver Cuff. http://www.evesaddiction.com/

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who says you can't teach an (old dog) new tricks?!

I have now "arrived" as a full-fledged adult.... I have a smart phone!  Probably most of you are well-experienced with this technology. I however, seem to have always been a late bloomer. And besides, I am a New Englander and we are known to be... shall we say, thrifty? My previous phone is not that old and was working perfectly fine. I could not justify spending the $$$. But all of that changed with Mothers' Day. I received my DROID as a gift and the dawn of smart technology arose within me! I love the phone, am learning about  'apps' and am trying NOT to become addicted to the technology. But it woos... it draws me. There are games and access to my e-mail accounts, my phone contacts, internet research.... My husband is citing neglect (just kidding).
But let me tell you about the cool simple technology that I've acquired to complement my smart phone. It's called Fly Grip and it's a holder that folds flat when not in use; expands to support my fingers so that my thumb is free to fly across the keys and access the world... or at least the internet and the telephone. I don't risk dropping my phone.Check it out:
I like to use my index and middle fingers in the flygrip holders and my ring and little fingers to support the device. But you can use it however you feel most comfortable and beneficial. You can get more info at flygrip.com... VERY COOL!!!!! So, who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks???

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Well.... Happy Sunday! A few weeks ago I posted a photograph of Ollie and promised to share his story with you. Here it is. Please click on the link, sit back and enjoy....http://youtu.be/dF4kaBW47K0.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Birthday Blessings

Hi Everyone! Have I mentioned that I am a Shriners Kid??? OK, I know that I have .... Today, a reporter visited the hospital and I was among those asked to interview with her. What an honor to be an ambassador for a hospital system that has influenced my life... and permits me to influence others! You can check out the link here:

You know, I would love to tell you that my experience receiving state-of-the-art care as a child was what "made the difference" in my life.... But that would not be the gospel truth. Was it an important factor? Absolutely.... but I have been blessed with....
1. great family: terrific and insightful parents, wonderful and loving grandparents, my sister and brothers -and their life partners- who are my best friends, my daughters who are my pride and joy, nieces and nephews who love me in spite of my quirky humor (and even encourage it!) and my husband: handsome, cool, my absolute soul mate who understands me, protects me, loves me....
2. great faith: a personal relationship with God who loves me, forgives me, destined me and never fails me... WOW!
3. humor: I'm not saying that it's not odd, but... come on, I can be pretty funny. At least I thnk so... I entertain myself!!!
4. persistence: the gentle flow of water will wear through the hardness of the rock... I will persevere, I will keep trying...
So, why all of this today? Today is the day I celebrate  my accomplishments to date, forgive my own shortcomings, acknowledge the blessings of family and dear friends.... and press on! Happy Blessed Day!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring is in the air and in its honor I publish this sweet photo of 2 of my siblings and I playing on swings. This swingset was located in our backyard. I remember it -and all of the fun we had- very well! Can you tell which of these children is me? -Yes, I'm the lovely on the left. Notice, please, that I am holding the swing with my terminal device. I agree, rather an awkward grasp but... when you want to do something badly enough, you find a way to do it. Which brings me to the reason for this post: it's come to my attention that it's difficult to comment on this blog. I can't control Google, but...I do want to empower you. If you have a comment, question, seek input, have a suggestion for a topic, want to encourage more posts... whatever; feel free to write to me at b.able2@yahoo.com
Come on, now.... you are REALLY not surprised at my e-mail address!!!


    A few days ago, I shared a true story with all of you. I was surprised to find out that the perception of others in the country I was visiting was very different  than the country from which I hail. For some reason, I had not expected this reaction. Why? Silly me! I had just assumed that we were, well, of similar cultures. Or perhaps I did not think of this at all. I do know that I had not anticipated this event or this perception. I also know that I choose my prosthesis for the function it gives me and have tailored it to the appearance that suits me. -Bravery regarding this decision never entered my mind! (You have checked out my very savvy arm, right? -My point is that it suits me: classic with a modern twist, highly functional, simple, accessible and powered by my personal reserves) To someone else, my prosthesis might look like Dr. Strangeglove the villain  from an old James Bond movie. It's the black hand of..... function, durability,  streamlined appearance.  I really love this prosthesis; it fits me. And guess what... you meet me, notice the prosthesis, ask your questions (or trust me, I answer them anyway) and then... you forget about the prosthesis and see me. By the time you 'know' me, you forget that I am any more different than anyone else. Gee, what a concept: we are ALL 'different'!
    OK, back to my story: When I spoke of the experience on the train to my colleagues at the symposium, they explained to me that most people (in that country) who use a prosthesis typically wear a cosmetic hand in public; not a utilitarian design such as the hook or the Adept. These very functional terminal devices are reserved for the workplace. In the United States individuals with an upper extremity limb deficiency have several options: no prosthesis, passive /cosmetic (but still functional! -we'll discuss this another time) prosthesis; activity-specific  prosthesis, body-powered prosthesis; myo-electric prosthesis, electronic prosthesis.... the list goes on.  My point is that there are many options and the choices are dependent upon consumer preferences, residual limb length, age, life style, funding sources... So how does one choose the "correct" prosthesis and why does one choose what they do? These questions have been among those asked by investigators for decades. Investigators include consumers and clinicians.
    I am a consumer of the prosthesis industry because I have a trans-radial (below-elbow) limb deficiency and choose to wear a prosthesis. I am a clinician as a registered occupational therapist and have a passion to empower people who are attempting to overcome obstacles. Although I have personal preferences (such as choosing to use a prosthesis), as a clinician I understand that my clients have unique preferences as well.-That is one of the reasons that we are individuals! -and I have learned to respect their perceptions.  As an investigator, I am curious about preferences of individuals and groups,  what works best for the individuals in areas of functional ability, self-esteem and social rituals; why these components (or none) work well  or don't at all; and looking for any common denominators. As a consumer-clinician-researcher, I am wary of believing evidence that cites any particular item (be it technology, method, etc)  as being the end-all  and answer to solving all of the challenges faced by an individual with upper extremity limb deficiency (or deficiencies) and open-minded enough to know that many different components, strategies, can work to create function, independence, satisfaction, happiness. Personal happiness.
Remember, we are talking about a prosthesis; the goal of which is to become a natural extension of the (residual) limb; as it relates -or is worn/used by individuals....
   Ahhhh; the power of one.  Think about it: the power of one. ONE! Individual preferences, strategies, talents, interests, strengths working together. "One" can make a difference...
                     You are one being who can make a difference.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Making a Positive Impression

So... to continue with this 'discussion' (okay, it is more like a monolog!); a positive attitude is a way of life. It requires a conscious effort of the beholder to commit to positivity and to possibility. What does THAT mean? Let me explain... positivity (I confess; I believe that I just made up that term) refers to the process of thinking, speaking, acting and modeling positive perspective; possibility refers to the ability to perceive situations in terms of the possibilities that may result. It's never too late to adopt these perspectives. I believe that my mother facilitated this technique in me and my siblings by insisting that we begin every day with a smile. Seriously. If we came out of our rooms in the morning with a sour attitude she would immediately send us back to our rooms with the instructions that we were to come back out with a smile and a better attitude. -And we'd better be quick about it because we were not allowed to be late for school or for any chores that needed to be done! A positive attitude begins the very moment we awake, or at the very least, with our first glance into the mirror in the morning.No matter how difficult the situations that I may have to face that day, I greet myself with a smile in the morning mirror. -It just seems to start my day on a good note.
 May I confess that I've endured days when even that was difficult? I recall one day in particular when I caught a glimpse of myself; the face reflected looked tired, worn, beaten down.... frightening! What did I do? I shrieked with horror -loudly!! My children came running to see what was the matter... and when they asked; I told them that I looked in the mirror and was so scared with my own face that I screamed. We all laughed and it seemed to set things right in my heart! My day was immediately better and my problems put into perspective. Thank God for a sense of humor! Serousy though; the 'take-home' message is this: if your culture permits, greet your self, your day and others with eye contact and a smile.
A few years ago, I took a lovely trip to England to speak at a conference. The trip was particularly long because I was travelling alone, the venue was in the country and the train workers were apparently on strike.  Imagine my surprise when a fellow traveller, sporting heavy black make-up and safety pins through her face  remarked to me that she thought I was rather brave to be seen in public looking as I did. I quickly examined my appearance, thinking perhaps my grooming had gone awry. -I know that I'm not the prettiest creature that God has ever made, but it had not occurred to me that I would need courage to show my face in public! When I appeared confused with the comment, she added that she thought that I was brave to be seen in public with a hook prosthesis instead of a hand. I was both relieved (thankful that she was not actually saying that I was ugly) and bewildered (why did wearing a functional prosthesis instead of a cosmetic one require bravery?)... And that is what we will talk about next... personal preferences and the reality of our perceptions!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


So, let's get back to this idea of a positive attitude.... to create a word-picture for you, I'll use the idea of making lemonade from the lemons handed to each of us by.... well, the challenges of life. We all have them (referring to challenges!) whether we have 2 hands or not. What matters is what we do with the challenge. Have you ever thought about your strengths, abilities or talents? If you don't use them, they will not continue to be a strength to you. Challenges are not much different. If you don't face them, deal with them and learn to work around them, you will not be strengthened. By exercising* (i.e. learning a 'work-around' to) your weakness, you actually exorcise (eliminate) your weakness and in that way, the challenge actually becomes a strength. Simply stated, our weakness can actually become our strength.
Many times people who do not know me will make initial  statements such as this: "Oh, how terribly difficult to go through life without a hand" or "You poor thing..."
If I had not been born without my hand:
1. I would not likely be an occupational therapist (for the past 34 years) ;
2. I would not likely have conceived of the idea for the cutaneous anchor technology to change access to body power without harnessng in an upper extremity prosthesis;
3. I would not have started this blog that now circles the globe;
4. or the company Single-Handed Solutions that offers creative solutions in simple technology and adaptive strategies.
Although I don't honestly know if I would actually CHOOSE to not have a hand, what I do know is this:
1. There are far worse things one might endure than not having two hands;
2. Some of my most difficult life experiences had less to do with not having two hands and were more related to not making the best choice;
3. I am not a 'poor thing'...
I am blessed with a wonderful family and my life is rich with meaningful relationships. I have employment that is more than a job; it is a ministry and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and in our world.
Lemons, anyone? They are an opportunity to make lemonade... or even occasionally limoncello!

Friday, April 6, 2012

This is my new friend Ollie. He hangs out with my friend Jessie and visited us today at Shriners Hospitals for Children. Like so many of us, Ollie has a compelling story of how he lost his left "upper" extremity and is overcoming adversity. Watch for upcoming tales (!) of Ollie's adventures.
In the meantime, however, notice his smile!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

“Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health."

Yesterday I posted this quote by Mary Reilly, an American OT; leader in the profession. How bold! How dare I post these words on a blog that claims devotion to those of us with upper limb deficiency! How seemingly insensitive to challenge those without hand(s) to perceive that their health -and perhaps well-being or even success, lies in the use  of the hands.
Do not misunderstand... I do challenge you with these same words: as an occupational therapist, as a peer, as a mentor. But hear ALL  of the words: they say. "... through the use of (his) hands, as they are energized by mind and will..."
How interesting that I have started this section on 'attitude'. This quote actually speaks to attitude: the mind and the will which are seated on the throne of attitude!
We must determine within our own 'self' to influence our own state. It's not a matter of actually having hands, but of finding ways, methods, strategies to accomplish tasks using the tools at our disposal. For some, the prosthesis may become the natural extension of the residual limb. For others, the residual limb can provide whatever is needed to meet the physical, and psycho-emotional demands. For some, the will to achieve is stronger and mightier than discouragement. For others discouragement and even temporal setback becomes a reason to quit. For some, an open mind yields possibilities toward success. For others, the mind is closed to thinking that more than one route leads to achievement. Where are you in the crowd? Are you among the believers, the doers and the possibility-thinkers?
I encourage you to begin today.... put your mind and your will at the helm of a positive attitude! If you need help; write to me... I will be happy to encourage you!
Let me conclude by sharing some words of wisdom from my parents...
" (Debi, ) you can accomplish anything that you want to do... You may have to do it differently, but you can do anything that you set your mind to do. You will just have to want to do it badly enough.
And we are here to help you."

Hmm; it seems that my parents knew that the energy of the mind and the will had the power to unseat doubt and despair and facilitate accomplishment. Kudos to you, Mom and Dad! Oh, and thank you.

Monday, April 2, 2012

“Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health."

-Mary Reilly, Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture; 1961
Mary Reilly aspired to be a physician but found the profession of occupational therapy. She graduated from the Boston School of Occupational Therapy and contributed to the profession for over 60 years. In honor of MaryReilly; in tribute to the idea that we ALL are occupational beings, with purpose, to empower and to bless each other to do and to be...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

debidoll1's photostream

Wow! Happy BabyMischief MakersWhy is Mom helping the kid with 2 hands?Best FriendsHolding Hands
The Debi Doll HandHello World!


Let's talk about attitude! When I use that word, I'm referring specifically to how we carry ourselves... the image that we project, the message that our body language sends to others. As a little girl, I would often walk with my arms crossed in front of my body, my left hand holding my prosthesis at the elbow. To my parents, this gave the appearance that I was hiding my prosthesis or that I was ashamed of it. As I reflect about this now I know that it was less about hiding it.... I didn't have enough 'world experience' to be hiding it.... it was about balance and the integration of my lengthened prosthetic extremity with the rest of my body. If our trunk is the core, that is where we perceive stabilization; I remember that feeling of 'unbalance' and that by holding myself close to my core, I felt more stable, physically balanced.

So, what does that have to do with attitude? Well; I'm getting to that!!! I often refer to my parents as visionaries... When I was born, sans right forearm, they had a vision that I would be every bit as able and capable as the next person... or even more (yes, my parents expected personal excellence from each of us). There is a scripture that says... "without a vision, the city perishes"... so for success to occur, we must have a goal that we strive to achieve. There is no one way to achieve the goal, but many; and some of the ways are better than others. Throughout my childhood, my parents would work with me on my posture: not slumping forward, not leaning to one side, feet pointed forward, feet shoulder-width apart, head held high, looking forward not down; and eye contact. Did I mention the smile? All of these factors are beneficial for a growing musculoskeletal system, but are also vital to a developing body image... no matter what the age, no matter what the onset of limb loss. My parents were so focused on the vision that they had that they pursued and even created opportunities for me to achieve and to acquire the vision for myself.

How did they do this? BY EXAMPLING the attitude of meeting life and its 'situations' head-on with feet firmly planted, head held high and eyes focused. Yes, and with a smile! There was no problem, whether it was  learning to cut with scissors (only right-hand scissors were available in schools in the 1960's; I do not have a right hand and my parents had to find left-hand scissors... or even if they existed! Ha ha; there was no internet then to 'google' resources!); devising a method to hold a pick in order to play guitar (thanks Dad!); enrolling in a 'finishing' class during awkward adolescence  to pull it all together (thanks Mom for the "Sitting Beauty" program!) or recovering from rejection of others because I was 'different'... any disappointment was met with the same objective: overcoming the challenge. So, I've introduced to you the importance of a vision and the influence of a positive attitude.... stay tuned, next we'll talk about that smile.... oh, and lemons!!!!