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

Write to me at b.able2@yahoo.com

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...