gainesville, Virginia, 20155
May 19
I am a 36 year old amputee. I am also a Mommy to a very active four year old. I've been blogging about my experiences as an amputee parent, providing a real life account of what it is like to parent with a disability.


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MAY 7, 2012 6:19AM

The Invisible Disability

Rate: 4 Flag
After I stopped teaching in the public schools, I lost touch with most of my "work friends." After years of cultivating relationships and sharing the joys and tragedies of life, I  maintain contact with only two people. I suppose that's normal. After all, it was difficult to get together and, when our schedules did mesh, the conversations felt strained and uncomfortable. Apparently the only thing we really all had in common was work. 

My friendship with Bonnie is one that has survived all of the transitions in life. When we taught together, I would have been hard pressed to find a stronger ally. She was a strong instructor and a great source of information, ideas, and advice. Work and her eclectic hobbies consumed her life. She was a gifted weaver, beekeeper, sculptor, teacher of the blind, wood carver, and quilter. She had such a fascinating perspective on the world and such interesting stories.

Several years ago Bonnie was in a horrific automobile accident. Although she survived, the person that I knew was gone forever. Bonnie suffered a traumatic brain injury.

In a moment her entire life changed. She used to be able to look at a piece of wood and imagine the artistic possibilities. Now she becomes lost in the grocery store. Bonnie could device and implement intricate and beautiful weaving patterns. She now becomes confused handling money and is not able to maintain a checkbook. Although she can read the words in a cookbook, Bonnie cannot organize her thoughts enough to prepare a simple meal. She has gone from being fiercely independent and the person whom everybody relied upon to living in an assisted living facility and dependent upon others to help with the most mundane tasks.

Bonnie called on Saturday and asked me if I could come to visit. When I stopped by her apartment on Sunday, she had tears in her eyes and was shaking uncontrollably. She was struggling to talk and I knew she was overwhelmed and scared. I gave her a hug and reassured her that it was going to be okay.

During that embrace I think I finally accepted that my independent, quick-witted, and talented friend was gone. The woman that I was hugging looked like my friend, but that is where the resemblance ended. I felt a wave of sadness overtake me, but I tried not to let it show.  I owe it to my friend to help her in anyway possible. I have no doubt that she would have done the same for me!

Sitting at her kitchen table I saw piles of note cards throughout the room. She explained that her Brain Injury therapist has recommended writing down everything, and that the technique has been helpful.  She is trying so hard, and I know that this must be so difficult for her. She is aware of everything that she has lost and can explain her limitations. It is heartbreaking to see the grief in her eyes, but she hasn't given up. I'm so proud of my friend.

I have always believed that everybody has something "wrong" with them. Mine is extremely visible and people can identify me as an amputee immediately. Bonnie looks normal and most who see her wouldn't know that she is struggling. She is suffering from an invisible disability which is occurring in her mind, not in her physical body. My physical disability is a walk in the park compared to what Bonnie endures everyday. Traumatic Brain Injuries are one of the cruelest disabilities, leaving the individual with memories of their previous life but rendering them without the ability to return to the same passions and joys. There is little I can do for my friend except to help in completing daily activity tasks such as grocery shopping and continue to be a presence in her life offering care and support.

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true compassion is not only seeing but feeling the depth of the loss which is why it is such a rare thing. and yet we live but one moment from such tragedy, rich man, poor man, good man, evil. the world should be filled with compassion and Bonnie is lucky to have you. you showed what a marvelous person she is.
Hell of an adjustment for her and for everyone who cared about her. It also sends a chill about one's own mortality. Nicely written.
Trust that your friend Bonnie, in her more lucid moments, treasures you for being there for her. We should all be so lucky to have only 1 true friend like that, especially when we're on the shady side of life, however way we arrive there...