I’ve gotten a lot of questions around if I have ever worn a prosthetic. The answer is yes, I did-for about five minutes. I always wanted to wear one because I thought it would make me look like everyone else and help me blend right into society. I thought it would be like what I had seen in the movies-a robot arm maybe? I literally just laughed out loud because my first prosthetic was nothing like a robot. Except for the buttons on the inside that operated the movement, that was kind of robot like. I remember the drive to the Shiner’s Hospital in Tampa; it seemed like the longest drive but as a kid, going further than fifteen minutes was considered an all day affair. I remember the smell, the decorations on the walls and the sight of kids more unfortunate than myself. I felt like I was the lucky one, I had my whole life ahead of me when some of them would spend the rest of theirs in a wheelchair or in a hospital bed. Among many things, this contributed to my positive outlook of life and why I refuse (past & present) to allow anything to hold me back. Testing out my very first prosthetic in school was strange. You’d think I had started a tourist attraction in the first grade by bringing that thing in the classroom. Standing in a circle of 6 year olds can be kind of cool at that age. It was so different and interesting that it earned its own name, Esmeralda.
Esmeralda, which I still have today, was the first of a few prosthetics I had. Although I appreciated them, they were uncomfortable and I could do everything I needed to do without them anyway. I started gymnastics where I wore what I called a “cow arm”-flat on the bottom like a hoof. It was supposed to help with my tumbling to relieve the pressure and weight off of my arm. The problem I ran into though, was that every time I would do a flip and sling my arm too hard, the dang thing would fly off across the room. I kid you not-but I gave it a shot.
I eventually found my heart in cheerleading my freshman year of high school. I’ll mention my cheerleading days later I’m sure but I wanted to share the last time I ever put on a prosthetic. Most of you reading this know which team I am referring to but for the sake of the blog, hang on for the ride while I tell the back ground to the others.
Top Dawg Athletics. I laugh because the red squiggly line appears when I type dawg instead if dog but I loved it, probably the coolest team name out there. It isn’t the team I want to mention but instead the coach that made me cry-a couple times. I’ve always been a sensitive person so who knows why I cried before but this time was a bit different. My team and I were getting ready for a black blazer dinner event and I wanted to try on my newest, most realistic looking prosthetic. It was made to match my skin tone, it had realistic finger nails that I could actually paint and it fit perfect. I was so excited to wear it; I would no longer have that saggy, extra sleeve hanging from a long sleeve shirt ever again. Happy when I put it on because I had two arms like everyone else, I proudly called for Coach to show her. We all looked for her approval, if she thought it was good, it was good. Her opinion mattered-boy did it matter. Coach was hard on us but it was tough love, we knew. She would yell at us and throw the occasional flip flop but she huddled us up before every competition and prayed with us so passionately that we all had goose bumps and tears welt up in our eyes . Her reaction was not at all what I thought it would be. Paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact words but it was along these lines…take it off, I like you better without it. Serious and stern. I felt like I was punched in the gut for a split second until she started to recover what she was trying to say. “We love you for who you are, this isn’t you. You don’t have two arms, you have one and we like you that way.” She was right and I knew it but I wanted so badly to be like everyone else. She told me that I didn’t need to wear it to fit in, I was already loved so deeply by the rest of the team and I could certainly cheer with the best.
I never put it on again. From that moment on, I decided I would face the world with my arm the way it was intended to be. It has taken time of course and I am still learning to test my limits daily. I fully support prosthetics and I encourage those that want to wear them to give them a try. My point is, you don’t have to and they don’t define who you are as a person. You were meant to do great things and you were chosen out of all the people in the world to be different, to stand out, how cool is that?!