This week I interviewed my six-year-old daughter, Caroline, to obtain her perspective on limb loss. The interview lasted just under 30 minutes. I had her attention for at least half that long. One thing you can say about interviewing someone this age: they don’t waste many words.
Dave: You know how I lost my leg?
Caroline: Yes, I do.
Caroline: You got ran over by a car.
Dave: What do you think about that?
Caroline: What do you mean?
Dave: Do you have any reaction to that?
Dave: What do you think about my prosthesis?
Caroline: Well, I’m upset that you can’t run.
Dave: But I can run.
Caroline: Yeah, but you have to take off your leg.
Dave: You mean my regular leg?
Dave: So you’re upset that I have to change into my running leg to run?
Caroline: Yes. If someone was chasing you – let’s say a shark was chasing you – and you were wearing [your walking leg], you wouldn’t be able to run.
Dave: But do I wear my leg in the water? Would a shark ever be chasing me with my leg on?
Caroline: Well, you’re not really a fast swimmer, no offense.
Dave: Does that have anything to do with prosthetics?
Dave: What’s the thing you hate most about my prosthesis?
Caroline: You can’t run or swim with it.
Dave: Do you live in fear that I’m going to be chased by someone?
Dave: What do you like about my prosthesis?
Caroline: Nothing much. Well, I only like [tapping on prosthesis] that it’s hard, so like, if I hit you, it hurts my hand and not yours. See? [pounding on prosthesis] It hurts my hand, not your leg.
Dave: Do you like the designs they can put on the socket?
Caroline: Yeah. I guess. Yeah. [picks up digital recorder, solemnly intones] Yes. [changes subject] How many batteries do you have now? [checks power left on prosthetic battery] Five.
Dave: Why do you like checking my battery?
Caroline: Like this? [presses button to activate LED power indicator]
Dave: Yes, like that.
Dave: Because what?
Caroline: It’s fun.
Dave: Why is it fun?
Caroline: Because. I don’t know. I just like doing it.
Dave: Do you tell your friends I have one leg?
Caroline: Well, Mary, she’s like, “Did your dad get his leg back?”, but I’m like, “Mary, he’s never going to get his leg back,” and she’s like, “Ohhhhh.” Wait, I’m going to be in your blog?
Caroline: Yaaaaay! [conspiratorially] Don’t interview the boys.
Dave: Do you think I can do most things that other dads do?
Caroline: Yes. You wanna know what?
Caroline: I knew you were going to say that. Well, you could walk like other dads. You could jog a little. You could hop on your foot. And one more thing. If you lost both legs and you wore crutches, you’d need two prosthetic legs. And when you take these prosthetic legs off if you had them, the crutches – you wouldn’t even get to step, because you have no feet. So look – pretend this is you [pantomimes using crutches as a bilateral amputee] and the crutches are right here. I can’t touch [the ground] ’cause [my] legs are so small. If you were taking your legs off, then you won’t even be able to move. Only the crutches, so like you can move one crutch forward, two [pantomimes balancing torso between crutches with no feet touching the ground], but that’s going to be hard.
Dave: That’s why a lot of people who are missing both legs also have a wheelchair, so when they take their legs off, they can still get around.
Caroline: That’s true.
Dave: What’s your favorite thing that we do together that involves me using my prosthesis?
Caroline: What about [getting lunch at the diner]?
Dave: Well, what about [getting lunch at the diner]?
Caroline: We go.
Dave: Yeah, but do I need a prosthesis to do that?
Caroline: Yes. Because, well, you’d be in public, and you’d be really cold with your leg off.
Dave: So you see a primary benefit of my prosthesis being the fact that it helps keeps me warm?
Caroline: Well, yeah, kind of. ‘Cause if your leg was off, you’d just have your leg and your shin’s not here. So you’d be really cold, cold, cold.
Dave: Why do you like screwing the valve in and out of my prosthetic socket?
Caroline: It’s entertainment. Oh – I have another thing you can’t do. You can’t do a back bend or a kickover. [demonstrates]
Dave: That’s true. But I couldn’t do that before.
Caroline: I know, but I could. Oh, my neck! Are we almost done?
Dave: When’s the first time you thought your dad’s leg is different from other people’s?
Dave: You never thought that?
Dave: Why not?
Caroline: Because, I was very smart. I don’t know, I just know that you always had this leg [slaps prosthesis].
Dave: Have you ever met any kids who wear a prosthesis?
Caroline: No, but I did see someone who wears a prosthesis. She was a girl, and she had a pink one. She has curly black hair.
Dave: What did you think when you saw her?
Caroline: Nothing. Well, she had a different robot leg from you. She had a skinny part over here [points to my prosthetic shin], instead of that battery.
Caroline: She does, right?
Caroline: I didn’t think that was actually true. Okay, ask me some questions. I’m listening. Ask me! Please ask me. Ask me some questions, dude. [yes – she really said “dude”]
Dave: What do you think the hardest part of living with a prosthesis is?
Caroline: I think it would be . . . you tell me.
Dave: I’m asking you what you think.
Caroline: With the leg on?
Caroline: Swimming. That would be the hardest thing. If you put an electronic in the water, it would die.
Dave: That’s true.
Caroline: Would your leg die?
Dave: This one would, though there are some new ones out there that are waterproof.
Caroline: Niiiiiice! You know there are waterproof iPods? I want one.
Dave: What do you think the coolest thing about wearing a prosthesis is for someone who wears it?
Caroline: No idea.
Dave: Do you think it’s different for a girl to wear a prosthesis than a guy?
Dave: Do you think it’s different for a kid to wear a prosthesis than an adult?
Caroline: Yes. ‘Cause they’re kids. ‘Cause you look smaller, and if they didn’t have any sizes for kids, you’d be in trouble.
Dave: That’s true – so assume they have sizes for kids, which they do.
Caroline: No they don’t.
Dave: Yes they do.
Caroline: C’mon! Oh – Dad, how about you tell me about that girl [you met who just got a new prosthesis a few weeks ago?] How did that girl get hurt?
Caroline: [Whispers] Cancer. [Shouts] So she needs a new leg?
Dave: If you have certain kinds of cancer, doctors have to amputate your leg or else you’ll die.
Caroline: Did you cut her leg off?
Dave: No, I didn’t cut her leg off.
Caroline: Ohhhh! [Annoyed] I wanted to see. Did she speak English?
Dave: Almost none.
Caroline: What did she speak that’s correct?
Dave: [laughing] English isn’t correct. There are lots of different languages. In English she was able to say “hi” and “thank you”.
Caroline: That’s easy. “Hi” – wait, was she Spanish?
Dave: No, she was from Africa.
Caroline: I thought she was Spanish. I can count to 13 in Spanish.
Dave: You don’t have to show me.
Caroline: [ignoring me, counts to 13 in Spanish, then pants and barks like a dog.] Do I actually sound like a dog?
Dave: Not really.
Caroline: [tries again.] Does that sound like a dog?
Caroline: Wow. That is hard.
Dave: Are you glad that I wear a prosthesis?
Dave: Because …
Caroline: You shouldn’t have one.
Dave: What should I have?
Caroline: Well, the best thing to have would be a leg like these! [grabbing her own legs]
Dave: Right. And if you can’t have that?
Caroline: Well … you could have the running – they should invent!
Dave: What should they invent?
Caroline: You guys should invent a walking-running leg. So you could run whenever you want and walk whenever you want. So you don’t have to change legs.
Dave: That’s a very good idea.
Caroline: It is.
Dave: What do I complain about most when wearing a prosthesis?
Caroline: Yup. Why, what do you think?
Dave: I don’t know. I’m asking you!
Caroline: I think you complain when you lose your shoe horn.
Dave: That’s correct, I do. How much do you think a prosthesis costs?
Caroline: One hundred bucks.
Dave: One hundred bucks.
Caroline: Is that true?
Dave: Not even close.
Caroline: Less or more?
Caroline: One hundred and eighty bucks.
Caroline: I don’t know.
Dave: How about if I told you some prosthetics cost $15,000?
Caroline: Ok, $16,000.
Dave: No, I just said $15,000.
Caroline: I said $16,000.
Dave: Yes, I know, I’m not negotiating with you.
Caroline: [laughing] I said $16,000.
Dave: Is there anything about prosthetics that scares you?
Caroline: No. I think it’s cool.
Caroline: ‘Cause – you get to see people’s legs chopped off if you’re the chopper offer. [I consider whether that answer requires me to call a mental health professional for my daughter; meanwhile, she starts singing while looking at herself in mirror] Purple belt. Purple belt. Purple purple purple belt. I like this belt. I love when people wear this. Keep talking. How about you ask if I had that kind of leg would I be scared?
Dave: Would you be scared if you had that kind of leg?
Dave: Why not?
Caroline: Because. [Shouts] NOTHING IS SCARY! You wanna know why it’s not scary, Dad? Because I’d have the leg and that just wouldn’t be scary. It would be scary for other people.
Dave: Thanks for being interviewed.
Caroline: You’re welcome.