talking with … Emily Harvey and Whitney Harris (part 2)

Emily and Whitney

Last week I introduced you to Emily Harvey and Whitney Harris. This week, I continue my interview with them about growing up with congenital limb difference, their experience receiving prosthetic care from Shriners hospitals, and how they  wound up in/around the world of prosthetics as adults.

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Dave: You both mentioned that you grew up going to Shriners hospitals. Most people don’t know a lot about them. How did you find your way to them and talk about your experience there.

Emily: My dad was military and my mom I’m sure is the one that found Shriners and started taking me there when we lived in Louisiana. Shriners was the reason I found out about the camp I went to for three summers.

It wasn’t like a place where you would go and see a bunch of other kids. You’d see them in the waiting room, but it wasn’t like it was an environment – like Walter Reed has the environment where everyone just kind of does therapy together and hangs out and talks and gets support through that natural environment. [Shriners] definitely didn’t have that.

But I loved Shriners because they took care of me. I didn’t really appreciate it, I don’t think fully, until I was an adult and was having a lot of issues with my leg and needed that team of doctors who were familiar with a congenital amputee. Every doctor I went to was like, “Wow, your leg was really interesting looking. I’ve never seen this before.” [Emily and Whitney laugh] And I’m like, “You’re not really very helpful.” I realized as an adult how fortunate I was to have a whole team – a physical therapist, a physician, a surgeon – who was so familiar with the congenital amputation and could provide that health care. It’s really hard to find that as an adult. So I love Shriners and I wish I could still go.

Whitney:  So I came to Shriners because my great-uncle was a Shriner. [My mom] had taken me to someone in the private sector and they told her it was going to cost thousands of dollars, she wouldn’t be able to afford it, and, you know, it was like I was doomed. The closest Shriners was in Tampa and we lived in Pensacola, so it was about a 9-hour drive. I worked with the same guy all my life which I really appreciated because we could just go in, get it done and I could leave the next day so I’d only miss two days of school. But at the same time, he wasn’t open to new ideas because he knew what worked for me.

I loved the Tampa hospital. It had an amazing playground and the cafeteria was so good, so I thought it was always a real treat to go there at least every 6 months and play and do all of this fun stuff. It was more like this kind of fun place where I got to go and it was all about me and my siblings didn’t get to.

Emily: I just wanted to segue off of what Whitney said about the prosthetist who wasn’t open to trying new things. Mine was similar. I was wearing a pelite liner with socks, totally old school. When I started working with Walter Reed with all of these prosthetists, they saw my leg as a puzzle. They were like, “Why are you still wearing a pelite liner, that’s so old school. Let’s get you in a gel liner, this is the latest and greatest.” Did custom liners. And guess what socket suspension system I’m in now? Pelite liners with socks. So, you know, I was always wondering why my prosthetist didn’t want to try other things, but I ended up going back to old school anyway. As good as technology gets, I’m still old school.

Dave: You both grew up in coordinated health care systems. You had the doctor, the PT, the OT, and the prosthetist in the same building providing your treatment for the majority of your lives. Now you’re both in the private sector where care is much more fragmented. Do you see any particular strengths or weaknesses of either approach based upon your own personal experience?

Emily: I think it’s definitely good to have the lines of communication open between the people who are providing the care. I know when I was considering my revision [after I left Shriners], I didn’t count on [my providers] to talk to each other, so I’d just request my records and my x-rays. Then I had all the information and I would take it to the surgeon. I took it upon myself to coordinate.

Whitney: I’m 23 and the last time I saw Shriners was when I was 20, so I haven’t been in the private sector very long. Besides being in O&P school where they constantly tell you about the rehab team and you need to talk to all of these people, I don’t think it ever occurred to me as a patient. I don’t think I ever actually connected the dots. If my prosthetist ever did, I wasn’t aware of it. I know now where I work since we’re in the hospital setting and the surgeons are downstairs and physical therapy and occupational therapy upstairs, I think we almost have – not quite ideal – but as ideal as it could be in that our patients just stay in the same building.

Dave: You both could have done anything you wanted with your lives. Emily, you married a prosthetist and are considering careers attached to “disability.” Whitney, you’re a prosthetic resident. Why do you think you ended up there?

Whitney: My mother told me to, point blank. My mother [once] had to make a scrapbook of my future and that’s what she put, that I was going to be a prosthetist. I just thought, “This is great. I no longer have to be like other kids and worry about what I’m going to do when I grow up.” My mother just took care of that problem. [All laugh] I never really saw anything else as an option. I kind of wanted to be a teacher till my mom told me I couldn’t survive on a teacher’s salary with my prosthetic limbs. That’s how I ended up here. [Dave laughs.]

Emily: I’m much more scattered than that. I just showed up at college and I actually wanted to go either into physical therapy or athletic training. I was doing some hours at a physical therapy clinic and this prosthetist came in to see one of his patients and to talk to the physical therapist. And he was like, “Hey, you should come hang out in the shop with me,” and I worked it with my professor that I could do my internship hours at the prosthetic clinic.

And I was like, “This is cool, I’m good with tools and I’ve always liked building things and working with my hands,” so then I was like, “Maybe I should go to prosthetic school.” I actually applied to Georgia Tech and didn’t get in. My uncle was in the DC area and knew this Colonel who was looking for someone to work in Walter Reed and do stuff with prosthetics. I was like, “Well, that’s better than waiting tables at Red Lobster,” and started working at Walter Reed. Then I met [my husband, a prosthetist who worked there] and told him I didn’t date people I worked with … and that made him try harder.

It’s kind of like a force field. I didn’t have a mom telling me what I had to do, but it’s like the universe is telling me I have to be involved.

talking with … Emily Harvey and Whitney Harris (part 1)

Emily & Whitney

Emily Harvey (back) & Whitney Harris (front)

I’ve known Emily Harvey and Whitney Harris for several years now. Interestingly, until this interview, I’d never spoken to both of them at the same time.

I first met Emily when she was deciding whether to apply to law school. A mutual friend connected us, presumably because the only person capable of giving this kind of advice to one amputee is another amputee. Whether that actually was the case or not, Emily happily (for her) just completed the Colorado Bar Exam.

I met Whitney when she became a patient model for the company that employs me. At the time, she was getting her undergraduate degree in prosthetics. Now she’s in the middle of her O&P residency in Denver. Among her many noteworthy achievements, she recently completed a climb of the Sears Tower in Chicago with her above-knee prosthesis. (To be clear: she took the stairs.) She has also figured out how to walk upstairs leg-over-leg backwards, which, I have pointedly told her, is just showing off.

Both women grew up with limb loss – a very different experience than “becoming” an amputee as an adult as I did. Whenever I speak to either one of them, I walk away with a new and different perspective on my own life. Put them both on the phone at the same time and start asking questions … you wind up with some interesting answers and insights.

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Dave: Describe the first time you became aware of the fact that you used a prosthesis and that this was somehow different from what other kids your age did.

Whitney: I’m not sure that I ever really became aware of this fact until I was in high school. It seems like the older I get, the more aware I get. When I was little I never thought anything about it. I didn’t meet my first friend without limbs until I was in college. I hung out with people with disabilities, who had, like, cerebral palsy, but I never related to that.

I don’t know, I think I have … it’s a very weird self-image that I have. Growing up, there was never a point where I was bothered or upset or thought it was blatantly obvious that I was different.

Emily: I had to think about it because I couldn’t really remember a point in time where I was like, “Oh, I’m different.” But my grandma tells me this story about when I was about 5 or 6 and we were riding in the car. And I turned to her and I said, “So Grandma, when did you get your first prosthesis?” [All laugh] She doesn’t wear a prosthesis. It was just in my head that everyone wore a prosthesis – that was just normal.

The other thing that I think of where I was aware as a kid was – I got to go to “Champ Camp” in Louisiana. It was a Shriners’ thing and it was for 3 summers. My brother was really jealous and would say that he was going to cut off one of his limbs so he could go to camp [Whitney laughs] because he thought it was so cool that I got to go to camp.

Dave: I know that as an adult traumatic amputee, your whole self-image is so disrupted by losing a limb that it can become all-consuming. It becomes who you are. You don’t have anyone there to be a buffer between you and that reality as an adult. As young children growing up with limb difference, both of you had parents who were at some level mediating how you perceived and saw the outside world. How did your parents influence how you both saw yourselves?

Emily: My mom, she treated me the same way that she treated my brother. I actually think she was harder on me sometimes. I think that was just because I was an older child. But the only thing that was really different was that I had to go to a lot more doctors’ appointments than my friends. If I legitimately had an issue with my leg, she would allow that to be a reason why I wouldn’t do something, but she wouldn’t let me use it all the time as an excuse. So she basically treated me like a normal kid. We didn’t talk about it or anything like that.

Whitney: My mom never really sat me down and talked about it either. My amniotic band syndrome, no one knew about it till I was born. So I think that kind of shell shocked everyone and kind of put them in the perspective that, “We weren’t aware so we’re just going to treat her like everyone else.” And I’m the second-oldest of 5 kids, so I definitely got treated like everyone else.

I got in trouble just like my other siblings. I got in trouble for leaving my leg in the middle of the floor when I took it off so people would trip on it. I’m very curious about my mother’s perspective, but I think she just kind of blocked it out – that I was different – and just went with it.

Dave: How did you both deal with your limb difference in your interactions with dates, as you were meeting new people in high school? Was it something you flagged up front? How did you address it if you addressed it at all?

Whitney: I don’t know that I did address it. It seems like in high school I didn’t date until later. The only difference was that if we were going and doing things and I wanted to take my prosthesis off, I would just take it off. And if anyone thought that was weird or it made them uncomfortable, I wasn’t aware of it.

In college, my college boyfriend actually told me that he was uncomfortable being with me in public because he didn’t know how to act when people stared at me. Of course, I didn’t notice but he noticed. He made it a big thing. We stopped going places and we didn’t ever hang out in public. I called him out on it and I was so incredibly offended by that answer. I think that’s been the only real time where I thought, “I kinda am different. Apparently my boyfriend thinks I’m different.” Other than that, I just never bring it up because I just feel like being without my arm and leg is such a huge part of my personality. I think people get that when they meet me.

Emily: I was horse crazy in high school and would get asked out but didn’t usually go out with anybody because I was too busy with my horse. So I didn’t really deal with it in high school, I guess. My friends and I played a lot of pranks with my leg in high school, so everybody pretty much knew about it going in.

I guess I was just kind of trying to read the situation and decide whether if it was something I needed to mention to someone beforehand, before a date. But I don’t think I usually did. Or I would just show up wearing shorts or a dress and it would just be there for everyone to see.

Dave: Emily, you’ve blogged about this. How have your perspectives on prosthetic cosmesis changed over time?

Emily: Back in the day when I was a kid, my first prostheses were kind of shaped like my other leg, but since my residual limb is so lumpy and crooked and long, it was really hard for them to get a normal-looking shape. I know they worked really hard on it.

My first foot was a SACH foot that looked like a boot. It didn’t have any fake toes or fake toenails that I could paint. I would draw lines to make 5 toes and then draw in toenails.

In ’96 we went to the Paralympics and I saw a guy who was a dancer. He was at one of the parades and he had a red and black and silver and gold sparkly leg. I went up and talked to him and I was like, “How do I get one of those? I hate the stupid pigmented-not-the-right-color-not-the-right-shape silly thing. How do I get one of those?”

When I went home and talked to my prosthetist I was like, “Bill, why didn’t you ever tell me that I could get a cool leg?” My prosthetist for most of my life growing up once we moved to Washington was an older man who had lost his leg while cutting down trees, so he was really into the old school stuff. He just didn’t even think to tell me about it.

As soon as I knew I could have a cool-looking leg I went in that direction and never thought about going back until I was working at Walter Reed and had the option to get a prosthetic leg and [one of the prosthetists there] talked me into it. He was like, “Wouldn’t it be cool?” I have worn it a couple of times. I wore it at my friend’s wedding.  She didn’t care, but I didn’t want to distract her guests’ attention away from her, so I was glad to have it for that.

But I always go back to liking the robo-look. That’s how I see myself and that’s what I’m comfortable with, so it’s weird for me to have my cosmetic leg on and go out in public. It takes away a little bit from my self-image, I guess. The first time I wore it at work at Walter Reed, someone walked right past me and didn’t realize it was me because he saw two legs and was like, “That’s not Emily!”

Whitney: I got my first prosthetic cover – I must have been in elementary school. I thought it made my leg look so bad that I was just appalled. So I never wore it. Cosmetics never bothered me. They bothered my prosthetist more because I was born with my knee being skewed. I had a little bit of bone coming off the back of my leg at a 90-degree angle. He always thought it was a really hard fit though it never actually was. So finally, when I was 16, he convinced me to get a revision and I still to this day am not sure if that was the right decision. Because now I have an actual incision adhered to the bone and nerve problems in that area. I don’t know that it was worth just the fact that now my leg looked prettier in the socket.

Walking was always more important to me. So I never knew [growing up] how I walk. I could walk terribly and think I’m the best damn walker ever. I think that’s a problem too, because I went to Shriners all of my life up until age 20, and that’s what my prosthetist told me – that I was one of the best walkers in the hospital out of all of his patients. It wasn’t until I got to O&P school and then it wasn’t until I started wearing my [current knee and a prosthetist] finally started calling me out on my gait deviations and I was just mortified. Now I’m a little bit more aware of it and I try a little bit harder to walk better. I do take a lot of pride in that but I’m not one to tell everyone I think I’m a good walker. I’d rather them tell me.

Emily: Like Whitney, I was a Shriners patient and had people consistently tell me I was good walker. Then they put me in a gait lab and put all the little stickers on [me] and showed me that I wasn’t a perfect walker. I was good but I wasn’t perfect. I was definitely more acutely aware of how I walked after going through that gait analysis.

Whitney: I don’t ever really talk about it, but I have a cosmetic arm that I really like to wear because it helps me walk better. I have a much more symmetrical gait because my torso can move better with the weight of the arm. When I wear it I like how I look with it, but I just get so much more attention that I feel like people may think I wear it for the attention aspect. It’s really incredible. And I know you probably notice, Emily, whenever I do wear it, I feel like I get obsessed with talking about it and then other people get obsessed with it and then I feel bad. And so sometimes I want to wear it for the sake of walking and making my back feel better, but then I don’t want to be the center of attention because now I have my arm on, even though I think it looks great with a long sleeve shirt.

Dave: So how often do you wear that Whitney? Because for all the time I’ve known you over the last several years I’ve never seen you wear it.

Whitney: I usually wear it at conferences. Like I wore it at the [Amputee Coalition conference] this last summer. But I definitely don’t wear it all day. Yeah, that’s really it. Or sometimes when it’s really cold and I want to keep my arm warm, I’ll put it on.

*   *   *

Stay tuned for part two of my talk with Emily and Whitney next week. Topics include Shriners hospitals, coordinated health care, and why both of them wound up in such close proximity to the O&P profession, both personally and professionally.

talking with … myself

As we chug inexorably towards Christmas Day, I post yet another interview. I threatened to do this last week, and nothing convinced me over the course of the last seven days that I had anything more productive or interesting to write about. So this week, I turned less is more over to my wife so that she could interrogate me.

As the interview was going on, I was complimenting myself (silently) on how excellent my answers were. I knew that this would be a fascinating, eye-opening post when completed.

Then I transcribed everything. And I learned that I suck.

The reason I suck, however, is truly depressing: I’m incapable of answering questions honestly. 

I don’t mean to suggest that I lie. What I mean is that I’m projecting a version of myself that accords with how I think I should be. Every answer I give turns into an excuse to reinforce my carefully-constructed, delusional worldview. For example, let me give you the complete transcript of one section of the interview that’s quoted in redacted form in the body of this post:

Cara: Let me ask you – how are you impacted by limb loss?

Dave: Well, I guess I’m impacted by limb loss in that there are certain activities that I can’t do as easily as I used to or at all. [note: not an awful start; I acknowledge that limb loss does affect me. Almost any other answer would reveal me to be a lunatic. But then …]

Cara: Like?

Dave: Like – man, you’re being very, very persistent. This is a dogged reporter. [note: Cara’s 1-word question – “Like?” – occurs only 4.5 minutes into her interview. She is not being particularly persistent. She is not being dogged. She is simply asking me to be slightly more specific than, “Limb loss has an effect on certain aspects of my life.” My refusal to just answer the question, my insistence on engaging in misdirection by turning my attention to the [not] invasive follow-up by Cara is a cheap stunt to buy me time so that I can provide the following non-answer.] Like soccer. Like baseball. I mean, can I play those sports? Yes, I can play those sports. Can I play them in a way that looks like or at a level that remotely approaches what I used to do? No. I’ll never forget a patient I once spoke to.  [Uh oh. Time to talk about someone else. Insert lengthy story to create illusion I’m revealing something about myself when I’m really not. I’m just telling someone else’s story.] He was a bilateral amputee who loved hockey. I asked him if he ever tried to play after his accident. He said, “no”. I asked ,”Why?” He said, “Because it wouldn’t be the same.” And that is exactly how I – I’ll monkey around with the kids [Observe that the moment I use the word “I”, I can’t finish the sentence. If I had, I would have said, “That’s exactly how I feel.” Even that would have been dishonest, though, since I require someone else’s story to illustrate my own emotions, which is pathetic. Now watch me launch into an exposition on the difference between engaging in low-level v. high-level versions of the activity. I feel ill even as I re-read it now.], shoot a basketball with them, throw a football, throw a baseball, because I can do those activities. But in terms of actually going out and playing the sports at a reasonably high level, you just – without a knee joint that fully functions in the way that a normal knee joint does, it’s very difficult to do those. [This is great. The question of what limitations I have is now turning into an analysis of the biomechanics of the anatomical v. prosthetic knee. If any of my readers are in the Huntington Starbucks this morning between 9 and 11 AM, come in and just punch me in the face. I deserve it.] ”  Since I know how I used to do it and the level at which I could do it, it’s somewhat maddening to me to not be able to do it as well, so I choose not to do it. But in terms of my everyday life, there are very few restrictions because in your everyday life you’re not playing soccer.” [Translated answer to Cara’s question: Yes, there are restrictions on what I choose to do as a result of my amputation. I no longer play the sports that I grew up loving and investing significant time and energy in for the first 27 years of my life. I cope with this by now pretending that they weren’t all that important to me and that my time to continue playing them had nearly run out anyway.”]

In short, if you read this interview from a starting point that assumes I’m completely full of [expletive deleted], it should be quite enjoyable. Let Cara’s grilling of me begin.

Cara: Hi.

Dave: Hi.

Cara: David.

Dave: Cara.

Cara: Blogger.

Dave: Wife.

Cara: You went around the last few weeks interviewing all of us. I thought I’d try and interview you.

Dave: Is there a question coming?

Cara: I actually chose to read those blogs –

Dave:  – Thank you! It’s nice to know that my wife is reading the stuff that I write.

Cara: Yeah, not a problem. I know that you also showed a bit of resistance to being interviewed, using the excuse that you basically interview yourself on a weekly basis. But when I read the interviews with our family, I felt that at least in my case, I didn’t have a whole lot to say in terms of how your limb loss impacted me. I thought that maybe there would’ve been an expectation of there being real negatives to being with someone who’s an amputee. I don’t know if you would agree, but interviewing people who love you and who were part of it from the start – you didn’t get any of that feedback.

Dave: Well I think there’s no question that if I had interviewed a random 6-year-old, a random 13-year-old, and a random person of your … vintage, that I would have gotten very different answers, particularly if they hadn’t lived with limb loss at all. And obviously, depending on the person who has limb loss and the impact it has on their life, if you talk to somebody who’s much less able to live a full and unrestricted life, I think the answers you’d get from the family members would be very different. So I think that you’re right that at one level, it’s limiting to go and talk with family about it, because obviously their experiences are intertwined with mine.

Cara: Let me ask you – how are you impacted by limb loss?

Dave: Well, I guess I’m impacted by limb loss in that there are certain activities that I can’t do as easily as I used to or at all.

Cara: Like?

Dave: Like soccer. Like baseball. I mean, can I play those sports? Yes, I can play those sports. Can I play them in a way that looks like or at a level that remotely approaches what I used to do? No. Since I know how I used to do it and the level at which I could do it, it’s somewhat maddening to me to not be able to do it as well, so I choose not to do it. But in terms of my everyday life, there are very few restrictions because in your everyday life you’re not playing soccer.

Cara: One of the things I remember when you woke up from your accident, though I praised you for it – I think you evade the question at times – you woke up and you were a 27-year-old disabled person. I want to ask you the question again: what do you experience in terms of limitations as a result of you losing your leg?

Dave: The short answer is I don’t think it profoundly impacted me at the end of the day. The reason for that is I was just getting to an age really where you sort of settle into your professional routine. And since my professional routine was never dominated by physical activity but was always dominated by sitting behind a desk, I was fortunate enough that what I did everyday really wasn’t significantly impacted by the fact that I no longer had my left leg. Now, that’s not to say that when the prosthesis didn’t fit and I had breakdown and I needed to spend a day at my prosthetist’s office, that I wasn’t frustrated and that it didn’t impact my level of happiness or focus in some way. But the flip side of that is if you look at what I was doing before the accident and what I was doing after the accident, I don’t think they were all that different. The only difference was in those high-end activities.

Cara: Ok, which you just chose not to do. Would you say that you just made concessions? Do you miss the fact that you’re not playing team sports?

Dave: Absolutely. I mean, I block it out of my head but –

Cara: Clearly.

Dave: – do I miss it? Absolutely.

Cara: How does that make you feel?

Dave: It doesn’t make me feel anything because I’m very good at compartmentalizing things that would otherwise affect me emotionally. That’s probably a strength professionally. It’s something that has been the topic of much discussion between you and me over the last 20 years.

Cara: Are you disabled?

Dave: I think the words you used when I interviewed you were actually perfect. I think the exact phrase was that I considered myself an “able-bodied disabled person.” And I think that’s actually 100% right. I consider myself disabled as a matter of classification, but in terms of how it impacts me day-to-day, I don’t really believe I have any limitations.

Cara: Well that goes back to the emotional distance and heady intellectualizing that you do. But you would say that you are, in fact, classified disabled – technically. Are you a disabled person?

Dave: I think as a matter of classification, yes, I’m disabled. But to me, that’s effectively a technical distinction. I know plenty of able-bodied people who I think are more disabled than I am.

Cara: Absolutely. You seem uncomfortable – there seems to be a connotation to you with the word, “disability.”

Dave: I think any person who has been able-bodied before, I think you resist the label, “disabled.” Does that mean that you’re not disabled? No. But there’s different ways – maybe I’m playing semantic games here – but I think legally, through a technical definition of disability, and most definitions of disability include permanent loss or use of a limb, I think I’m disabled. But in terms of functional capacity, I don’t think I’m in any way disabled.

Cara: I always sort of wondered, really, how does it feel to be someone who takes a leg off at night?

Dave: I don’t think about it. It’s just something I do every night. Take off my pants. Take off my shirt. Take off my leg at night. It’s just another thing I have to do.

Cara: I would like to get some blunt, knee-jerk reactions from you.

Dave: Ok.

Cara: Yeah, I’ve been trying this, by the way, for 15 years and 2 weeks. You had someone come visit you very shortly after your accident and it was someone who was an amputee.

Dave: I have no memory of that.

Cara: You don’t remember this man coming in and saying he wanted to talk to you about what it was like to be an amputee?

Dave: [laughing] No.

Cara: You were very angry. You refused to talk to him. You wouldn’t let me let him in. It was very out of character – able-bodied or disabled – for Dave McGill. You were as irrational and emotional as I’d ever seen you.

Dave: I don’t remember it. If that person happens to read my blog, sorry. At one level, it doesn’t surprise me I reacted that way. If I had to go back and try and reconstruct what I was thinking at the time, my guess would be that I didn’t want someone coming in and telling me what my life was going to be like. I probably had in my own head already at that point – because I was pretty maniacal about it – a set of goals and a set of expectations. And I wanted to do it on my terms, not on anyone else’s.

Cara: You, you knucklehead, you have said at times that you would do it again, you wouldn’t change a thing. God’s honest truth, for real?

Dave: God’s honest truth, for real. This was the first time [in my life] that I faced a real significant adverse event. And … you know, you always wonder how you’d respond to that. And I never would have guessed that I would have responded the way I did. But I came out of it feeling – it was one of the few things in my life that I can say unequivocally I was really proud of.

Cara: I don’t know what your deal is really. But I’m really glad that –

Dave: That my psychosis appears to be permanent?

Cara: No. I don’t know. Any loss experience has been shown to require a stage-by-stage grief process.

Dave: Ok, Ms. Kubler-Ross.

Cara: You bypassed it.

Dave: Maybe I went through it at blinding speed. [laughs]

Cara: You bypassed it. But I also think that, in conclusion, the reason that you are the way you are is totally because of me.

Dave: I have no doubt, Cara, that you are the Rosetta Stone of my post-amputation existence. And that everything I have become and will ever become is driven by your wonderfulness, and beauty, and sheer radiance.

Cara: Yeah, it’s true actually. I didn’t really want you to go to a depressing place.

Dave: Do you think it would be good for my readers? Maybe I should do a series of posts after I check myself into an inpatient facility. That would be fascinating, wouldn’t it?

Cara: I don’t think you can. You’re either that disconnected or you really are that at peace. [Changing subjects], I also do know that you’re very physically conscious. And that’s a consistent theme for you, from the moment when you came home. You were very, very critical of your gait, how your pants looked, how your shoes looked. I think you focused a tremendous amount of energy on the appearance of it all.

Dave: Yes.

Cara: And is that related to your discomfort with or denial of being disabled?

Dave: No question.

Cara: So, are you really at peace with this?

Dave: My motivation from day one was about masking it. And I don’t mean masking it in that I didn’t want anybody to know that I was disabled. I mean masking it in that I didn’t want them to think of me as disabled.

Cara: I think you view disability, or the term, or the classification as negative.

Dave: I think you’re right.

Cara: I think it’s a big issue for you.

Dave: You’re right. My expectation is to not be considered disabled. That’s why I said your description of me as an “able-bodied disabled person” I think hits my conception of myself right on the head.

Cara: If and when there comes a time that you’re not able to pull that [self-conception] off, we’re going to have to do a new interview. I’m just saying I think there’s something sketchy about [your thought process].

Dave: Well, I’m glad to know that there’s an element of danger around my response to limb loss –

Cara: This isn’t danger or intrigue, this is sketchy.

Dave: Well. Call it what you will. It will make a fascinating series of posts if that day ever comes. And God knows, I’m always looking for ideas, so a good psychic break in the future might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Cara: It might be. I can keep questioning you and make a psychotic break occur if your readers would be interested in that.

Dave: My readers would be fascinated by that. I suggest that we plumb the depths of that immediately. We should have started there.

Cara: [in hushed tone] Because I can break you.

Dave: Perhaps. If anyone can you can.

Cara: Did you ever find your shoehorn? Because I think the most displaced you have felt [since losing your leg] was since that big metal honker has been missing.

Dave: I’m happy to report that when I was visiting our headquarters [last week], I was provided with a new shoehorn. Many thanks to Coryn.

Cara: Thanks Coryn. Appreciate it. It was like he had lost a child in a mall.

Dave: It was extremely traumatic.

Cara: Thanks for letting me interview you, Dave.

Dave: It was my pleasure. Thanks for being such an insightful questioner.

Cara: Well, the insight has to come from somewhere.