Posts Tagged ‘amputee’
Understanding Wanna-be Amputees: It Helps A Little Bit If You’re a Paraplegic With Two Truly Superfluous Limbs
It’s called Body Integrity Identity Disorder, and it’s sufferers are called “wanna-bes”, as in “I’ve got two legs but I wanna-be an amputee. It is not listed or accepted as an official disorder. Sounds like something I made up, but there are cases of it all over the world, as I discovered in a documentary by Melody Gilbert called “Whole.” The Wanna-bes in the film referred to their voluntary amputations as “body correction surgery.”
Having been disabled since birth, I thought this idea was completely alien to anything that I’d ever imagined could possibly cross the human mind.
Though I don’t know why I’m surprised. We are interesting creatures.
But I almost drew the line when one of the subjects of the study, who had two perfectly good legs, referred to one of them as “superfluous.” I thought “Two perfectly good legs and you don’t want them, in fact deem them unnecessary?” This is when the idea of a Paraplegic and Amputee’s Goodwill Store” occurred to me.
But half-way through the film I realized that I could identify in some small way. I mean I have many times damned my own useless legs for getting in my way. I don’t damn my disability, just my legs being there for no reason. So much extra work, just getting in the car and having to bring my legs too.
The film told the story of a non-amputee who lived as one by tying one leg up inside his pant leg. This man said “I don’t feel incomplete [being forced to live with both of his legs intact], I just don’t feel like that part of my body belongs to me.” Okay that is close to what I have described, with my own legs, but again, mine are useless! I joke about cutting mine off all the time, but I wouldn’t do it. I’ve got stuff to do!
Another wanna-be’s wife helped him cause himself frostbite so he could realize his dream of becoming an amputee, while another threatened to leave her husband if he went through with it. This man was willing to not only risk his safety and his life, but, if he made it through, his marriage. He was willing to die for it. This was not an uncommon expression of desperation among the wanna-bes. One said that if he found he could never become an amputee he might consider suicide.
Which brings us to Dr. Robert Smith of Scotland, the Jack Kevorkian of wanna-be amputees, if you will. One of his patients pretty much fought him into submission, convinced him to perform the amputation by making the doctor see that he was going to keep hurting himself, either by giving himself frostbite or by shooting himself in the leg, until he got what he wanted. So now not only do we have the right-to-die issue on the table, we’ve got the right to lose a limb surgically for no reason. And now Smith is the poster boy for voluntary amputation surgery, or “body-correction”. Because Smith could see beyond a doubt that the safety of his patient was in extreme jeopardy and he had to act to make sure that he did not let the man’s condition cause him harm that he could prevent.
It’s called the Hippocratic Oath. Millions of doctors world-wide are sworn to it. It is not a requirement like the oath one takes before taking the witness stand, but among doctors who do choose to take the oath, it is considered binding; a matter of honor. Part of the oath is to “never do harm to anyone”. The problem here is that, sure, you could say that cutting off someone’s leg when it is not injured, infected, damaged or otherwise endangering the patient is indeed harming him. But if he is threatening to shoot his leg off at home, he could be doing himself much more damage than a surgical amputation would.
Another wanna-be said if his dream did not come true, he’d probably be alright, because of all of the other things that’d happened in his life. He said it with almost the same pensive expression that, in the movie “Field of Dreams,” Dr. Moonlight Graham said it wasn’t a tragedy that he only got to play baseball for a day, but that “If I’d only gotten to be a doctor for one day, that would have been a tragedy.”
So, clearly this is very serious for the people who have this disorder, and I mean to treat it as such. But when you don’t understand, you make light, and I’ve gotta be honest, after seeing this film, I still don’t completely understand. Not completely.
NOTE: Please read the very informative first response to this posting.
As disabled sports enthusiasts everywhere anxiously await the outcome of Oscar Pistorius’ last chance to make the South African Olympic team on Wednesday, July 16, I gotta wonder, is Oscar being catered to?
I mean, they extended the deadline on their decision on who to put on their team, from July 11 to July 16, and seemingly just so Pistorius, the first amputee to make it this close to the Olympics, has one more race to make the cut. Why? Is this common practice? Or maybe they just really see something in Pistorius and they feel that to not have him on their national team would be a disservice to the country. Or maybe they think that being the first country to have a disabled person on the national Olympic team would make them really look forward-thinking and open minded.
We should have all stopped holding our collective breath on Pistorius a long time ago. As far as I am concerned, he didn’t make the cut. Because if he makes it as a result of an extended deadline, that, added onto the issue of his “performance-enhancing prostheses, he is going to be the Barry Bonds of the Olympics.
It’s almost a can’t-win situation, even though Pistorius winning a medal would be considered a huge victory. Because at the same time there’d be people expecting him to do well so they could say it was because of his prosthetics. And if he got there and did not do well, others would be waiting in the wings with their low expectations to drop that “he did great considering his disability” bomb.
In just the past four days more people have visited treadmarkz.wordpress.com to read about Adam Bender, the one-legged little league catcher, than those who have visited to read about Brian Sterner, the quadriplegic who you will remember was tossed out of his chair by an arresting officer back in February. That story continues to get hits, and until today was the biggest story in the history of treadmarkz.wordpress.com.
This just goes to show that people do like happy news, and prefer a story about a success and (I hate this phrase) a triumph over adversity, to a story about a person who has been victimized. It’s funny though because even my story about Allen Keita did not get this much publicity and that was awesome what he did!
I guess it is because the sun is out and things are looking up.
Happy Summer, and enjoy your visit to Treadmarkz.wordpress.com!!!
It appears to me that my readership is interested in the story of Adam Bender, the one-legged Little League catcher from Kentucky. Most of you will probably remember Jim Abbott, the pitcher for the California Angels in the late-80s and early-90s. But how many of you have heard of Pete Gray?
Jim Abbott was missing the business end of his one arm, but Pete Gray was missing an entire arm. He played in the outfield for the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles) for just one season, 1945. Nothing magical, in fact he only batted .218, well lower than an “average” hitter. But plenty of lower-than-average batters come and go every season in the major leagues. Having one arm had little to do with it. As you will see from any photo of Gray at bat, having one arm left him able to swing more freely than he would had he had two arms.
And, one could argue that the only reason Pete Gray was given a call-up to the Browns that year was because we were still in the midst of World War II, and many of the game’s greats were still away in the South Pacific or Europe. But if Major League owners were trying to fill the empty spots left by greats like Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Stan Musial, I find it hard to believe that the first place they’d look was toward a one-armed man. No, Gray had to have earned his tryout, and then his spot on the team.
For all of you baseball history buffs, no the Browns were not owned by Bill Veeck yet in ’45, so Gray was not one of Veeck’s sideshows (see Eddie Gaedel), though some have claimed that Gray’s tenure with the Browns was a “gate attraction” and that he was being exploited. This may be true and it may not be. But if he had not reasonably held his own at the plate and had not shown pretty good glove work and foot work in the field and on the base path, he would not have lasted even as long as he did. And guys like Jim Abbott never would have had a chance, and kids like Adam Bender would be a complete side show. Thankfully Bender is far from that.
Not long ago, I wrote a little bit about how I couldn’t play little league as a kid being in a wheelchair, so instead I became completely and totally engrossed in baseball history, lore and statistics. I just want to say that this kid Adam Bender has made me regret that I never demanded a tryout. I even wanted to be a catcher just like him, thinking it would be easiest for me. I don’t know if that is true, but it is working for Bender, who was born with cancer in his leg and had to have it amputated.
You can see from the video above that he is not just given a chance because he is disabled. He plays his position and he can leg out a double and slide into second base with plenty of time to spare. And that, after only pausing to grab a set of crutches when he hits first base. And the crutches are necessary only because he refuses to wear a prosthesis.
Already I am seeing shades of the memorable if not great career of Jim Abbott, the one-armed pitcher for the California Angels, who inspired me so much in the late 80s and early 90s.
I have been quietly following this story, about Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who wishes to compete in the Olympics for his country South Africa alongside fully able-bodied competitors. If you’ve been reading my work, you’d probably guess that this is exactly what I have wanted: Pistorius is now eligible to attempt to qualify as an Olympic athlete, not a Paralympian.
What do you all think of this? Do the carbon-fiber “legs” that he wears give him an unfair advantage or give his body and unnatural performance contrary to what the spirit of the Olympics is all about in the first place? The experts at MIT who have tested his “legs” say that they do not. They are made to mimic the performance of a biological leg and foot as naturally as possible. In this age of performance-enhancing drugs, though, this is bound to raise some eyebrows.
Underneath the story I have linked to above, there is a series of reader comments and one of the readers made a great point (which I myself responded to). He basically said that Pistorius should be required to either compete as an “able-bodied” athlete or a “disabled” athlete. He should not be able to have it both ways, even though it looks as though for now at least Pistorius will be doing just that. If Pistorius is claiming to be “able bodied” enough to compete in the regular Olympics, then is it unfair for him to compete in the Paralympics against “disabled” athletes?
But hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here! Pistorius still has to qualify for the Olympics (or be selected as an alternate if he does not make a “qualifying time”). If he can’t do it, then we’ll know the “legs” gave him no unfair advantage and he will go back to being a “disabled athlete” again. Let’s let this one play out.
As often as I can, when I am not sharing my own experiences and thoughts, I like to offer stories about other people with disabilities, to show what real people with disabilities are doing, what they are accomplishing, what they can accomplish.
Though I generally don’t like heavy blazing electric guitar solos, as a lover of rock music, I am very impressed with this man, Rick Renstrom‘s playing. Renstrom is a contestant on the U.K. television series “Guitar Idol” and he has a disability. He was either born with his arms/hands the way they are, or he maybe lost the business end of his arms, but was able to get his hands stitched back onto what remained. According to this blog posting, Renstrom gives no information on his disabilities. And I understand that. He wants to be known as a great guitar player, not a great guitar player “considering he is disabled.” And he really is just a great guitar player.
Plus he could be close to what I was looking for when I wrote the posting in this link.
In earlier postings I said how I wished that people with disabilities could just be known as someone who is great at what they do, not someone who is great at what they do considering they are disabled. But I think they best way to get to that point is to show that the talents of people with disabilities are equal and sometimes greater than those of others.
We’re getting there, people. Please comment your thoughts on whether blogs like this are productive in getting to that point. I have my opinion, I want to hear yours.
Check out the video at the bottom of the page in the first link above. For those of you who don’t like heavy metal, believe me, it is worth a listen, especially if you are an apiring guitar player.
Somehow I doubt that this would attract major network coverage in the U.S. with our warped views on what is beautiful. Here is a story from CNN.com on a beauty pageant in Angola for victims of landmines who have lost limbs. Some would call this exploitation based on disability. Some would call it a way to call attention to a scourge that is affecting thousands and thousands of people all around the world.
Though it is certainly not a “freak show” as some have suggested, one’s attitude toward the existence of a pageant such as this says a lot about where they are, culturally.
Meaning: I live in the U.S. so my opinion does not matter as much as that of someone in Angola, where people live every day worried about being the victim of, or losing a loved one to, a mine. Therefore, for them, a pageant like this appears different than to my outsider’s eyes. To them, the women in this pageant are members of an entire subculture with a voice waiting to be heard, and this is one way for them to speak up.
Besides, in the U.S. there are “beauty pageants” strictly for the blind, for the deaf, and for women in wheelchairs. What makes this any different?
But politics and humanitarian efforts aside, as I have suggested in other postings, I would like to see the day when a woman, in a wheelchair for example, could participate in a pageant alongside women who are not disabled, without it being an issue. I know, however, that this is unlikely, because it seems that the idea of beauty is universally such that it would be hard to judge two people equally when one is missing limbs, or one has limbs that where formed differently than the others. Is the Miss Landmine Angola 2008 Pageant helping bring the world closer to this day or is it just highlighting the seperateness of those with disabilities?
We are quite possibly talking about two very different issues because of the differences in political climate, and culture. What do you think?
PS: I felt a little uncomfortable writing, earnestly, about something as superficial as a “beauty pageant” in the first place, but it fits in with some of the themes I have been trying to develop here at treadmarkz.wordpress.com.
I am a rocker at heart but I find Irish music to be very relaxing and at times inspiring. I am particularly drawn to songs like Danny Boy, Greensleeves, and Amazing Grace (all tend to be staples in any Irish vocalist’s repertoire) for the timeless qualities of their melodies. I particularly love performers like Altan, Celtic Women and the Irish Tenors. I have always been particularly drawn to the tone in the voice of one of the Tenor’s former members, Ronan Tynan. Here is a video so you can hear what I mean.
Tynan was born with paralyzed legs, and he had them amputated after a car accident in 1980. By 1984, Tynan had already won 18 Paralympic Gold Medals, and set 14 world records in a wide variety of track and field events. Nine of his records, in the discus, shot-put, and long-jump, have not been broken to this day.
He then went into the medical field, and he’d already spent a few years working in the development and design of prosthetic feet when he graduated from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, with a medical degree. He became a physician and with his athletic background, specialized in sports injuries.
After just beginning his practice, in 1994, he found the time to attend the Royal Opera School in London, joining the Irish Tenors from 1998-2004. He continues a successful solo career today, and often shows up singing “God Bless America” at N.Y. Yankees baseball games, or at NHL hockey games.
Not a bad 18 years: World-class athlete, doctor, and world-class vocalist. His meteoric rise in athletics, as well as his successful switch over to the medical field, followed by his most recent fame in opera prove that it is never too late to follow a new path in life.