11 Things I Learned From Dating An Amputee

11 Things I Learned From Dating An Amputee

Loving someone with a disability gives a whole new world perspective.
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For the last year, I have been dating a bilateral above the knee amputee. This comes with its own lessons and trials. Here are some of the lessons learned over the last year.

1. Patience

It takes longer to get ready to go somewhere. Putting the chair in the car, putting legs on, accessible parking, ramps, taking the chair out. It all takes a little extra time. You can’t be in a hurry going places and you have to give yourselves that extra time. A lot of extra time if she decides to wear different shoes on her prosthetics.

2. Doctors Appointments

There are a lot more doctor appointments when it comes to amputation. Prosthetics, physical therapy, psychologists, general doctors. You name it, we go to an appointment there. Life is scheduled around appointments because it is all part of the journey to her walking again. I have become pretty close with my girlfriend’s prosthetic doctor and physical therapist because I go to most of her appointments and sometimes I see them more than my own family.

3. The world is not wheelchair accessible.

Before we go on a date, I’m always checking online as to whether or not the restaurant is wheelchair accessible. Walking down the sidewalk I’m always looking out for bumps, cracks and rocks that might trip her up. We are always looking for the handicap parking or the handicap bathroom stall. And there are always the people who do not need those amenities that use them. Then we have to wait or go out of our way for her to use something that she has no choice to use.

4. People stare.

Children stare. Adults stare. It is something out of the ordinary to see someone coming through the street with no legs. Or robot legs. There are people who will come up to us on the street and say things like, “God bless you,” or anything along those lines. We know they mean well, but all it does is draw more attention to the disability. Some people ask questions nicely and out of pure curiosity. Some people point and stare and laugh. It’s a chair, amputations are not contagious and just because someone is different does not make them bad or less. Everybody is a little different, but some differences are clearly more prominent than others.

5. They block the hallways.

Every time. Especially when you really have to go to the bathroom, there the chair is. The chair blocks pretty much everything.

6. You will get your feet run over.

Another major disadvantage to the chair is the amount of times she does not know where her chair is because normally it winds up on top of my foot. And it hurts. Sometimes her footplate rams into me, sometimes that is on purpose. I am pretty sure my little toe is losing feeling from the amount of times it has been run over.

7. They can do more than you give them credit for.

Most people look at someone in a wheelchair as completely incapable. My girlfriend is on the wheelchair basketball team at our school, so my experience with people in chairs is not just limited to her. The people on the team can drive, they have their own homes, they clean, they play sports. Everything is normal -- it is just adapted. Which means sometimes, my girlfriend asks me to do things I know she is completely capable of doing and plays the disabled card. And most of the time it means I will still do things I know she is completely capable of doing because I love her.

8. Relearning how to walk.

This is possibly the most frustrating thing about dating an amputee. For her, I know it is the most frustrating part. With no knees, walking again is a process. A long process. Everything is new as walking is no longer an instinct movement with the knee and the knee of her prosthetic is moved by the muscles in the glutes and hamstrings. This relearning means multiple physical therapy appointments per month. It means tears, falling, walkers, crutches, canes and parallel bars. And that is just the physical side. The prosthetics come with their own appointments and adjustments. And of course, the amputee is constantly frustrated. The way she describes it is “being a baby all over again, but worse.”

9. Phantom pains.

Limbs are amputated to prevent further damage to the body. That does not mean the pain goes away after the amputation. The nerves are severed, but the brain still sends signals to those nerves. Nerves send pain signals when something is wrong, so the nerves are almost always sending pain signals to the amputee’s brain. My girlfriend describes her’s as a burning sensation in her feet or spasms. The worst part is knowing there is nothing I can do to help her other than try to put warm compresses on it. Nobody knows how long phantom pains will last, but I do know they get worse when it rains. Meaning every time the sky turns gray, I ask her how she is feeling. It takes a long time to understand the phantom pains and even longer to find out how to help when they happen.

10. Hand holding.

Hand holding is a little different for us. It is basically just me pulling her around. It is one part romance and one part laziness. But I am always smiling when I’m pulling her because honestly, it can be fun. Some days, I whip her around a corner. Sometimes she holds on to the grocery cart. No matter what it is, I would pull her across the country if I had to.

11. Love is blind.

I forget about the chair. No, I’m not just saying that. I have gone to the back of the car to get my mom’s wheelchair when I have ridden with her. My mom doesn’t use a wheelchair, but for me that is habit. Or sometimes I forget to grab my girlfriend’s chair because I forget she uses one. We have been together over a year and I love her more every day. She has told me about people who would not date her because she’s in a chair. That is their loss though because I wound up with the best girl I could ask for. She takes care of me, she loves me and I would love her with or without the chair. Because the person in the chair matters much more than the chair itself. And the sooner more people realize that, the sooner we could accept each other as is.
Cover Image Credit: Melanie Uhlenhake

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Your Health Journey Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Perfection takes time.

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When you first start to do something, you have all of the motivation in the world to accomplish that goal set out in front of you, especially when it comes to being healthier. The problem is as you continue through this journey and food and laziness kick in, motivation slips. It's human, and it happens to everyone no matter how physically strong they are.

Trying to be healthier doesn't always mean losing weight. It can be so your knees don't ache as much, so you don't feel as out of breath climbing stairs, or any goal you have set for yourself. Being healthier is personal and different from person to person.

I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of changes I would love to make about myself. From my weight to my body type and many other things about myself inside and out. I am by no means the most confident person about how I look, but I have worked hard for the past year to be an overall healthier person.

Becoming healthier isn't about looking thinner or fitting into a specific size of clothes. It is about taking care of yourself from eating better to working out more. There comes a feeling of confidence in what your body can do if you put a little love in it.

Perfection takes time, and I know firsthand how frustrating trying to be healthier can be.

Pizza tastes so much better than salad. It is so easy to fall into a rhythm of something that seems never to change whether that is your weight or your mile time. Sadly, you can't build a city, or become healthier overnight.

We see people who are thinner, curvier, smarter, faster, and so much more than us. We all waste time comparing ourselves to people around us and on our timelines, but some of our biggest strengths are our individuality and the gift of getting back up after falling down.

All I can say is, please don't give up on your goal of being healthier because this is solely for you. We can have a great support system in the world and have everyone in our corner, but that isn't enough.

You need yourself. You need to know that if you don't entirely put yourself in this journey, then you won't fully succeed. Your commitment to bettering yourself can keep you going even if you want to give up.

Your motivation may not be at its peak level right now, and you may have every cell in your body screaming at you to quit. Don't do it. Prove to yourself that you can keep going no matter what. Not giving up will be worth it. The results and taking the hard way will make you a stronger person inside and out.

You can do this. You can do anything you want to accomplish if you just believe in yourself. You need to understand that becoming healthier takes endurance. There will be periods where you slow down and may not be going at your fastest pace. The difference is that you are not giving up and you are still trying and moving.

Don't treat becoming healthier as a sprint: short term and quick. That mentality will only leave you feeling deflated and defeated. It is a life-long marathon of pacing yourself and pushing yourself further than ever before.

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