Sarah with her prosthetic as a child.
My journey with prosthetics started with I was five months old. My parents knew that I was going to need to learn how to crawl, and realized early on that I would need a prosthetic limb in order to do so without major difficulty. They took me to Shiners Hospital in Chicago and had me fitted for a passive arm (a prosthetic created to resemble the body part that it is replacing, it’s typically used for cosmetic purposes). When I was 18 months old, I became the youngest person ever at Shiners to receive a myoelectric (this type of prosthesis has electronic aspects to it and it is able to mimic some of the motions of the missing limb). While my first prosthesis allowed me to crawl, my second limb allowed me to do two-handed tasks more easily. As I grew older however, wearing a prosthesis slowly went from serving a purpose, to getting in the way.
In my last post, I told you a little about my softball career. From a young age, I was spending several days a week practicing softball or in gym class. I always left my prosthesis in my coach or gym teacher’s office because I hated wearing it while doing any kind of an activity. For those of you who have worn a prosthesis, you understand! They can be fairly heavy, and depending on the material, can get very hot. I eventually realized that my prosthetic arm was just getting in the way and was no longer serving a purpose. After I had this realization when I was 12, I stopped wearing my arm at all times.
When I was 12, I had been going to school and playing softball with the same kids for many years. I didn’t constantly have to explain what happened to my arm or prove what I was capable of. I was just Sarah. I spent the next several years living life one handed, and not giving the dusty prosthesis in my closet a second thought.
That changed when I was 16 and my family moved from Indiana to Oklahoma for my Dad’s work. I knew that as soon as I started school, there would be all kinds of questions again, and I was going to have to prove myself in softball all over again. I made the decision before I started my junior year of high school that I needed a new prosthesis. I wanted to make things easier for the new kids that I would be meeting. I wanted to help them feel more comfortable around me and not be too intimidated to be friends with me.
However, I didn’t plan for what was going to happen before I started at my new school. I was playing powder-puff football during the last week of summer and had an unfortunate mishap during the first play of our first game. I had a linebacker from the other team slam into me and send me flying towards the ground. Even in the spur of the moment I was terrified of breaking my hand, so I used my stub to brace myself. In the process, I managed to break my elbow and tear multiple ligaments in it as well. The most excruciating pain that came from that injury wasn’t the broken bone; it was accepting the fact that I would no longer be able to wear my prosthesis due to my enormous cast!
In hindsight, I love this story, and it makes me laugh every time I think of it. I made my parents get me a prosthesis to prevent the kids at my new school from feeling uncomfortable, and I never even got the chance to wear it. Not only that, but when I started school it looked like I had just had my arm amputated!
This forced me to learn one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in my life so far: never hide who you are. I wanted a prosthesis to hide the real me. I believe that the Lord knew what I really needed in that situation when I clearly didn’t know what was best for me. While I would have loved to learn the lesson without the pain of a broken elbow, I’m grateful that I was able to learn it at the exact time that I did. It was difficult at first, but I had to learn that the only opinion that matters when it came to me was my own. I needed to be comfortable in my own skin, and nothing anyone could say about me or to me could affect that.
After my powder-puff debacle, I have never worn a prosthesis again. It never again served a purpose in my life, and I don’t have any reason to change my mind. No, a prosthetic arm is not for me, but I know that everyone is different and either wears them or doesn’t wear them for different reasons. The great thing about your prosthesis is that it is your prosthesis. You can wear it because it makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin, or you may not wear it merely out of pride. No matter what, it’s your choice, and I don’t believe that anyone can tell you what decision to make or how you should look. To me, I was only wearing it to try and hide who I really was. As soon as I realized that I had nothing to hide, my prosthesis no longer served a purpose.