How I became an advocate for people with disabilities and special needs.

Since I’m new here, I might as well share with anyone who is interested one of the reasons why I’m here at all.  It all began with a playground accident back in 1956.  I fell off a piece of playground equipment and reflexively put my right arm out to break my fall.  My arm didn’t break my fall but I knew immediately that I had injured my arm badly.  I got to my feet and instinctively held out my right arm in front of me to assess the damage. I could see no right arm; I saw only a little of it above the elbow with a jagged piece of humerus bone protruding out and a mass of bleeding flesh.  I had shattered the elbow joint into 4 pieces, broken my wrist in 2 places and the humerus bone had broken off just above my elbow and ripped open my arm at the elbow like a can opener. It was being held on only by the flesh at the back of my elbow and swung like a pendulum.  Initially with horror, I thought it was gone because I had absolutely no feeling (nerve trauma) below the elbow.  I spent 3 weeks in a hospital enduring 3 surgeries, having it pinned, wired and tractioned.  Because of a raging infection brought on by tanbark being jammed into the wound site, I came within literally hours of having my right arm amputated above the elbow.  My orthopedic surgeon, before reattachment technology, performed wonders in saving my arm.  Miraculously, the main ulnar nerve was unnaturally stretched over the wound site but not severed.  For about a year, I could neither bend it nor flex it and my forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers were partially paralyzed.  Eventually, I regained almost all functionality, other than some phantom sensations and the inability to fully flex it.  In school, I was the object of curiosity and revulsion since many kids had seen me staggering, bleeding and holding my right forearm as I headed for the school office.  Where before I witnessed children with disabilities and special needs being teased, ridiculed, and generally shunned, that particular behavior vanished from me forever.  It is revealing what a traumatic and temporarily disabling injury can do to an active 11 year-old’s thought patterns.  Ever since then, I have been an advocate, encourager, and defender for anyone with a disaabilty.  It happened again in 1964 in the military.  I wrecked my right knee in a winter accident and limped around on it, mis-diagnosed for 6 months.  Finally, it was repaired as best as they could do but permanent damage had set in.  I had a revision surgery on it again in 1984 but somewhere down the road I will be a candidate for a joint replacement.  I also have what is called “Posterior Tibial Syndrome,” a heredity defect whereby this tibial ligament, which holds the foot up, either stretches, disappears completely or is otherwise damaged.  I’ve had an Arizona brace prescribed for my right ankle/foot and an AFO for my left.  Neither was effective.  So, at age 64, I have several partial permanent disabilities that hinder my mobility.  Being badly injured has a way of producing a powerful empathy for anyone else who happens to have any disability because I’ve “been dere, done dat.” That’s just one of the reasons I’m here……I partially understand.  Notice I say “partially” because no one can fathom the full extent of a person’s disability but the one with the disability.  Your comments are always welcome


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