When I first arrived at the airport my boss and her husband (with their dog who I used to dog-sit) greeted me. I was so surprised that they took the time out of their busy law practice to welcome me back to Guam. She told me that I was coming back to work the next week to which I mildly protested. I thought I’d take a month off, but she had different plans for me. She wanted my to put my brain to use again asap.
In addition to the amputation of both legs in the accident, I also suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The TBI affected some of my cognitive abilities. In the beginning, I couldn’t read a clock, didn’t know what country or decade I was in, and laughed uncontrollably at times. There was also a short period while still at the Guam Naval Hospital that I only spoke Japanese. Japanese was my minor in college and I dated a Japanese woman while studying and so I used it everyday. I even lived in Japan for 6 months while deciding what to do next with my life. It’s amazing what the brain can do even after something as traumatic as I went through.
Back at home was the comforting relief that only one’s home can bring. And my dogs being there made it more comforting. Dogs are amazing. Mine knew that something was different about me, though they might have not known what was different. They stayed around me at most times and were there for me when I was feeling down. It’s amazing how they’re in tune with your emotions. Dogs are such great companions.
Back at work, my boss had me return to the project I was working on as the assistant for a luxury condo development in Tumon. It was difficult at times, but I persevered. There was a lot I had to refresh my mind on. There was also a lot I had to relearn in terms of impulse control (waiting to send that email), proper grammar–and generally basic things that are ingrained in most people by the time they’re working adults but the TBI had erased in me. Those were the easy parts, however. More on that later.
At home, I began researching the world of prosthetics. I joined an online forum for amputees, empoweringamputees.org. That is a great site for new amputees to ask questions about anything and everything. Most new amputees have no knowledge of limb loss prior to losing a limb. It’s a whole new world and the Empowering Amputees site helps new amputees navigate that confusing world. There I learned what makes a good or bad prosthetist (the person who fits you for a prosthesis). The types of suspension systems (how the prosthesis attaches to the limb) available. The types of prosthetics (basic, four-bar, microprocessor controlled or MPC) available. Insurance coverage. Dating. Everything is discussed there. I also learned that not all amputees are the same. I’m in a special category–a bilateral above the knee amputee (AK). We are a special group of amputees because of the challenges we face just to walk. Most single amputees can rely on their sound limb–we do not have a sound limb to rely on. So, I learned a lot about being a bilateral AKA from Empowering Amputees. As a bilateral AK amputee everything is double the cost! Not good because a microprocessor controlled leg, foot, and socket can cost around $50k! I need two!!
My boss suggested I go on the local Guam Medically Indigent Program or MIP which can help pay for basic prosthetics. However, you are only allowed to earn so much to be in that program. So, I was working part-time to stay under their income cap. Sadly, there is no prosthetic clinic on Guam. There is only a visiting prosthetist from Hawaii and they only come every three months. (Oh, I have a lot to say about the company that visits Guam later.) When I went to their on-island clinic, the prosthetist took one look at me and said I needed to go to their main office in Hawaii. Yay! A trip!! I learned so much about the world of prosthetics on that trip…