The Amputee Experience – 99.99% + 00.01% = 100%

Written by Beth Hudson, LBKA

Well, this is going to be a bit of a vent, but I think all of you will commiserate on the following stories, as we have all been witness (or victims) to similar situations.

I was thrilled to go to the Amputee Conference in San Antonio in the summer of 2019. Lots of first times for me – flying, staying in a hotel, River Walk, restaurants, and navigating the conference itself. One afternoon I had some time and went ‘walkabout’. I decided to use my wheelchair to save energy. Did a little shopping, enjoyed the River Walk and then realized I needed to find a bathroom. I was close to a Margaritaville’s and rolled on it. I explained my need for a restroom and that I wouldn’t be eating there, may I please use your restroom? The hostess smiled, came around from the podium, grabbed my wheelchair and brought me to the restroom. She then waited for me and wheeled me back out of the very busy restaurant. We had a nice chat, and I thanked her profusely. Wow. 99.99%!

When I first came home after my amputation (and without a prosthesis yet), one of my main goals was to drive as soon as possible. I had been in rehab hospitals for a year, and then I was cooped up at home with hubby at work, trying to do my best, but feeling very isolated and alone.

When I was ready, I asked a neighbor to help me with both my wheelchair and some donations to Goodwill. I drove around the block a few times to get the hang of one leg (LBKA, so no modifications necessary, but it still felt weird) and went off to do some stay-in-the-car errands. Goodwill and the pharmacy drive-through were easy-peasy, but the third, getting gas, was cause for some anxiety. I didn’t know of any full service stations in my area. (I know, should have Googled!)

I drove to a local gas station/convenience store combo where I always got gas before my accident. My idea was to park in the HC spot by the store door and ask the next person who walked in to ask the clerk to come out and pump my gas. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I rolled down my passenger side window. Within minutes a woman drove up and parked her car. She had two little ones in the back seat – both toddlers in car seats – busy mom. Here was the exchange:

ME: Excus…
LADY: (looks at me and my HC tag hanging off the mirror): I don’t fucking have time to help you! What the fuck do you want anyway? I’ve got kids and I’m in a hurry. What the hell! I’m not going to fucking help you. (quickly opens the store door and disappears inside)
ME: (rolls up the window) WOW!

I thought to myself, “What just happened? Is this how I will be treated for the rest of my life? I didn’t even get one word out.” To say I was shocked at this woman’s behavior is an understatement, and I’m sure many of you, unfortunately, have a similar story. I decided to be kind in my heart and forgive her – she must be having a rough day – better to take it out on me than on her kids. But, they had heard the entire exchange, and I felt sorry for them. My encounter lasted all of five seconds, but they were with her 24/7. I hoped it was an isolated incident. 00.01%!

Strategy change! I back up to the pump and wait again. A woman drives up to the other side of the pump. This exchange was better – she told me the clerk wouldn’t come out because he was the only one in the store, but there was a full service station about a mile away, and they didn’t charge more for full service. Thank you so much for the information! 99.99 %! Off I went, and I’ve been getting gas there ever since. Nicest gas attendants ever. 99.99%!

It has taken me years to be able to grocery shop without assistance (minus the Covid year – I never experienced one-way lanes and social distancing in my grocery store, as we switched to curbside pickup during that time). The grocery store I go to has shopping cart corrals, but they are farther away from the HC parking than the store entrance, so it’s easier for me to bring the cart back into the store. I brought the cart inside the store and a woman came in behind me. I turned and asked her if she wanted my cart. She looked me in the eyes, looked down at my prosthesis, then looked me back in the eyes again and said (insert snarky voice), “No, no thank you.” She then proceeded to get a cart from the cache. I waited to see if she was going to clean off the handle bar, but she didn’t. I obviously had Cooties because I was an amputee. I thought I was being too sensitive about it, but after bringing it up at a support group, I realized that this is a common phenomenon. 00.01%!

Same store, last week, same scenario. I’m in the crosswalk bringing my cart into the store. A man comes up and asks if he can take the cart back in the store for me. Absolutely. I have to stop and take my crutches out of the cart and get my balance before I hand it over to him; he is a very patient – nice guy. 99.9%! As I’m doing this, a car comes along and stops, guns the engine, and then drives around us, even though we are in the middle of the crosswalk. Scared the shit out of both of us. The driver couldn’t wait the 10 seconds it would have taken us to get out of the crosswalk. 00.01%!

Went to a CrossFit fundraiser for my tribe – it was a blast, and the folks who came to help us were incredible; we learned a great deal from each other. Although I’m not new to my tribe, I have only been to a CrossFit gym a few times. All of the adaptive athletes were paired with able-bodied athletes – it was fun! 99.99%

Afterwards we all went to lunch at this awesome microbrewery down the street. I couldn’t find any HC parking, so I just parked off-street in a very small lot next to the brewery. When I got back to my car, the car next to the driver’s side was so close that even an able-bodied person couldn’t get in. No way could I get into the passenger side and climb over. I hoped that the driver was at the brewery! I walked back and started asking every table if one of them owned the car. Nada. The owner of the brewery (great guy!) walked up and asked me if I needed help. I explained the problem and he began to grin. It was his dad’s car! He moved it right away. We got a good laugh out of it. 99.99%! I was, however, prepared for a battle from a 00.01%er! So glad that didn’t happen. I will definitely be back to his brewery!

I have faith in humanity. I am convinced that 99.99% of people on this earth are kind and will do the right thing. We need to keep spreading that kindness far and wide. As to the 00.01%, I hope one day they will become part of the 99.99% and the world will be devoid of judgement and general nastiness to those who are different. Okay, my rant is over – and I know that you are thinking of both the 99.99%ers and the 00.01%ers you have encountered in your journey. If you can, invite those 00.01%ers into the fold. Lead by example when you can, and make good trouble if changes need to be made.

And remember: you never know how much strength you have until you are called upon to use it.