Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Got a Spare?

To the right is a picture of Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen. He was in an accident in December 1984. I was 12 years old at the time, and he became my hero.
He lost his arm (unlike me who was born this way) and refused to let it destroy his life. Instead he relearned things - like playing the drums professionally with only one hand.
Rick Allen always brings to mind something my mom and Grammie said to me repeatedly growing up. Whenever I would have a little pity party and say I couldn't do something because I only had one hand, they would tell me that the only reason I didn't have two is that I was "good enough that [I] didn't need the spare like everyone else did."
That saying has stayed with me my entire life. A motto of sorts for never letting myself become handicapped. I was as well equipped as any two-handed person.
A recent talk with friend, fellow blogger and fellow CCer, Inkblot, brought this to the forefront of my mind tonight (hence the post :)). Here is a little snippet from our conversation:
Inkblot: i can arrange for someone to stomp on your toes if you like
amputate a limb
or something
me: if you amputate a limb, would you mind
making it a leg. i have a spare of those
Inkblot: rofl!
how about an ear,
or something more expendable?
me: that could work
Inkblot: sweet. an ear
it is. and a couple of toenails %-)
I love that my friends and I can joke about my missing limb and they don't worry it will upset me. To me, that says a lot about how I see myself and how I project myself to others. (Yes, that last sentence can be taken in an egotistical way, but that's not how it was meant.) It shows that none of us see me as handicapped and that is really important to me.
I'm even two-handed in my dreams :D That's how I see myself.
Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of people who don't see themselves as whole due to some physical condition. I've seen people in wheelchairs who expect to be waited on hand and foot because they "can't do it themselves." I've seen people so ill at ease with their own problems that when someone (frequently an innocent and curious child) asks about it, they tell that person to shut up.
I've even seen parents tell their children to shut up when the child asked a question. And that infuriates me more than anything.
How else are these children supposed to learn how to treat people with difficulties if they aren't allowed to question and learn? That attitude of secrecy and shame promotes prejudice and the teasing most of us have had to deal with our entire lives.
I find nothing wrong with a child asking how I can tie a shoe with one hand (or an adult, though they tend to be much more reticent in asking). The look of amazement on their faces when I bend down and tie their shoe is worth it. And in the end they've learned that even someone who is missing a limb can function at the same level as everyone else.
I know there are many difficulties out there that are much worse than mine, but I can't write about them because I haven't experienced them. And I know there are some difficulties that do prevent a person from doing some things. That still doesn't make them handicapped if they are always trying and never giving up.


  1. Wow. This post is awesome and I really admire how you've overcome this and become stronger for it. Very cool. Plus, I've heard of that band but never knew the drummer drummed with one hand.

  2. What a great post. I had no idea you only had one arm. I knw this little girl who is missing the bottom half of both legs and one of her arms ends at the elbow. She wears 'stumps' to get around on, plays in a soccer league and does a hundred other things girls her age should do. Her parents don't let her use her challenges as a reason to avoid something and so she's always given her all to anything she had an interest it. It's beautiful to see.

  3. Jessica - The fact that you never noticed he only has one hand is a huge compliment to him.

    Angela - How little a girl? Would she or her mom/dad want to write a post? I really am looking for others to post some of their experiences as well.

  4. Wonderful post, Sarah! When I met you, it took me about 20 minutes to remember that you had only one arm. I didn't even remember! Because I see you as you, and it doesn't matter how many limbs you have or are missing. You're still you!