I used to travel a bit with the Amputee Coalition of America to various conferences nationwide. The amputee kids of all ages and disabilities would get together on these trips and bunk out in hotel rooms assigned and organized by the ACA committee. Activities would be planned for the entire three or four day event aside from the conference meetings and it was really a growing and interacting time for kids to be with others “like them”. I participated in this from within months of my amputation at the age of four all the way through an adult of nineteen.
There is really no way to describe the humor and interaction between amputees. Most of us I have found seem to have a drier sense of humor which is only encouraged and multiplied when in groups of seemingly “like kind”. I have seen everything and I’m sure many of my stories will come from these hilarious trips. Several times I’ve seen kids fall down randomly in front of a parked car and scream “MY LEG!” to create a scene. Once a man in a buffet line on crutches with one leg with a full plate was approached by a fellow amputee stating “You are pretty good on those things, let’s see how you do without them” and with a swift kick they were gone leaving the man to only laugh and balance his tray as he hopped along. I have even seen kids attempting to recreate wild WWF (World Wrestling Something) scenes resulting in actual prosthetic limbs going through the walls of hotel rooms and creating huge bills.
As a part of being one of the older participants in the program I would be assigned caretaker for three girls who would bunk in my hotel room and for whom I would be responsible for being sure they turned up on time, appropriately dressed, and well-rested for events starting with a daily 7:30 AM breakfast. Anyone with children knows telling kids at a sleepover to “get some rest and go to bed” is borderline psychotic and never actually happens anyway. Yet I still always managed to end up with the three most rambunctious girls in the entire hotel and still get them to all events (sleepy under eye baggage and all).
One particular evening I received a call from hotel management informing me that my girls were going down the hallways knocking on random doors and running away. I’m sure it was the awkward hop-skip that amputees do when running that gave them away to the security cameras. Still, I was responsible for them even if I was in the shower when this happened. I sat my girls down for a talk and with silent nods we seemed to reach an agreement.
The next evening as I came out of the shower someone was at the door. I opened it to find the leader of the committee with three girls in tow and a very unhappy scowl. She informed me abruptly that she had found the girls in the elevator pushing all the buttons and enjoying the free ride as a hundred amputees at the conference downstairs were forced to wait or take the stairs.
I thought about it for awhile and finally came up with a plan. How could I further disable my disabled children? The only way I could further disable already disabled children would be to pull their legs. Quite literally, I mean I decided I was going to have to pull their legs.
The next evening prior to my shower I called each of them into the bathroom and told them to take off their legs. They shrieked in horror as if I was forcing a limb loss or something! One of my girls even threatened to tell her mother I made her take her leg off, to which of course I laughed and continued taking my own off. So, they took off their legs and I locked them in the bathroom with me for my shower fully satisfied with the obvious brilliance of my ability to cripple children.
Over the next year or two I became known as the leg-collecting chaperone. Did it work? Well, if you think it worked apparently you do not know the determination of amputee children. Those critters still managed to get out of the room and be ornery knocking on doors! The good news is, they never got very far hopping along and raising cane in ten minutes. I would finish up, open the door and yell at them, and then as each girl came hopping back into the room I would re-issue limbs hiding my smile.
The fact is, the determination and humor they had is what got them through their daily life. Amputee children face more in a day then a normal person will face in a year. The determination they have and attitudes of diligence are something that I admire and have continual respect for. Their ability to fight through anything is what has kept them not only alive, but able to thrive. It makes me smile, as I hope this story has made you smile. After all, I was one of them!