The worst day of my life took place two weeks after my seventeenth birthday. The pain in my arms was getting worse. My mom took me to the doctor who had been following the progress of the disease and trying every treatment possible. I knew things did not look good, but I didn’t expect what he told me. Not yet.
“Brenda, I don’t know how to make this easy. If we don’t stop the spread of the disease your life could be threatened. There is only one alternative left to us,” Dr. Adams said. “You know enough about this to realize what I am suggesting.”
My heart pounded. I knew he was referring to amputation. I had read it in the book in the school library. I never thought that my condition would ever get that bad.
“You mean that my arms have got to be amputated don’t you?” I stated more than asked.
“Brenda I am so sorry, but there is no other way.” I started to cry.
"Both my arms?"
"One is worse than the other and we could probably hold off for a few months with the better one, but it would eventually have to come off too. I think it would be better to get it over with all at once," the doctor explained.
“How soon?” I managed to ask.
“Now that you know I think we should move quickly. It will be easier that way,” Dr. Adams replied.
I cried myself to sleep that night. The thought of losing my arms was too much to handle. I couldn’t begin to imagine what life would be like without arms. I was only seventeen! How could I care for myself? I would never have a boyfriend again. What about school? Would I have any friends at all. Could I go to a regular school?
Two days later I entered the hospital. The surgery was the next day. They sedated me that night. Otherwise, I would never have been able to sleep. In the morning the nurse brought me breakfast. I couldn’t eat a thing. A little while later the nurse prepped me by shaving the upper part of my arms and underarms. As she did this I noticed that she was weeping slightly. She knew what my surgery was. My mother was with me and both she and the nurse held my hands. This would be the last time I would ever hold anyone’s hand. I would never have real hands again. I was too numb to cry at this point. I was actually glad when I was finally brought to surgery. I was draped with green surgical sheets. My arms were left outside the sheets and then draped with additional sheets.
“We are going to let you sleep now,” Dr. Adams said as the anesthesiologist put the mask over me.
It was many hours later when I awoke. At first I thought my arms were still there. I could “feel” my fingers. But then I felt the pain above my elbows and I knew the operation had been a success. I was covered up and couldn’t see my arms. My mother and a nurse were by my side.
“Are they really gone?” I asked.
“Yes Brenda, the operation was performed as planned,” the nurse said. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Yes please. I am very thirsty,” I said. The nurse let me drink some juice from a glass with a straw.
It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to see my stumps for the first time. The nurse needed to change the dressings. She lowered the covers and I could see my little stumps for the first time. They were bandaged from the shoulder down. The nurse slowly unwrapped the bandage on my left stump. I was shocked beyond belief. I could see the ugly suture. It was red and raw looking. It hurt really bad. I broke down and cried as the bandage came completely off. My arms ended only a few inches below my armpits. It was all the nurse could do to control me. I didn’t know if I could go on living. Not like this --- armless. I was a freak now. Not a whole person.
I did survive and a day later I was able to get out of bed for the first time. The nurse wanted to let me take a real bath. As I stood up in my hospital gown I felt what it was like to be armless and standing. It felt really funny. I wanted so much to be able to move my arms around, but there was really nothing to move. I cried yet again. The nurse helped me into the tub. The water felt good. My stumps were protected by waterproof socks. The nurse shaved my legs so at least I could feel feminine again. The three day stubble was obvious. She washed my hair as well. After I got out of the bath she dressed me. There was little I could do by myself. Nothing in fact. I couldn’t even put on my panties. The doctor wanted me up and around as soon as possible. She dressed me in jeans and a short sleeve top my mother had brought. I cried as I slipped my little stumps into the straps of my bra. The sleeves on my top were just long enough to cover my stumps.
The nurse and my mother insisted that I go to the cafeteria for lunch. It was felt that the sooner I got out the easier it would be for me to adjust. I didn’t think I would ever adjust. We sat at a corner table and even so I noticed the stares. The pity was obvious.
“Mommy, mommy, that lady has no arms,” a little girl blurted out.
I started to cry and buried my head in my mother’s breasts. I wanted to hug her so much and I tried pitifully with my stumps in spite of the pain. A few minutes later I was able to stop crying for the most part. I wanted so much to be able to hold my sandwich. It was then that I realized I would never hold anything with my own hands again. Not ever. Not for the rest of my life. The nurse fed me like a baby. I would get used to this as I would have to be fed for some time to come. Eventually I knew that I would probably get artificial arms and might be able to do some things myself.
I spent the next several days in the hospital and finally went home. I now knew just how handicapped I was. Even very simple things were impossible. I couldn’t get a glass of water, couldn’t pull down my panties to urinate, and eating was still pretty much impossible unless I ate like a dog. I did do this once in awhile so my mother didn’t have to constantly sit with me when I wanted to snack on something. I started to go without shoes or socks so I could use my feet as hands. I actually could do some things with my feet. I learned to use the remote control for the TV with my feet.
My friend Jen was the first to come to see me. I knew she was shocked when she saw me sitting on the couch without arms. Little by little she got used to it. It was Jen who got me to leave the house. She and Kim took me to the mall. It was my first time out in public. They were great. They tried to make me feel “normal.” Of course I wasn’t and never would be. I wore a short sleeved top that just covered my bandaged stumps. I felt so helpless and people couldn't stop staring at me. We shopped for clothes and they helped me try things on. We all went to the food court. Of course they had to feed me. I couldn’t help but notice the continued stares. The most humiliating thing occurred after lunch.
“Jen, I need to go to the bathroom and I can’t do it myself. Can you help?”
“Of course Brenda,” Jen replied.
At home my mother would help me. She would pull down my pants or skirt and then my panties. This was in public and my mother wasn't with me.
“There’s one other thing. I am having my period and my tampon needs changing. Would you do that too Jen?”
“Of course,” Jen replied. "Don't worry."
Jen helped me out of my skirt. She then pulled my pantyhose down and finally my panties. I sat on the toilet and relieved myself. She wiped me with a tissue, It was now time for the tampon. I squatted slightly and she tugged on the dangling string from the tampon inside me. She pulled the bloody plug out and flushed it in the toilet. She then got a fresh one from the dispenser on the wall. She unwrapped it and went through the procedure to insert it. I started to cry.
“I don’t know how I can live this way Jen. Even the most personal feminine things are not mine to do anymore.”
“Hang in there Brenda. Things will get better,” she said. Before we left the ladies room she touched up my makeup and combed my hair. I couldn't stand to look at myself in the mirror, an armless freak.
"How can they get better? I will never ever have arms again," I protested. Jen looked at me sadly.
I dreaded the visit to the prosthetist. I knew I would have to confront my fears sooner or later. It had been six weeks since the operation and my stumps were healing nicely and the swelling was way down due to the constant wrapping in elastic bandages. They were now smooth and round. I had seen people with a missing arm who were using a hook hand. What I dreaded the most was seeing a hook up close for the first time. I always looked away as I shuddered at the thought of needing one. I never did see anyone with two hooks. Now here I was with the need for two. How could this have happened to me?
The prosthetist was very kind and gentle. He first brought just an arm with a lifelike hand attached. He explained that my stumps would be fitted to sockets in the upper part of the arms. The elbows would have a locking mechanism activated by a control cable. They also rotated manually on sort of a turntable as he explained. I was told that the cosmetic hands that looked real weren’t too functional and the standard Dorrance hook was what almost all arm amputees used for daily activities. He knew I feared them and waited until the last minute to show me one. He unscrewed the cosmetic hand and brought over a hook. I hadn’t cried in a couple of weeks, but I did now. As soon as I saw the shiny hook I couldn’t take it any longer. He waited a few minutes and then I said I wanted to see it again. He screwed it into the arm and explained how the control cable activated it. The same cable was used to lift the arm as well. Locking the elbow allowed the hook to open and close rather than the arm raising or lowering. A second control cable locked and unlocked the elbow joint.
"Brenda, I am going to provide you with two pairs of hooks. These are 8X and are the smaller of the two. They are more suited to your petite body. These larger 5X hooks might be a bit big for you, but you can try them and see if you like them better."
"I don't think I will like either of them at all. Just thinking about people looking at those things makes me feel horrible," I cried out. "I don't see how I can ever do anything with those hooks. They're not hands."
"Brenda, your amputations are both above the elbow. That makes things pretty tough. Being a bilateral amputee will make you totally dependant on using your hooks for everything. I know this will be tough at first, but I am sure once you realize that you will be able to do lots of things normal people can will make you eventually feel less handicapped. Of course, you will always be a quite severely disabled young lady and your life will be quite different, but you will get used to it," he explained. "Prosthetic hooks have their limitations, but your life will be much better when you learn to use them."
I didn't think I would ever get used to being armless and I just knew I would never get used to having those horrible hooks. Of course I did get used to them and eventually found my hooks weren't that bad. I knew I was still quite handicapped, but my hooks at least allowed me to be partially functional.
After he explained things to me he asked if he could remove my top. I was wearing a thin short sleeved sweater. I raised my stumps and he pulled it off leaving me only wearing my bra. Next came the casting of my stumps to make a mold for the sockets that would be used for my arms. As the casts of my stumps were being made the prosthetist showed me pictures of several girls using one or two prosthetic arms complete with hooks.
“There is a video I want you to see if you are up to it,” he said.
I said okay. After the casts were finished he took me to another room with a large TV and a VCR. The video was of a young woman without arms. She was probably in her twenties. She was fitted with two arms with their attached hooks. The video showed her in everyday life. She was able to do almost everything using her hooks. I saw how she could dress herself and feed herself. Even so, I could see that she struggled with even the simple things like pulling up her panties. It took her a long time to do simple things. She was always smiling. I wondered if she was really that happy or was it just acting? Of course she really was armless. That was no act. The video showed her getting in and out of her hooks. She had stumps just like mine. I knew that there were some things she needed help for. They didn’t show that. Personal hygiene was one thing that constantly bothered me. I couldn’t do anything for myself yet. One point in the video showed the young woman in a restaurant eating with a male companion. He was normal. She was using her hooks to eat. Everything looked normal. They were smiling and laughing as they ate. The commentator explained that Jan had no trouble eating and she felt like she had real hands. Sure!
A week later I was fitted with my new arms. I was first fitted with stump socks. These were sock like garments that fit tightly around my little stumps. The prosthetist then held up the left arm. I slipped my stump into the socket and was helped with the harness. The harness went over my shoulders and attached to the right arm. I slipped my right stump into its socket. The prosthetist then adjusted the straps to the proper positions. I looked down at the two hooks. Surprisingly I didn’t cry. I never dreamed that when I saw someone using a hook that I would have two of my own someday.
My first attempts to use my new hooks were not too successful. For those of you who do not know how hooks work, an above elbow amputee has two control cables as the prosthetist explained to me earlier. One is used to unlock the elbow joint. The other is used to open the hook and also lift the arm if the elbow is unlocked. You can't do both at the same time. You either lift the arm or open your hook. The shoulder is used to control the hook's cable as well as the elbow cable, but with two slightly different motions. The hook's cable is in back of your stump and the elbow cable is in front and runs up over the shoulder. After some practice I was able raise and lower my new arms and open and close my two hooks. I had a long way to go in order to do anything. I would be going into training the next day. I wanted to go home by now. Before we left I was helped into my sweater. I looked t myself in the mirror and started to cry. I looked perfectly normal except for the two shiny hooks where my hands should have been. I knew people would always be staring at me. I wanted to take the arms off, but I was told to start wearing them full time. I didn't know if I looked better with no arms or arms with hooks sticking out below the sleeves. I know that hooks are a rare sight for most people and they want to look even though they know it is not polite.
"But mom, they are so heavy," I pleaded.
"Brenda, the prosthetist says you need to become acclimated to them. Let's give it a shot until you go to bed."
“Pretty soon they will start to feel somewhat like real arms,” the prosthetist said. “The hooks can be made to do many things that real hands can do. Eventually their use will feel very natural to you. It will be second nature.”
I had worn a long sleeved sweater so that my new arms would be covered. I left with my new hooks hanging at my sides. I kept them on until I went to bed. As I sat watching TV I couldn’t stop looking down at my new hooks. I didn’t want to use them, but then I did try using them to operate the remote control. They worked. It was then that I knew I would eventually get used to them. Mom brought me some cookies to snack on and for the first time since my amputations I could actually feed myself, although I made a mess when a few of them broke as I was trying to get them up to my mouth.
The next several weeks were busy ones as I learned to use my hooks. I found that using them was very very difficult for many things and actually quite easy for others. For example, I could pick up an article of clothing with no effort and carry it around. Putting it on was another matter. Holding a glass without a handle was impossible. Turning a smooth door knob was impossible. Fortunately the knobs in the house were being changed to levers just for me. Going to the bathroom was still a problem. Trying to get my pants down and then my panties was really hard. I could pee okay, but the other thing was pretty gross. Someone had to wipe me.
I wore my arms from the time I got up until I went to bed. Without them I pretty much couldn't do anything except with my feet. Brushing my hair was still something I needed help with. Putting on my bra was another. And of course there was that monthly annoyance girls have. I was pretty pleased when I learned to insert my own tampon. I went out with my friends using my hooks. They all got used to them. By then I knew every little detail about my hooks, how they worked and the purpose of the rubber bands to provide the force to close the hooks. I no longer feared looking at them.
I was learning to eat with my hooks. That was really hard. The first time I went to a restaurant was not a really pleasant experience. The waitress brought the food and there I sat wondering how I would be able to eat. Everything was so hard. Just trying to get the food from the plate was very difficult at first. I wanted to just grab things with my hooks, but I was instructed to try to use a fork or spoon. It took me forever to do things and I kept dropping the fork. It would then take me a couple of minutes just to get the fork back into the grip of my hook. I was so humiliated. I know people kept watching me struggle. Knowing I would always have to eat this way was very depressing. I wanted my arms and hands back so badly.
The public was always pretty grossed out when they saw me eating with my hooks. Eventually I got used to the constant stares and overheard comments.
"That poor girl, can you imagine not having hands and eating with those hooks. It must be awful to have to live that way. I wonder what it feels like? How short are her arms? I don't think she has any arms at all. They look fake."
People did try to offer help. They didn't think I could do anything with my hooks. I usually refused help and just struggled until I did it. Sometimes I realized I just couldn't do it yet and accepted the help. Eventually I could even go to the ladies room by myself as long as the door didn't have a knob. I could even latch the door in the stalls. Of course it took me a long time. Combing my hair was a slow process. Once I got the comb grasped in my hook I had to play around to get my arm into position. Sometimes I just let my friends do it for me.
After a few months there were times when I would forget I didn't have arms or hands. That never lasted long. As soon as I needed to do something the fact that all I had were hooks became painfully obvious and often very frustrating. I knew my life would never be normal again. Needing hooks was a handicap nobody could really appreciate except for another armless person.
One day I met a woman who had one hook. We started to chat and she told me she was so lucky she still had one real hand.
"I know how hard it is to use my one hook. I don't know what I would do if I needed two," she said.
That didn't make me feel very good, but I know she had some idea what my life was like with bilateral hooks. Although the stares still bothered me, sometimes I wanted to impress people with what I could do with my hooks. I knew I was very special and being so different was something that strangely made me feel proud. I knew the limits of what my hooks would do. If I knew I couldn't possibly do something I just dealt with it.
One especially obnoxious pair of teens keep following me and staring at me at the mall. I went up to them and raised my hooks in front of them.
"Okay, have a good look and imagine how you would feel if you had these instead of arms and hands. How would you like to have to eat with hooks, put on your makeup with them and try to get dressed?" They apologized and slinked off. I don't think they will feel the same way about seeing handicapped people again.
Little by little I started to feel less self conscious and ignored the stares. I even started to wear sleeveless tops. Of course all of my prosthetics were visible. People could see my upper and lower sockets, control cables and elbow joints. There would be no doubt that my arms were amputated well above my elbows. One day I was in the ladies room combing my hair when another girl came up beside me.
"I hope you don't mind," she said. "I think your arms are really fantastic and you are so good with them. I am amazed at how you seem to be able to open and close your hooks. That's really neat. I have always wondered how they work. What's it like to need them? It must be really hard needing two."
This girl seemed very genuine and I admired her courage in speaking openly to me about my handicap.
"Well it's no walk in the park. As you can see my amputations are both above my elbows. I would be lost without my hooks. You get used to them and without them I can't do much of anything."
"Wow! You must be proud to have overcome such a handicap and be so good with them. I think you are a really neat person. My name is Joy."
"Hi Joy. I am Brenda," I replied.
"Were you born that way?"
"Oh no. My arms were amputated due to disease only a few months ago."
"I am so sorry. It's probably easier being born without arms than losing them."
"Yes, I miss my arms so much. Sometimes I forget I don't have arms until I look down at my hooks, then reality comes to me."
"I hope I haven't offended you, but I find you really fascinating. I can't explain it, but handicapped girls seem to really interest me. I admire them so much."
Joy was a bit strange, but she didn't bother me. In fact we met on several occasions in the future and I told her more and more about how I lived needing hooks. I suspected she secretly fanaticized about being handicapped herself.
Eventually it was time for me to return to school. My first day back with my new hooks was something I was not looking forward to. My closest friends had seen me without arms and a few more had seen my new hooks. I knew how they felt, The sight of a prosthetic hook sent shivers up most peoples spines. I insisted on entering the school without my mother. Jen carried my books for me. She was the one who was now most used to my hooks. I walked with my arms at my sides. From a distance I might look normal, but up closer the two shiny steel hooks hanging below my sleeves were very very obvious.
Things at school were pretty much the same except for managing books and writing. All the teachers were very understanding and let me take all the time I wanted. I could barely write in a strange scrawl. I had to control the pen with my stump which was way up and provided practically no control. Most of the kids were very kind. I would occasionally overhear some jerk make a joke about me. Some people could be so unkind. I dressed the way I normally would except that I had to have some garments modified. I couldn't do buttons on my skirts or pants and so I had elastic waist bands or hook type clasps. Pantyhose were out unless there was someone to help my go to the bathroom since I couldn't get the damn things off or on without running them. Going to the bathroom was the only issue once I was dressed. I didn't need to take anything else off. I could get in and out of my coat easily enough. I still felt very handicapped, but as time went on I slowly adjusted to my armless state and my two hooks. I didn't think about them, but rather I just used them.
Many of the kids were kind of afraid to talk to me about my handicap. Eventually they loosened up and asked me questions such as, "Brenda, where do your arms end?" or "How do you open and close those things."
Of course I got the unthinking comments like, "God I think I would die if I had to use hooks for hands."
A year later I was a senior and by then fully functioning using my hooks. I was probably as good as I ever would be. Some things were still impossible, but I didn't seem to mind as much as I did at first. Of course I was and would always be very handicapped. My arms were gone forever. Nevertheless I had lots of friends, but I really wanted a boyfriend. I didn't think that would ever happen. I was wrong. This boy who I never thought would be interested in me asked me out on a date. His name was Brian. He was a hunk.
"Look Brenda, I know you don't think I am serious," Brian said to me. "But the truth is I think you are one of the most beautiful girls I have every laid eyes on. You have non-stop legs and the most gorgeous tits I have every seen. Ooops, sorry, I mean breasts."
"It's okay Brian, I call them tits too sometimes. But Brian, I have no arms, only these horrible hooks," I said as I held up my two hooks in front of his face.
"Well, they don't bother me," Brian said. "So, can we go out?"
"Sure, I would really like that. And your sure you won't be embarrassed with me? People always stare at my hooks."
"I don't mind. Hey, maybe they aren't staring at your hooks at all. Maybe they are staring at the rest of you. You are really fantastic. I love you when you wear short skirts. I think you are so sexy."
"Gee thanks Brian. I really like that."
Anyway, we went on a date. First we went out to eat at a fast food place. Of course eating with hooks is always a bit of a challenge for me. Brian was great and helped me with my food when I had trouble with something. It seems that food is always served for those people with real hands. Hooks makes so many things difficult. I usually try to select food I know will be easier to eat. I am pretty good with a knife and fork, but I sometimes have trouble. I know that eating will always be hard for me, but I have accepted it.
Brian and I then went to a movie. Of course I got the usual stares. Brian was so neat when he held my hook in his hand just like as if I had a real hand. I felt so turned on.
"Brian, I am sorry you have to hold my hook and not a real hand," I said.
"Brenda, I just like to hold you, your hooks are part you and I just want to hold on to you any way I can."
That made me feel so good. Brian was a dream come true. We dated on a steady basis for several weeks when things started to get more serious. After one of our dates we went back to my house and into my bedroom. We had kissed casually on a couple of dates, but this time I knew Brian wanted to touch me. He hesitatingly placed his hand on my breast as he kissed me. We sunk onto the bed and started to kiss more passionately. I hugged him with my hooks.
I finally stood up and unzipped my skirt and let it drop to the floor. I stepped out of it and stood there in just my panties.
"Brian, help me out of my sweater please."
Brian helped me pull the sweater over my head. There I was in just my bra and panties with my full prosthetics showing. Brian had never seen me in other than a long sleeve top. He just stared at me.
"Wow! You really have a fantastic body Brenda."
"Brian, I am kind of embarrassed. People always react when they see my prosthetics like this. I hope you aren't turned off."
"Well I think they are really neat. Can I say something personal? It's probably going to offend you and I wouldn't be surprised."
"Go ahead Brian."
"I think your arms are so incredibly erotic. Your hooks drive me crazy."
"What? you like them?"
"God yes. You look so fantastic in them. I just love the way you look with your hooks showing below your sleeves. I go nuts just looking at them. I hope you don't mind my telling you this."
"I don't understand this at all," I said. "You mean you like the fact that I have no arms and just hooks for hands?"
"They drive me crazy. I think they are the greatest. I dream of you all the time, especially your hooks. I love to watch you use them, even when you have trouble doing something. I think I like them even better when you seem to struggle with them."
"You're nuts Brian. They are a real pain, but I can't do anything without them."
"Well, I just can't explain it, but they are your best asset, besides your body of course. I have this urge, this really big urge to see you without your arms and just wearing a bra. Sorry."
"Is this curiosity?" I asked suspiciously?"
"Well I am really embarrassed by this. It's not curiosity. I know this will offend you, but seeing your stumps is something I have dreamed of for a long time."
I was amazed. How could a guy get turned on by my lack of arms?
I quickly slipped out of my hooks. "Brian, pull down my stump socks for me."
He slipped off my stump socks and my very short little round sumps were bared. He touched them and then kissed and sucked them. We collapsed on the bed. I felt so helpess and at the same time so incredibly turned on. I couldn't hug him even though I tried with my little stumps. He pulled off his clothes as fast as he could. He unsnapped my bra and pulled down my panties. We intertwined and eventually made love. We just lay there exhausted.
Eventually I slipped into my hooks and straddled Brian as he lay there. I used my hooks to touch him all over. He just moaned with enjoyment as my cold metal hooks touched his most private parts.
"I love you Brenda," Brian said.
"Oh God Brian, I love you too."
"I love you even more because you are armless and have those wonderful hooks. I just can't get enough of them. You are my armless goddess with magical hooks."
I knew that I found the right guy, someone who loved my armless body and my need for hooks. I know Brian loved the fact that I was handicapped and was different from almost every other person. For a moment I was happy that my arms were amputated. My handicap didn't seem important. I was happy I was forever required to wear my hooks. I even thought that I would never want real arms again. Of course that thought didn't last long, but it made accepting my armless body easier.
Brian and I dated until we graduated. We went to the same college and eventually married in our second year. We graduated and both got decent jobs. Our first child is on the way. I am as happy as I could ever imagine being. Of course I would love my arms back. I know I will never have arms again, but my hooks have become so much a part of me that I can't even remember what real arms were like. I can't remember what it was like to open and close my fingers. All I know is that opening and closing my hooks is perfectly natural to me. I can't imagine being without them.