Deal of a Lifetime
One day a woman came into Lingerie Love with her daughter who appeared to be around 16. I noticed immediately that the girl had a left arm amputation about midway between where her hand would be and her elbow. She was not wearing a prosthesis.
“Excuse me Miss, but could I impose on you?” the woman asked. As you can see my daughter is missing her left arm below the elbow. I know you are an arm amputee. My daughter is having a hard time dealing with this and what is to come. She has a hook but refuses to wear it.”
“Well that’s quite understandable. Many single arm amputees do quite well with their normal arm and just their stump. I wouldn’t be too concerned. Have you looked into a myoelectric prosthesis?” I replied
“No, but that’s really not the issue.”
“Well I would be happy to help if I can. I am due for a break. Would you like to get a cup of coffee and we can all talk about it,” I said.
“That would be wonderful,” the woman said.
The three of us headed to the food court. The woman bought two coffees and Coke for her daughter. We found an empty seat. The woman had fixed my coffee the way I liked it and carried it for me. I took a sip by holding the paper cup with my hook grasping it by the rim.
“So please tell me how I can help you,” I offered.
“Let me explain,” the woman said. I could see she was quite uncomfortable in discussing whatever it was she was about to tell me.
“Unfortunately my daughter suffers from an incurable circulation problem. Her hand is getting quite painful and she is rapidly losing function.” I could see that her hand was curled up. Her mother had inserted a straw in her Coke and she was just able to move the cup around a little. I was certain she couldn’t hold it normally.
“The doctors have said that the only alternative is to have her remaining arm amputated at about the same level as her other. She will become a double arm amputee next week and she is not taking this well. She will be spending the rest of her life without hands.”
“I am so sorry to hear that. I can understand your concern. I went through it too. I am not a congenital amputee. I lost my arms not that long ago. What can I do to help you?” I asked.
“Well I wanted my daughter to meet you since you obviously get along very well using your two hooks. Maybe you can make her feel better. She just can’t stand the idea that she will have no hands. She says she will never use hooks, but the doctors told us that they are the best option for her to be able to function well.”
The girl started to cry. “I don’t want those ugly things. Everyone will see them,” she said through her tears.
“Yes, but they would also see your stumps and you do want to be able to do things don’t you? I asked.
“Well yeah, but hooks are so horrible to look at. I don’t want to lose my other hand. I don’t want to have to do things with ugly hooks.”
“I thought so too, at first, but being able to do things is much more important than how you look. You will get used to using hooks as I did. Now I can do so many things. I am a double above the elbow amputee and you will still have your elbows. You can’t imagine what an advantage that is. I wish I had elbows. You will be able to do things much easier than I do,” I explained.
The girl kept crying.
“My name is Kate. What’s yours?”
“Susan,” the girl replied sobbing.
“Well Susan. If you want someone to relate to I will be here. It won’t be easy, but you will get over it and start to get back to your life.”
“But boys won’t ever want to go out with me,” she said.
“Sure they will. I have a wonderful man who is going to marry me in a few months. I am sure your true love is out there and having hooks won’t make any difference I am sure.”
“You really think so?”
“Yes. I have no doubts. I know it will be difficult, but you need to accept that a handicap doesn’t mean the end of the world. I know you will never be the same, but you will adapt. It will take some work, but you will be able to do pretty much everything you would do if you had your hands. I bet you have been getting along pretty well since your first amputation.”
“I was until my good hand started to get bad. Now I can’t do things,” Susan said still weeping.
“Did you try your hook?”
“Yes, but I don’t like it.”
“Did it help you do things?” I asked.
“Yeah, a little. I guess it did make things a little easier,” Susan said.
We continued to talk for a few minutes more. Susan finally stopped crying.
“I want to thank you. Maybe meeting you has helped Susan,” her mother said.
“Let’s go back to the store. Maybe you want to get some new bras or panties. They always make me feel better.”
Susan stopped crying for the most part and said she wanted some new bras. When we got back to the store I helped her look over some nice bras and she eventually selected three. By the time she left the store she seemed a little bit better. I knew things would be difficult for her. Losing one arm is bad enough, but when she first experienced not having any hands she would be quite devastated. I wished her luck and insisted she come see me after she was fitted with her two new hooks.
“If you don’t think it an imposition I think it might really help Susan,” her mother said.
“I will look forward to it,” I said.
Susan and her mother left Lingerie Love and I wondered if I would see them again. It was about four months later that Susan and her mother came back. Susan now had two hooks showing below her sweater. She really was a very attractive girl and, of course, I thought she looked great with her new hooks.
“Hello Kate,” her mother said. “As you can see Susan had her right arm amputated and is now using her two new hooks. She is just getting used to them, and she hates them. She knows she needs them now,” her mother said.
She had 5X hooks and articulating wrists like I had. I really knew exactly how she felt. I am sure she thought that everyone was looking at her. She tried to pull her sleeves down over her hooks, but you could still see them.
“Well Susan, you are now a member of an exclusive club. There are not too many girls who have two hooks and we are really special,” I said.
“I guess so. I still hate them, but they work pretty well. I have been practicing. I can pick things up and I have learned to eat with with them, but I am really slow. I didn’t know how hard it would be not having even one real hand.”
“I know hon. It gets easier and before you know it you will not even think about it. You might not think so, but using your hooks becomes quite natural,” I went on. “I see you have articulating wrists just like I do. Isn’t it neat the way we can just push the little button and our hooks tilt?”
“I guess so. I don’t tilt them much.”
“Once you get better you will tilt and rotate your hooks to make things easier. Don’t forget to do that.”
“One thing I can’t stand is not being able to feel things. I can’t even touch myself anymore,” Susan said sadly. “I like my stumps since I can sort of feel things even though they are just big round things. I miss my fingers so much.”
“Well you can do a lot with your stumps that I can’t,” I said.
“How come?” Susan asked.
“Well you might remember that my amputations are both above my elbows. My little stumps are too close to my shoulders to do anything with them. I can just wiggle them around. I need my hooks for everything. At least you can bathe using your stumps,” I explained.
“I guess I am lucky. It must be hard without elbows. How do you bend your arms?”
“Well I have a second cable that I use to lock and unlock my elbow joints. When unlocked my main control cable raises and lowers my arms. When my elbows are locked my main cable works just like yours does.”
“I think I get it. It must be tricky,” Susan said.
“A little, but it becomes natural just like it probably is now for you to open and close your hooks.”
“At first I had to think about it, but now I just open and close my hooks without thinking. I kind of forget how they work. I just use them,” Susan said.
“Well that’s the way it is for me even though I have the two cables. I don’t think about it. I just do it automatically. I still need to think about tilting and rotating my hooks when I need to do some things. I am sure you do too, but even that becomes automatic for the things you do a lot. Say, I am about to go on lunch break. Do you want to get something to eat and maybe I can show you a few tricks.”
“I think that would be wonderful. Lunch is on me,” Susan’s mother said.
“You have such a tiny waist,” Susan said as we were walking.
“I will let you in on a little secret,” I said. “I am wearing a corset.”
“Really?” Susan’s mother said.
“Yes, I wear one 24 hours a day except when I bathe.”
“Why do you wear it all the time?” Susan asked.
“Well if you tight lace you need to wear your corset all the time or you lose your reduction. I am almost down to 19 inches,” I explained.
“Isn’t it uncomfortable?” Susan asked.
“You get used to it. I bet wearing your hooks was uncomfortable at first and you are now used to wearing them all day.”
“I guess so. They are still heavy and I know I have them on, but they’re not uncomfortable like they were at first.”
“Pretty soon you won’t even think about them. They will become such a part of you.”
“I hope so. I still don’t like the way they look,” Susan said.
“I know honey, but you even get used to that.” Of course I would never let on that I loved the way they looked. Susan was gorgeous and I thought her hooks made her look even more sexy than she would normally be. There was something about two hooks peeking out below a beautiful girl’s sleeves.
We headed to a nice restaurant in the mall and were seated. Susan had a little trouble with the menu. She watched me intently as I held mine and turned the pages. I had the feeling she would be a natural with her hooks sooner or later. When our meals arrived Susan’s mother unwrapped two straws, one for me and one for Susan that she placed in our drinks.
“You can get the wrapper off the straw by yourself. It takes practice,” I said. Can you hold a fork?”
“I think so. Can I watch you?” Susan said.
I proceeded to show her how to grasp the fork and get the handle over the thumb of the hook. She did this with a little trouble.
“Hey, that’s neat. I always have trouble with the fork slipping. No one at rehab showed me that trick. You are so neat Kate.”
“I have lots of tricks I can show you. I suggest your mother cut up your food for now and you can watch me as I use a knife. It’s hard to manage both a knife and fork at the same time,” I explained. “It will be easier for you having elbows.”
Her mother cut her food into little pieces. She was having a club sandwich and some French fries.
“I just wish I could hold a sandwich. I tried and my hooks just sunk in and it broke apart.”
“I know what you mean. Pretty gross,” I said laughing. Susan laughed too. “It’s not too bad always eating with a fork. It’s more ladylike.” We both laughed again. “Can you dress yourself yet?”
“Well my mom has put Velcro and snaps on my pants and skirts. I still have trouble getting things over my head though.”
“Well you will be able to do it eventually. I never will,” I said.
“How come?” Susan asked.
“Well since my amputations are above my elbows and I don’t have the dexterity you have with real elbows. I have to lock and unlock my elbows continuously.”
“It’s all part of being an arm amputee. So are you starting to accept having hooks?” I asked.
“I guess so. I still cry when I think that I will never have hands again and will always need my hooks, Susan said as a little tear fell from her eye.
“Any guys interested in you?” I asked changing the subject.
“I am not back in school yet, but my old boyfriend comes to see me. We even went out once to a movie.”
“That must have been fun. How has he accepted your hooks?”
“I guess they don’t bother him as much as I thought they would,” Susan said. “He tries to ignore them, but I know he watches me use them. Sometimes I forget I have them and I feel almost normal. Then when I have to use them the reality comes back to me.”
I knew she would have to deal with these feelings, but she seemed well on her way to adapting to having two hooks on a permanent basis.
“When I had only one hand I used to think things were hard. Now with no hands and my two hooks I know what really hard is,” Susan said.
“How long were you one handed?” I asked.
“A little over a year until my other hand got really bad. I used my hook for only a couple of months. I never dreamed I would eventually have two hooks and need them both for the rest of my life,” Susan said. “I still hate the way they look.”
“I know honey,” I replied sympathetically. “Just try not to think about people looking at you.”
“But they do. They say things too. I am tired of the pity bit. ‘The poor girl with the hooks’ I hear them say all the time. ‘Can you imagine using those things instead of hands.’ Ugh.”
“I know. Don’t let them get to you.”
“Kate, would you ever be willing to take me shopping? Just the two of us. It would be so great to spend the day with someone who has hooks just like me. There would be two of us with hooks and that would be so neat.”
“I would love to. How about this weekend?” I asked.
“Really? Is that okay Mom?”
“You bet, if Kate really doesn’t mind,” Susan’s mother said.
“I would love to,” I said.
We finished up and said our goodbyes.
“You are so neat,” Susan said. “I feel a lot better about my hooks now.”
I had agreed to pick up Susan on Saturday morning to go shopping. She was wearing jeans, sandals, and a light weight blue pullover sweater. Her two hooks were just visible below her sleeves. I knew she had no idea how great she looked. Her hooks were such a great look below her sleeves. Of course she was and would always be quite handicapped.
We got into my car and Susan tried very hard to fasten the seat belt. She just couldn’t do it. She started to cry. “It’s so hard. I hate these things.”
“I know Susan. Sometimes it’s so hard to do things I get frustrated too. If you can’t do something have someone else help you or just do something else.” I said.
We got to the mall and the two of use walked in side by side. Two girls with four hooks obviously attracted a little attention. We went into one store and headed for the junior department where Susan could find things in her size. I watched her as she used her hooks to rummage through the racks of clothing. She was starting to use her two hooks quite naturally to do things. I knew that it would become second nature to her eventually. Right now I just enjoyed seeing this lovely young and hooked girl doing things with her hooks.
“Kate, look at these neat tank tops,” Susan said.
“They are nice,” I replied.
“I wish I could wear them.”
“Well why don’t you?” I asked. I already knew her answer.
“Everyone will see my prosthesis. It’s bad enough they can see my hooks,” Susan said with a real note of sadness.
“So what? Susan, you will always have hooks now. Don’t let them change your life anymore than they have. Wear what you want. Don’t worry about people. They will have to deal with it. If you want to wear a nice tank top then do it.”
“You really think so?”
“Yes I do. Let’s try one on.”
Susan selected one in her size and we went into the fitting room. I helped her off with her sweater. I knew she couldn’t do that by herself yet. I then helped her slip her hooks through the arm openings and get the tank top over her head. She looked in the mirror.
“You can see my sockets and cables.”
“Yes, of course, but you look really good in it.”
“I feel a little like I used to. It’s nice not having sleeves. Good thing I have my mom shave my underarms,” Susan said laughing. “My hooks are gross enough without ugly armpit hair.” We both laughed.
“Do you want to wear it?”
“Yes. I guess I will have to start sometime.”
We went to the sales counter and asked the clerk to cut off the tag. She took in Susan’s prosthesis as well as mine.
“You two certainly have some neat hardware,” the girl said. “The top looks good on you.”
I knew Susan felt pretty good.
“Well these are better than my stumps,” Susan said laughing.
“It’s amazing how you use your hooks,” the girl said as Susan got her wallet out of her bag. “Is it hard to open and close them?” she asked.
“No. I just move my shoulder and that pulls on the cable. The hook just opens. It closes by itself because of the rubber bands,” she explained as she pointed to the rubber bands.
“That’s really cool,” the girl said. “Just like opening and closing a hand. So both of you need two hooks. I have never seen anyone with two hooks. I saw a guy once with one. It must be a lot harder needing two.”
“Much harder. I had only one up until a few months ago. I hardly ever used it. After my other arm was amputated I couldn’t do anything without both of my hooks,” Susan explained.”
“Well I can’t imagine what it must be like. I am really sorry you lost your arms.”
“It’s okay,” Susan replied.
We went back out into the mall and I knew Susan felt quite exposed with her prosthetics exposed. I sensed we got quite a few more stares than than we did before Susan changed to her new tank top. She seemed to be dealing with it though.
“That sales girl really was interested in our hooks,” Susan said.
“Yes, but in a really nice way. She was just curious as most people are.”
“She didn’t get turned off, did she?”
“I don’t think so. She was young and young people are much more accepting. They take things in stride. I think she thought the two of us were pretty neat,” I said as we laughed.
“I know people are looking, but I feel okay since you are with me and I am not the only girl with hooks,” Susan said.
“Good girl. That’s the right attitude. Don’t think about people. It’s their problem if they can’t accept you for who you are now.”
I thought Susan looked great displaying her full prosthesis. Nothing was left to the imagination. People would know exactly where her arms ended, or at least that they ended below her elbows. With me they would have to guess. Only someone who really studied the way I did things would know that my arms ended above my elbows. I wondered if I should start to wear tank tops too. Maybe I would. We decided to go to one of the mall’s restaurants for lunch.
“Do you think it will be okay? We don’t have someone with hands to help us,” Susan asked.
“Of course. You will be able to do pretty much anything you want with practice,” I assured her. “Remember, I am just as handicapped as you are. Actually more so since I don’t have elbows.”
“I know. I feel so much better with you than even with my mom. She really doesn’t know what it’s like being like this. No one can appreciate how hard it is to do things with hooks.”
“Yes. They really can’t, but I do.”
We went into the restaurant and an older waitress came to our table. She immediately noticed that we both had two hooks.
“Can I get you girls menus?” she asked.
“Yes please,” I said.
A moment later she came back with menus and handed them to us.
“I will be back in a few minutes and see if you have decided,” she told us.
Susan had a little difficulty handling the large menu with her hooks. She worked at it and eventually was able to turn the pages. She decided on a burger and fries. I decided on the same. We also wanted diet Cokes. When the waitress came back we ordered.
“Let me know if there is anything special I can do to help you guys,” she said understanding that we might have problems with some things.
While waited for our meals we chatted girl stuff. Susan seemed more at ease than I thought she would be. She started to forget she had hooks and started to use her arms and hooks just like she would normally. She pointed at things and played around with the silverware. I thought this was a good sign. She was starting to use her hooks more naturally now. I knew that she was using them unconsciously as she would her hands. Our meals finally came.
“I brought you girls straws since I don’t know if you can drink out of glasses,” she said.
“No, we can’t hold glasses. Mugs with handles are fine, but not normal glasses,” I explained.
“Do you want me to take the wrappers off the straws?” the waitress asked.
“No. I am training Susan and she needs to learn how to do the more difficult things,” I said.
“It looks like you have a good teacher Susan,” she said.
Before the waitress left I asked her to remove the cap on the ketchup. I explained that our hooks did not grip tightly enough to unscrew the cap. I then showed Susan how to use her hooks to get the wrapper off her straw. This was a lot harder than you might think. Once you get the wrapper ripped a little you grab the end of the straw with your teeth and either pull the wrapper off or just blow it off. Susan tried the latter technique and the wrapper went flying. We both laughed. Susan put her straw in her drink and used her hooks to move the glass into a better position.
“We have no one to cut our burgers up and we can’t hold them, of course,” I said. “It’s time you learned to use both a knife and a fork at the same time.”
We took turns removing the top bun, grasping the ketchup bottle, and then pouring a little ketchup on our burgers. I showed Susan how to first use her right hook to hold her knife and then position it in her left hook and get the handle over the thumb. Next she watched as I grasped my fork with my right hook and used the table edge to push the handle up and over the thumb on my right hook. It took her several tries before she got it. I showed her how to tilt her hooks to a better position. She then watched and imitated as I carefully cut my burger into small pieces. From then on it was easy to eat with our forks held in our right hooks.
“I really wish I could just hold my burger like I used to,” Susan said.
“Well we can’t do that anymore Susan. You get used to always eating with a knife and fork. It’s not so bad.”
“I guess. It’s just so much harder with hooks. I still can’t quite get used to the idea that I will always need these things.”
“I know honey. It takes time,” I said sympathetically. I knew she would eventually face the fact that her hooks were a permanent part of her life just like I had. Of course I wanted to be this way and I knew that Susan didn’t.
Over the next several months I got together with Susan. Eventually she became totally adjusted to having hooks and it seemed she didn’t think about them. She talked about boys. She now had a couple of guys who were eager to go out with her in spite of her hooks. I knew her hooks were now a part of her personality. I even got the feeling that she kind of liked being different and the special attention we sometimes got because of our hooks.
To Be Continued.