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I Am Not My Leg

We met because of a mutual need, hers to receive care, mine to give. Doris was about to lose her life due to complications from diabetes. At 82 years old, her choice was her leg or her life. For her, it seemed a no-brainer. She chose life.

Doris faced surgery to amputate her leg when I met her in 2002. Her attitude was positive. She knew she wanted to continue living for her husband of 60+ years, for her family and for herself. Her strength, faith in God and her desire to go on living gave her everything she needed to survive such a trauma to her ailing yet determined body.

The surgery was a success, and Doris wanted to recuperate at home. Enter my in-home care giving company. Because of our service as a personal care agency and the assistance of home health care agencies, Doris was allowed to go home after a brief stay in the hospital.

Her recovery went well. As is the case with amputees, she had to adjust to several prostheses. She was able to walk within a short period of time. At 82 years of age, her recovery was unbelievable.

When I was young, I was a dancer and an athlete. To me, the thought of losing a leg seemed about the worst thing that could happen to a person. On a visit with Doris, I told her how much she had taught me about the courageous human spirit, the love of self, God and the desire to live.

She was surprised at my comments and replied, “No big deal. I am not my leg!”

Wow! That response has stayed with me all these years. I had always thought losing a leg would be worse than dying. I see life differently because of Doris. She taught me so much with those five words, “I am not my leg.”

Doris was our first client, and we were together for seven years and three months, all the time cared for in her home by the same primary care givers. Their compassionate, skillful, one-on-one care allowed her not only to stay in her home but to flourish there.

Doris was preceded in death by her devoted husband. She passed away peacefully last year, in her favorite chair, in front of her television, happy to be ‘home.’

NOTE: Janet Tueller is a provider of at-home services for the elderly. She continues to appreciate the wisdom and courage she has gained from those she serves. Her story comes from the anthology, One World, Many Stories, Seeking Freedom and Dignity.


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