Pocketfuls of Sunshine

Lend Them a Hand

Posted on: September 23, 2008

Since The Bean’s birth, I am learning to field comments and questions regarding her arm. At first, it was very difficult for me. I had to anticipate what people might say, and I had to learn how I would respond rationally and positively so as to set a good example for The Bean, who will likely be faced with these same questions sooner rather than later.

Now I can answer questions and field comments with less anxiety than I once did. I know what to expect. I know how to handle it. Most days.

There are times when people speak without thinking first how it might sound. There are times when people say things they don’t realize are upsetting. And there are even times, though only a few in number as of yet, when people say things that I never, ever expect an adult would say to the parent of a child born without a hand.

I’ve thought a lot about these times. I ask family and friends, “Why would you EVER say that to somebody? I don’t go around asking someone in a wheelchair, a child no less, what is wrong with her legs. It’s unthinkable!” And my dad summed it up well. People see wheelchairs every day or almost every day. Buildings have been updated to accommodate those in wheelchairs. It is part of every day life.

But it isn’t every day you see a prosthesis.

And you could go your entire life without seeing an infant or a toddler wearing one.

So people speak. Sometimes without thinking. And I’m learning to let those comments ride for now. I’m thinking of how to teach The Bean to react to those comments because, believe it or not, people ask HER directly what happened to her. Um, she can’t talk yet. At least in sentences larger than “I love you.” And I suppose for now, that’s all she needs to know how to say anyway.

Since it isn’t every day you see a prosthesis, you might not have heard of a bipartisan bill that was introduced to the U.S. Senate on Friday. It’s called the “Group Health Plan Prosthetics Parity Act of 2008” and has the support of the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA). The bill is “designed to ensure that amputees covered by employer-paid health insurance are able to access the prosthetic care they need to live full and independent lives.” It proposes that prosthetic care be covered as essential medical care. Seems like a great idea to me.

We are lucky. Our insurance is wonderful and it includes coverage of myoelectric prosthetics. I’ve been told, though, that this is not always the case. Many companies only cover less functional and aesthetic devices such as hooks. Some consider a myoelectric arm a “luxury”, an absolute absurdity to me.

So check out this bill if you are interested. And if you do see a person or a child with a prosthetic, say hello.

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2 Responses to "Lend Them a Hand"

You have got to know that I am VERY proud of you and how you handle things. Many times the appropriate thing to do is to let unsensitive comments just evaporate into thin air. I have done that many times regarding other issues. Remember, we cannot control what other people say, only how we react to them.

My Advice: People make comments that may sound rude even though they did not intent to have that effect. It is best to become completely de-sensitized to all such comments, and not harbor the slightest ill will toward the person. It can be a difficult situation for the person (not knowing what to say or how to say it) that causes a comment to “come out all wrong.” As long as it wasn’t said intentionally to offend, pretend they instead paid you a great compliment and respond politely. You’ll be happier and better off in the long run to be totally de-sensitized about it. Do not allow other people to affect your attitude or mood. Stay optimistic and cheerful. Lower the tension level and “Do small things with great love,” including responding to off hand comments and questions about such a seemingly personal topic. (If you are truly de-sensitized in regard to this topic, it won’t seem so personal, just factual in nature…and that alone will eliminate any tension about the situation.)

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