I am not my amputation.

I was 13 years old. I had been helping my grand dad on his property after a few trees had fallen down all over the yard. After moving one tree I grabbed the rope we were using to tie the trees down and I jumped on the back of my grand dads truck. We were on a gravel driveway and part of the rope was dragging the ground. The rope got caught on a root and it literally ripped my arm off because of how I had been holding the rope.

I was rushed to the emergency room and after 18 hours of surgery my arm was re-attached. The re-attachment lasted 6 weeks and then my arm became severely infected. At that point, I, at 13 years old, had a decision to make. I could either have my arm amputated the next morning or go through nine years of surgery once a month to only have 20% use of my arm. At 13 years old, in that moment, I went from being a normal carefree teenager to being faced with a devastating decision that I thought I knew would limit my ability and desires. That moment I decided to have the amputation the next day.

I am told a lot that I couldn’t or can’t do this or that simply because I have one arm. So for a while in my life I accepted that I would never be able to do certain things. I still have people ask me on a regular basis, “Hey, you need help with that?” “Do you got that?” It causes me to stop and think, “no why would I need help?” I still struggle with pushing myself to the limits. Maybe I want to find what I can’t do so everybody can be correct in the assumptions. In return for pushing my boundaries I have done things that others with an amputation may never try with the belief they can’t do it.

Around 6 years ago, after being submerged in the tattoo world since age 16, I started to realize the passion I had for tattooing. I had always loved drawing and creating was very natural to me. But, the one thing I feared would hold me back became something that pushed and motivated me beyond words. “I only have one arm, how would I be able to tattoo people? How would I be able to pursue this passion? How would people trust that I could create beautiful work on their bodies?” With gracious gratitude, I did not let these questions hold me back. I went for it. I pursued a dream with what everyone else saw as a limitation. And for the past 6 years I have been tattooing and now own my own tattoo shop in Augusta, GA. I am unbelievably thankful for the support system I have and the success I have had and the amazing things that are still to come.

I some times question where I would be having two arms, what would I be doing, or would I have fallen into the routine of life? But so not to harp on those questions I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. We all can. I will never let the fear of failure hold me back and I will never let what seems like a limitation to others define my ability. I am not my amputation!

The Day It All Began...

First day home from the hospital and she was upset that we hadn't taken care of the yard. 

First day home from the hospital and she was upset that we hadn't taken care of the yard. 

May 4th. May Fucking 4th. The day everything changed. 

I often think of my life journey and the events that will be become part of it. Majority of the time those are positive events but, unfortunately, negative events will occur as well. I, however, never could have imagined this would become apart of it. That THIS would be part of my story. What started out as a simple hospital admittance for one illness led to something unbelievably tragic. 

My mother contracted Zygomycosis, a fungal infection, while in the hospital for treatment of her Sarcoidosis. The infection started from her IV puncture site becoming infected. Although she complained many times about her arm becoming worse, her concerns were dismissed. She even went back to the hospital twice to complain that the infection was worsening and they brushed off her concerns. She finally went to a different campus of the same hospital system and they immediately realized something was wrong. But, it was too late. Too. Late. See, Zygomycosis spreads rapidly and, because she was continually dismissed, the debridement surgeries were not successful. 

Here comes May 4th. The day her entire right arm was amputated. Her right arm. From the shoulder. Her dominant arm. The arm she writes with. Gone. Ceases to exist. 

Can you imagine yourself without an arm?

After surgery, she kept asking us to put a pillow under her arm. The arm that was now gone. Yes, she was still slightly sedated but, how do you tell someone that you no longer have an arm. That there isn't an arm to lift up to place a pillow underneath it. How do you tell someone that? How? I still don't know.

So, we pretended to pick up her arm and place a pillow next to her. It wasn't enough. She couldn't feel it. In her sedated haze, she still thought her arm was there. She could feel it. And, she kept asking us...over and over and over again, to pick her arm up and place a pillow under it. My heart and strength shattered in that moment. It will forever be a moment I will never forget. 

At 51 years old, her life changed forever. How do you put on a bra? How do you tie your shoelaces? How do you learn to write again? How do you cook and do the dishes? How do you drive and switch radio stations at the same time? How do you lotion your arm? How do you hold your future grandchild and feed them at the same time? 

How do you tell your children it will be ok when you don't know yourself?

May 4th. May Fucking 4th. The day it all ended and the day it all began.