After almost a year back home since the amputation, I’ve acquired quite a few “do’s and don’ts” for navigating the obstacle course that is our house. Here are just some:
I’ve reached the stage where I can park the wheelchair or rollator in the middle of the kitchen, then stand up and use the counter tops for support as I move around to cook or bake or wash dishes. Mind you, that took a few months of practice! Fortunately we have a slide-out oven door, so I can brace myself on it as I put pans in and lift them out. Using the counter top is also handy for exercises like transferring my weight from one leg to the other, holding it there and letting go of the counter.
Before I got the bionic leg, we had to reorganize the contents of the cupboards to store dishes and food within my reach, otherwise I had to call my husband every time I needed something from a top shelf. I used to use kitchen steps for that, but that’s still too dangerous – getting up the steps is not too bad, but coming down again is a challenge and definitely not to be tried with something in my hand.
I’m still trying to figure out a way of safely transferring a serving dish like a casserole, which requires two hands, from the counter to the table. I can cook an entire meal, yet still need to call my husband to carry the serving dish to the table! Maybe it will be easier when I can walk unaided, though still a bit risky using both hands with a hot dish.
Carpets and rugs
If you’ve ever tried to run a wheelchair or rollator on a carpet, you’ll understand what I mean by saying it’s a lot harder than on a wooden or tile floor. We have both in our house, and I find myself avoiding the carpet whenever possible. As for rugs, they can be a menace to a bionic leg, or even the one good leg when I’m hopping, so we removed as many as we could, especially the one beside my bed. Nothing worse than getting out of bed groggily in the middle of the night and slipping on a rug…
It may seem obvious, but trying to hang on to a rocking-chair while navigating around it is not a good idea. I found that out the hard way when the leg buckled and I fell as the chair moved when I leaned on it. At least it only happened once… Even the swivel chair at the computer is a problem, so it stays to one side while I use the wheelchair instead.
Stairs are the nemesis of an amputee. Contrary to expectations, going up is easy – it’s coming down that poses the greatest risk. With the fore-arm crutch on one side and the railing on the other, it is straightforward to put the good foot up first, then bring up the other leg, one step at a time. Coming down involves putting the bionic leg down first, making sure to keep it straight so that I can put my weight on it before bringing down the good foot beside it. If the leg buckles, I’m in trouble, but at least I can hold onto the railing for dear life! So far, I have only tackled stairs – in the house and outside – with my husband going down ahead of me to catch me if I fall. Of course, he also has to carry the rollator to greet me at the other end of the staircase, otherwise I wouldn’t get much further than the last step.
Our laundry room is in the basement, so that is a challenge. Once down the stairs, I can manage to get the clothes into and out of the washing machine and the drier. I can even fold the clothes once they are dry, but I cannot lift the full basket or carry it back upstairs. Actually, I can’t even take the clothes downstairs, but get them there by the simple expedient of tossing them over the banister.
The ironing board is also in the basement, but I haven’t had to try doing that yet. Always another challenge just around the corner, eh?