Better to lose an arm, than a leg?

by | Apr 2, 2024 | 0 comments

By Priya Arunkumar

The year could be 1984 or 1985.
Face was crunched up in agony and confusion, yet, he still managed a weak smile and calmly stated, “try to give my right arm back doctor, whatever it takes”.
“Wrist to elbow is literally mince-meat, multiple fractures, nerves, tissues, muscles sliced to bits by shattered glass pieces from the window pane… it’s going to be a time-consuming process to reconstruct the arm, but the pain and trauma is going to be an agonising ordeal to survive, with skin and tissue grafting surgeries, to name a few.. It would make more sense to amputate, the surgeon suggested.

Left becomes right
My father insisted on reconstructing surgeries: “Pain is still a sign of life, it’s the numbness and absence of a limb that I cannot accept,” he said. This followed a year filled with painful surgeries, painkillers, medicines and related physiotherapies His right arm was ‘saved’, though not 100 percent functional, he had both his arms intact. The right arm survived. He did too mentally and emotionally.
While he survived, he also changed inexplicably, I would say metamorphosised… adeptly using his left hand to sign, eat and do all the mundane routines he used to do with his right arm. He was a newborn, and his left arm became his right.
In his 45th year, my dad went through the toughest stretch of his life, and no, I did not know what it felt like… I was in high school. Life was easy, innocent…

Glad it is not my leg
What left an indelible mark in my memory were his words: “I am glad it’s not my leg; with two good legs, I am still mobile, walk without support, travel and can rejoin work in a year.”
And he did! He worked another 17 years with a debilitating right arm, a powered left one.  He breezed through the years, using both his arms, driving and doing all the work. He lived like a warrior. He lived with a smile. For another 35 years.
He looked the same, but was never the same.
He bettered himself. “The road accident was not my fault; I was just a passenger, an innocent victim,” he said. But, accidents happen, he noted, adding how powerless we all are to the vagaries of fate.

Next best option
Life happens. But we don’t just move on, we assess our losses, what strengths we are left with, and then choose. “I chose the next best option. It is for some reason, my wrist, elbow and shoulder remained intact. I chose the tougher, painful path, to live with dignity and whatever independence I could muster out of a terrible situation.”
Better to lose an arm, than a leg, right?

Life-altering event
As a young adult, I witnessed that pain disrupts normalcy, taking away the simple ability to work and partake in day-to-day activities, impact relationships, cause isolation, frustration and anxiety. Almost like invisible demons. My father bravely vanquished each and every one of them. So did his family. It was a life altering event for all.

You live
The images of him heroically gliding down to the railway platform from a speeding/moving train are still vivid in my mind. Being in railways, trains were part and parcel of our lives… his mainly. How did he let his physically active life go and adapt to a more sedentary one?
Courage, choice, adaption?
To lose a limb is a loss.  
Losses change you. Yet, you live.

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