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Vicki Brown

Boat Accident on Commencement Bay

My name is Vicki. I am 56, and have always had a job and been very active with family. I am a mom and a grandmother, and I have always been one to take care of everyone. My life changed very dramatically a year and a half ago. On July 4, 2015, my husband and I spent the evening watching a fireworks show from our boat on Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Washington. After the fireworks show ended and we were on our way back to shore, we were involved in a boat accident caused by a drunk boater. My husband had facial fractures as well as a fractured C-7 vertebrae (neck) and a traumatic brain injury. I lost my right arm, had a fractured clavicle that required a surgical repair, and a traumatic brain injury as well. It was the first time in my life that I ever had to rely on others to help me do simple daily tasks. It was surreal to wake up in the hospital recovery and hear the doctor say, “I’m so sorry, but I could not save your arm”. I felt grateful to be alive, but it was weeks before I could turn my head to look at my residual arm and it was painful, and stressful to think about how I was going to be able to live my life fully in the future. The word “prosthetic” was very foreign and scary to hear at first. I was right handed, and had to re-learn how to do everything left handed, including writing. It has been a long process coming to terms with being an amputee, learning to ask for and except help from others, as well as being open to wearing a prosthetic arm.

Being an above the elbow amputee is rare, and I often feel that people just don’t understand that I am still the person I was before the accident…. but with only one arm! I use a prosthetic arm, and it enables me to do many things that are pretty impossible for me with just one arm. My prosthetic arm has made everyday tasks like opening jars, sweeping the floor, and carrying a laundry basket easier. I also use it to help me cook and bake, open produce bags in the grocery store or plastic zip bags, and help put socks on my three-year-old granddaughter. The prosthetic arm has helped me do planks when I workout and it helps me exercise and stretch my upper right side of my body. It took many months for insurance to authorize / approve payment to even get a prosthetic arm. Having a prosthetic arm is not a luxury. Having a prosthetic arm has improved my quality of life. I had a revision surgery, and also had targeted muscle reinnervation surgery (TMR) in October 2016. I will now need to convince my insurance company to approve a more advanced arm. I understand that prosthetic limbs are expensive, but they help amputees live much fuller lives! Amputees should not have to justify to an insurance company why they need a prosthetic limb! I feel that insurance companies need to be educated on prosthetic limbs.

My life has been complicated by the amputation, but I am determined to live a full life. Every day is a challenge, and I am still figuring out how and what it will take to be able to do the things I enjoyed doing prior to the amputation. I still want a prosthetic arm so I can ride my bike again, and a hand (I have a hook now) to help me with things require grasping, or a more articulated grip, like sewing. I am hoping that telling my story will encourage another amputee, to look at this as a “challenge”, and not give up! I have not let being an amputee stop me from living!