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Wendy Thomson

Wendy ThomsonGet Up and Walk

I have been an AK (above-knee) amputee for over sixty years – that’s far too long to capture “my story” in a few pages. There’s an entire book on that (published.) So, this organization requested that I tell my “story” — I thought, instead, I might tell what I have learned over the past 60+ years. This is directed to younger amputees without many co-morbidities that might make this advice worthless. My advice to you, younger amputees: get up and walk. You will have to, in order to clean your house, raise your children, hold a job, mow the lawn, put up a Christmas tree, stow the decorations… get up and walk. Put that leg on and live. What makes that easier? Maintain a stable weight. You don’t want to spend oodles of time and money constantly getting your socket revised. Get up and walk. You don’t need to run a marathon or play a game of baseball: just get up and move, all day long. For those that are BK (below-knee): sorry, you have no excuse. I met a woman traveling last month that had a BK due to an accident when she was eighteen. She was there, probably mid-fifties, sitting in a wheelchair. Complaining that she had experienced a pulmonary embolism. GET UP AND WALK! Sitting in a wheelchair for 40 years caused it. Do not be her. I read of a mother that allowed her fifteen-year-old daughter to sit around the house without her leg on, putting it on “only when she went out.” Shame on you. Get her up! have her vacuum the house, load the dishwasher, mow the lawn, take out the trash… this enabling mother is setting her daughter up for a sad, sad life. So, it hurts, you might say. You think you can’t power through pain like an athlete? I have 2 NCAA-recruited sons. The older son, a former football defensive end, tells me that pain is weakness leaving the body. That comes right after he says “suck it up, buttercup.” As long as your prosthesis is properly fit, get up and walk.

I earned a graduate degree in business. I worked for full-time for 36 years, straight through. I worked on crutches once when I needed to. I had 3 children, and went right back after maternity leave. I got divorced when my oldest was 6. Still worked. I took in a young woman who was taken away from her parents due to abuse. I took care of my father for two years before he died. I raced sailboats, spent 6 months as navigator on a freighter, have shingled roofs, skreeted concrete, helped install a chimney cap, tiled entire bathrooms, installed ceiling fans, light fixtures and outlets, patched and painted walls, built and upholstered a bed. I have performed in a concert tour of Italy, sang with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra more than once, and soloed all across town. I have needed to have both my hips and my remaining knee replaced — I can walk further now than I used to: I found a prosthetist that has made me the most comfortable leg I have ever had. I have documented recently walking over 4 miles at a time (that’s 5K: I am working on doubling that), and I have documented climbing 17 flights of stairs. Not bad for my advanced age. My leg is the first thing I put on in the morning, and the last thing I take off at night. It never comes off during a normal day. Never. So, my friends, my best advice, looking back over the last 60+ years: just get up and walk.

Note: Here is a short description of the book she mentions,

Born in the Year of the Tiger, Wendy Sura Thomson has often been told she is fearless. She has used that fearlessness to fight for the people and dreams important to her, even against huge odds.

Wendy was born with congenital skeletal abnormalities, and as a toddler had to have her leg amputated. Her father suffered from World War II-induced PTSD – her mother was emotionally unstable. To cope with this unstable and emotionally abusive environment, Wendy escaped to a world of books and music. But when her father sold everything to buy a freighter to travel around the world, Wendy signed on as navigator.

Wendy jumped ship in Miami and headed out on her own, as what was left of her family started to disintegrate. As she pursues her studies and meets a coterie of colorful characters, she is forced to evaluate what is most important to her. Her values and determination have not only taken her to extraordinary destinations, they have provided her the strength and grit to face repeated tragedies and hardships. This inspiring story will encourage readers to reach for their own goals despite setbacks and barriers, and assure them that they can break free from past patterns of abuse.