The Proverbial Chip

Richard - Fayetteville, Arkansas
Entered on December 7, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe Essay

This I believe: The proverbial “chip” so commonly perceived as a shoulder adornment for those of us with disabilities can be an essential attribute. There exist two groupings of disabilities. First are those deemed congenital and take affect at birth or soon after. Second are those referred to as acquired and are caused by disease, accident, design, or just plain….dumb….luck. The loss of my right leg at the hip in 1987 obviously falls within the later grouping and is a combination of the first and last referenced causes. Malignant Melanoma precipitated the loss but plain….dumb….luck made it bearable. After several surgeries related to the cancer, recurrent infections were keeping me hospitalized more and more often. I was 35 years old with two daughters under ten and a wife. I elected to do away with a part of my anatomy that had turned on me for no apparent reason. After months of lobbying the doctors for the amputation they finally relented. My family, fearing one of the infections would be the cause of my demise, was wonderfully supportive.

The surgery was performed with few surprises and I was weaned from the four to six a day pain killers I had been ingesting for the previous two years. No more grey clouds and no more infections. No more frustration….oh my! I had never experienced frustration like beset me upon my return home. I could no longer lift and carry my youngest daughter. Once when I asked her to sit on my lap and she cried and responded, “You don’t have a lap anymore”. There were no hugely important tasks that I could no longer perform but it was the unimportant tasks that posed the biggest barriers. But wait a minute. It was my decision to have the leg removed. Did I have the legal right to a “chip”….did I earn a “chip”? Was someone going to say “You should have thought of that before, get rid of the chip”? Where are my Percoset! And to make matters worse my right leg, that I knew resided with some VA orthopedic researcher, kept telling me, “I’m not really gone….I’m still here….Feel me moving my toes….How about that cramp”. Who is to blame for this….there must be someone! Well there is no one to blame and I believe that is why the “chip” is necessary, but not necessarily bad. Through trial and error I have developed a methodology of maintenance for my chip. I have set boundaries for it and tasked it with disallowing any resignation on my part due to my disability. Just don’t part in my handicapped spot….my chip doesn’t like that.