Deborah, Bilateral (BK and TR)
Deborah had always been physically active. In high school she played softball, volleyball, tennis and was on the swim team. Afterwards she continued to keep fit, training six days a week while going to college and working full-time. In 2005, Deborah, who was otherwise healthy, was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and painful reconstructive surgery. She quickly recovered from the disease she called “the Monster” and resumed her busy life again without skipping a beat. Life was good until three years later, when Deborah encountered yet a bigger Monster.
December 22, 2008, started out as just an ordinary day. Deborah was planning to go to work as a Health Technician for the Chino Valley Unified School District, giving first aid to elementary school children. She loved her job there, working with and giving “TLC” to the kids, many of which were from dysfunctional homes. That morning she woke up sick, with flu-like symptoms. Her doctor thought the symptoms sounded more like food poisoning and suggested she go to the ER where they could administer fluids to keep her hydrated until it passed and then go home. “Little did I know,” Deborah remembers, “I’d soon be fighting for my life. I was diagnosed with a staph infection. The cardiologist later told me it could have started from something as small as a paper cut. We never did find out the actual cause. I think it just wasn’t my time.” The infection was severe and necessitated the amputation of both her legs below the knee and both hands. “Iv’e always believed and trusted God in my my life, but did then more than ever. I guess a touch of death meant I could be going home soon – heaven bound. I knew where I was going; I wasn’t scared,” Deborah explains. “My husband said he prayed that God wouldn’t take me, so I told him he is stuck with me now!,” she says with a laugh. “We laughed and cried, but there is more laughter now. We used to be close, but this has brought us even closer and made our relationship and faith so much stronger.”
As soon as her incisions had healed, Deborah was fit with her first set of prosthetic legs. “My first prostheses were suspended by pin sleeves,” Deborah recalls. “They started out fitting OK, but my second pair did not fit right at all. I was extremely frustrated when the issues could not be resolved, and I decided to make a change. I didn’t want to settle for an improper fit, pain, etc. I prayed that God would direct me and tell me what I should do. I had heard of a local woman who was dealing with the same illness and I contacted her. We talked for quite a while and I asked her if she had problems with the fit of her prostheses. When she said, ‘mine feel great!’ that’s all I needed to hear! I asked her to email me the link for Southern California Prosthetics (SCP) and immediately set up an evaluation appointment.”
Since that first appointment Deborah has been fit with prosthetic limbs that allow her to walk on the beach, ride her bike, and dance with her husband. She is also swimming and walking her little dog again. “Now, when I go out and am approached by the curious and helpful people I’m able to share my story along with my Faith and encouragement is the outcome,” she says. Deborah offers the following advice to those who have suffered amputations, loss, or illness:
“I encourage them to have Faith and choose Life! Be patient; it takes time! Keep trying to do the things you did before. It may not be exactly the same, but it FEELS GOOD just the same. Get outside and do things with family, friends, church. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Pride gets you nowhere. Practice walking on your prosthetic limbs and be kind to those around you – especially your prosthetist and his team!”
She says it with a smile.