Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Miracle, Step by Step

I've wanted to sit down and write this blog for days. Yet, I feel as if I cannot adequately express with written words the miracle that I experienced. I will make an attempt to do so though.

On November 2, 2011, I had my first big appointment with the prosthetic doctor, Dr. Jack, at Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics in Ft. Walton Beach. I knew going into the appointment that a specialist would be coming in to assist in the casting process and that I would get to put on a make-shift leg and possibly even try to take a few steps.

My Grandma came over from Panama City to be with me for this appointment. She has been with me through every trial and valley in my life. Especially in the last year and a half. When I found out that this was going to be an all day appointment and all that would take place during it, I knew right away that I wanted her here with me. She had been with me through the worst appointments and I wanted her to be here for one of the best ones yet. She came over Wednesday morning and stayed until Saturday.

When we got there Dr. Jack sat down with us to talk for a few minutes and told me that the specialist would be assisting and that another prostheses had come over from Pensacola. There was also an intern there. So I had three doctors and an intern working on me and assisting in the process of casting me. Dr. Jack informed me that the casting process was extremely intense and asked if I was up for that and ready. He said that it was going to be uncomfortable and possibly a bit painful and I would most likely be sore for a few days. Knowing that this was the means to me walking again, I didn't care much what they had to put me through and I figured it couldn't be that bad, right?

The casting process was so much more interesting than I thought that it would be. I have never had a cast before, so I really didn't know what to expect. Dr. Jack had these little "thermals" that he had altered for me to put on. They looked like thermal capris with only one leg. He did such a great job altering the other side that I asked if I could bring him some more pants!! So I put those on over my panties and I had a tank top on. The first step was to duct tape me, well Gorilla Tape to be exact. We joked about the scientific method in which they used! This had to be done extremely tightly. So tight in fact that I was standing holding onto two rails while the three male doctors tugged, pulled and wrapped me in Gorilla Tape as they were dripping with sweat. This was by far the worst part!

Let me back up a little bit to clarify a few things. When I had my amputation they had to cut my pelvis to the left and right of my hip socket and they basically just took everything out. So, if you can imagine that, it looks kind of like there was just never a leg there. Imagine taking a Barbie and snapping her left leg off. You would be left with nothing but the torso on that side. That is what I look like. Ha, Maybe not so much the Barbie body, but I like that visual, so yeah, let's go with that! So, I do not have a "stump." That is why this whole casting and prostheses process is so very involved and much more difficult than the average amputee that is left with a residual stump. That is also why a specialist had to come in. This is an uncommon procedure. So, the casting process involved them casting my entire pelvis. The "socket" which is the part of the prosthetic that attaches to my pelvis, similar to a brace that just wraps around my pelvis, is the most difficult part to build and has to be formed to my exact body. The tighter and better it fits, the more success I will have in using the prosthetic. This brings us back to the reason why it was so important that I be at a stable weight. If I gain or lose after the socket is made it will not fit properly and will have to be remade. Which is the reason I waited to lose some weight before I began this process. As of this week I have lost a total of 25lbs since July 7th.

Ok, so back to the actual casting process. The three male doctors were circled around me wrapping me as tight as humanly possible. I joked with them and asked them if this was going to be similar to a weight-loss wrap! HA! I was holding on and trying to keep myself from toppling over while they were tugging, pulling and taping my entire pelvis. It reminded me of that scene in Gone With The Wind where Mammy is tightening the strings on Scarlett's corset and Scarlett is demanding that Mammy do it tighter in order to get her waist to the 16" pre-baby size! Yes, I did ask if they would measure my waist while they had me all taped up!!! Needless to say, we were cracking up the whole time.

So yeah, when they said that this was intense, they were not kidding. Once they were done with the taping they asked me to put on another one of the "thermal capris" so that they could begin the actual casting. I had to wobble over to a chair and try to sit down and get those things on. That was NOT easy! Thankfully the Dr.'s held me up so I didn't fall over and helped me get them on. They asked if I needed to take a break and sit down for a few minutes, but I was so excited that I just wanted to keep going.

At this point they began putting the cast on. After about two minutes I thought for sure I would pass out. I became incredibly faint and dizzy. I didn't want to say anything though because I was afraid they would stop. So, I just had to grin and bare it! Honestly though, no matter how uncomfortable it was or no matter how painful it was, I just kept thinking about walking and what this actual process meant. You might be wondering why it was uncomfortable or how it felt. The best that I can describe the feeling of having my pelvis cast is to liken it unto being trapped between boulders. It just felt like my entire pelvis was crushed between large rocks. I remember thinking that if wearing a prosthetic felt anything like that I couldn't see myself wanting to wear it. I just thought I'd be more than fine hopping in comfort the rest of my life!

After the cast was put on and dry they made some measurements, marking them with a Sharpie. Once the markings were made they were able to cut the cast off. The cast is now an exact replica of my pelvis. Then came the greatest part of casting, cutting off all that tape! WOW, what relief. When they cut through it and it finally came off I thought for sure I would slink to the ground from relief!

At this point they took the cast of my pelvis in the back to do some work on it. They told us that we could take an hour for lunch. The doctors had the hopes that when I returned I would be able to take a few steps with the rough prototype of a prosthetic they made me.

Grandma and I went out to lunch and as we were leaving I decided to swing by Jarred's school and pick him up. I knew that he would want to be there when I took my first steps. After all, what big steps those were going to be!

Everything thus far has been fact. It's easy to write facts. Usually I don't struggle with chronicling my feelings either. This though, goes beyond the realm of feelings and emotions into the realm of the miraculous. How do I adequately detail a miracle? How do my mere little words give justice to the miracle that Jesus wrought this day? This is why I have struggled to sit down and write this post.

I've been through so much in my life. So much in the last two years. So much heartache and so much pain. But there has also been immeasurable beauty. Beauty that transcends all understanding. November 2 was one of those days for me.

When I came back to the Dr's office with Jarred and my Grandma in tow we quickly settled in and waited. Not knowing what exactly to expect. As I said, before we left for lunch the Dr's expressed that their goal was for me to take a few steps this day. Now friends, I haven't walked on two legs since about November of 2009. It's been longer that I was able to walk unassisted. I have been told that learning to walk again is a difficult, trying, frustrating and long process. I came into the appointment fully expecting this to be difficult. Expecting that it would be months before I would actually walk. Yet still excited to put that leg on and try. Hopeful. Eager. Anxious. Unsure. All words that could describe the many emotions swirling through my heart and head.

They brought the make-shift, rough prototype of a socket back out and and this time it had the leg attached to it. I got up on a platform that has long parallel bars to hold onto for assistance in walking and stability. I sat down and undressed then they helped me get into the leg. I was so unsure of what to actually do. Because of the fact that I have no stump, everything I do to move the leg stems from movement in my pelvis/core. I lifted up the leg and said "wow, it's really heavy!" They said that it would take a while to adjust to that. That I need to keep in mind I've had nothing there for about 1 1/2 years, so it will take time for my mind to retrain itself to weight being on that side again. They briefly instructed me as to how to use it. Then I grabbed onto the parallel bars and started walking. WALKING! Everything just faded away around me. It was just me and God there on that platform walking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I walked like that for about 20 minutes. Getting a feel for the leg, placement of my foot, how the knee bends and how the hip & knee joints work.  Once the leg was on and I was walking I felt no discomfort at all. Praise the Lord!

I didn't know anything different than this. All I knew coming into this situation is that I was going to try to walk that day. That is all there was to it for me. The doctors were astounded. Beside themselves with sheer joy and excitement. I didn't realize it was such a big deal because I had nothing to measure that experience against. They told me that 99% of amputees can not just put on a leg and start walking. That it just doesn't happen. They got out a video camera after about 10 minutes and asked if I minded if they recorded my progress. They said they had never seen anything like this and they probably would not again. My doctor has been in this business for over 20 years mind you.

Overwhelmed is an understatement. Tears were just rolling down my face. I couldn't believe I was WALKING and that it was so easy. After about 20 minutes I decided to let go of the parallel bars and walk without assistance. I did. I walked without assistance at all. The doctors absolutely couldn't believe it. They said that it was a miracle. It required A LOT of concentration on my part. But I did it. God did it. We did it. My doctors said that it generally takes about three months for a person to do what I did in 30 minutes. I couldn't believe it. I told them that my God is really big.

This really doesn't accurately portray the miracle that we all witnessed. I wish that I could better detail it for you. The emotions are still really fresh for me and I don't know how to relate them any better. I've wanted to give y'all an update, so for the sake of time this is it. They took the leg off after about 30 minutes so that it could be shipped to the facility where they will make my socket and build my actual leg. I go back on on 11/16 for the second fitting. Two weeks after that I'll be able to WALK home!

We were all overwhelmed I think. Jarred and I kept looking at one another and smiling, but he wasn't forthcoming with his feelings. He thought that it was really cool and I could tell he was happy, but again, he didn't say much. At church that night I gave a testimony to all that had taken place that day. All during the church service I would catch him looking at me and smiling. He would grab my hand and squeeze it. I could tell that his heart was overflowing as well.

Later that night Grandma and I were talking and I told her that even if I never had the opportunity to get a prosthetic that I am happy. That I could hop on the rest of my life and not feel as if I am missing out on anything. I told her how thankful I am to have been given this journey. That I know that this was God's plan for me and that I find great comfort in that. I trust Him with my heart, my appendages and my life. He can do with it as He wishes. I told her that this has changed my very soul. It has forever changed my heart, perspective and mind for the better. Then Grandma brought up a very good point, she said to me "Jill, it's just like in the bible when Jesus healed Lazarus, the leapers and the lame. Mary and many others. He has healed you just like He healed them. Imagine how that must have changed their lives. Imagine how they, too, were changed because of Jesus' touch on their lives." Tears just welled up in my eyes and my heart overflowed with gratitude, love and joy at this realization. That YES, my story, my journey is just like one of those bible stories. That our Jesus, our God, is still at work today performing miracles just as much as He was in bible times.

I'm so thankful that He allowed me to experience this journey. To see and feel His touch in my life. I truly wouldn't trade it for anything. I mean that from the depths of my heart.

Friends, I hope that you realize that it doesn't take cancer or something big for Jesus to work a miracle in your lives. He is doing it every day in so many different ways. Look for it. Look for the beauty of the miracles that he is bringing to fruition in your life and those around you.

I could die happy right now. I have all I ever need. I've found my fullness in Christ.

Ephesians 3:20 "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us"


  1. What a miracle! What a blessing you are to me. Your life touches my life in so many ways. I am blessed to call you friend. Thank you for sharing your miracle with us. You make the world a brighter place. Love you and continue to pray for you and Jarred!

  2. WOW Jill! I am soooo happy for you! What an answer to prayer! I just can't wait to see what God has in store for you. :)

  3. Your story is amazing. Gena sent me over here, knowing I could benefit from reading your struggles (I think she was thinking they would help me stop feeling sorry for myself because I REALLY have NOTHING to complain about in comparison!!!). You are amazing. Our God is amazing. I LOVE this entry and how you were able to walk immediately! Praise the Lord! thank you so much for sharing your story. I'll be back to visit.