Thriving on Three Legs
By Saralee Perel
I learned a lot about the emotional impact of my spinal cord injury from watching my little cat, Jordy.
When he needed to have his back leg amputated, I didn't want our veterinarian to take him from my arms. Our vet, whose name is Dr. Larry Venezia, gently coaxed me.
I kissed Jordy on his forehead as he was about to be carried out of the examining room. I could see my sweet cat, scared, looking at me over Larry's shoulder as he was led away.
I called my husband, Bob, from my cell phone. He had been dreading this call.
"Jordy's whole leg has to come off," I said.
Crying, Bob said, "How will he ever be able to get around?"
"I don't know." I was crying too.
During Jordy's recuperation, he had to be away from our other pets. He stayed in a crate next to our bed. In the middle of one night, I gently took him out of the crate and held him, checking his stitches where his leg used to be. He looked up at me, seemingly saying, "Everyone else gets to play. What did I do wrong?"
I wished he understood me. "You didn't do anything wrong, Jordy. You were born with your leg problem. It had to come off so you'll never be in pain again." Eventually he fell asleep in my arms.
And so, my 3-legged wonder cat teaches me these lessons:
- If you can't get to the top of the bed, there's no shame in asking for help.
- Caregiving can be a privilege.
- Missing a limb has nothing to do with the goodness of one's heart.
- In spite of a handicap, always choose playtime when there's an option. It's a blast sliding across a tile floor diagonally on three legs.
- If you can't scratch behind your ear because your lower limb is missing, have Bob scratch it. It feels just as good.
- Being differently abled doesn't change how good the sunshine feels.
My cat is just as complete as any other cat is. Impediments are often just in the mind.
Jordy's lessons have a particular meaning for me because of my walking problems from my SCI. Perhaps he sets an example for anyone who is different physically, be it shape, size or anything we consider limiting. And that is the realization that being our best has nothing to do with having a body like everyone else has.
Larry once told me that he'd like to leave "a footprint in the sand by helping my patients any way I can."
Trust me, Larry, you already have.
I thank him for helping me learn that there's still so much goodness in my life, in spite of my spinal cord damage.
And I thank him for what has been his great gift to me and to Bob ... the three footprints of Jordy.
Available to download: Over 100 PDF fact sheets organized alphabetically on various topics from Aging with SCI to Wish Granting Agencies.
Also contains disability resources for each of the 50 United States and 31 countries (where possible the country fact sheets are in the native language of that country).
Tell us your story
Telling your story is one way to let anyone touched by paralysis know that they are not alone. We've created a place where you can share your journey for your benefit, and the benefit of others. Your story matters. Share it.
Award-Winning columnist and novelist, Saralee Perel, frequently contributes her columns to us. Her newest book is Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance. Read about her challenges after her SCI, stories of her caregiver dog, and her human family too.
For more information on Saralee, her book order information from Amazon or the publisher, even to purchase a signed copy, please visit her website: SaraleePerel.com.
Saralee is also on Facebook. Visit her page, Saralee Perel Presents Gracie, My 4-Footed Coach.
Arkansas Spinal Cord CommissionThe mission of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission is to administer a statewide program to identify and meet the unique and lifelong needs of people with spinal cord disabilities in the state.
CareCure CommunityCareCure Community features a SpinalNurse bulletin board with informed comments on matters of the bowel, and all issues of paralysis.
Canadian & American Spinal Research OrganizationPromotes and supports funding research to ultimately find a cure for paralysis. Also publishes journal of latest research they fund. Call (800) 361-4004 or use the link above.
Canadian Paraplegic AssociationAssists people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to achieve individuality, self-reliance and full community participation. Call (613) 723-1033 or use the link above.
Craig HospitalWith funding from the US Department of Education's National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, has developed educational materials to help people with spinal cord injuries live in the community maintain their health. Topics include skin care, exercise, heart disease, weight control, alcohol abuse and conditions related to the aging body. Use the link above and click on SCI Health and Wellness.
Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)Dept of Physical Medicine and Rehab Services at Baylor College of Medicine.
Determined 2 HealProvides helpful information for the newly spinal cord injured.
FacingDisability.comFacing Disability is a web resource with more than 1,000 videos drawn from interviews of people with spinal cord injuries, their families, caregivers and experts. I know that this is a lot to ask, but we'd be so grateful for your help. I'm looking forward to discussing this link with you, and to answering any questions you may have.
Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of LouisvilleThe Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery provides activity-based therapies to promote recovery from neurologic injury in children; conducts research to enhance recovery; and trains families, practitioners and scientists to maximize recovery and improve the quality of life for children and their families. In short, we are here to help kids kick paralysis and through science have every reason to hope.
Model Systems CentersA federally funded program of 14 specialty medical and/or rehabilitation centers across the US. The SCI Care System collects and submits acute, rehabilitation and follow-up (annual, long-term post-discharge) data on SCI patients who received care in the these centers following injury.
The Miami Project to Cure ParalysisThe Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has studied functional electrical systems for exercise.
Mobile WomenArticles, resources, online forum for women with disabilities especially wheelchair users.
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC)NSCISC supervises and directs the collection, management and analysis of the world's largest spinal cord injury database. Headquartered at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA)At NSCIA, we educate and empower survivors of spinal cord injury and disease to achieve and maintain the highest levels of independence, health and personal fulfillment. We fulfill this mission by providing an innovative Peer Support Network and by raising awareness about spinal cord injury and disease through education.
New York Online Access to Health (N.O.A.H)Offers information and links related to spinal cord and head injury treatment, rehabilitation, and children. Materials in Spanish.
Neuroscience for KidsOffers an understandable look at the segments of the spinal cord; from University of Washington.
Paralyzed Veterans of America, in support of The Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine, offers authoritative clinical practice guidelines for bladder management. Consumer guides are available to download.
SpineUniverseAt SpineUniverse our goal is to help patients and their families understand their back or neck problems. In clear, straightforward language we aim to explain what causes spinal problems and how they can be treated. We are committed to ensure that all of the information we present is trustworthy and of the highest quality.
Spinal Cord Injury Information NetworkThe Spinal Cord Injury Information Center features clinical information about bowel management and all other medical issues of paralysis.
United Spinal AssociationOur mission is to improve the quality of life of all Americans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and post polio.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet: VA and Spinal Cord InjuryOf the more than 250,000 Americans with serious spinal cord injuries and disorders, about 42,000 are veterans eligible for medical care and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.
Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.
Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.
Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.
This FREE 442 page book is a comprehensive information tool for individuals living with paralysis and for their caregivers. Request or download your copy now!
Check out programs in your area on our one-of-a kind online searchable Quality of Life program database. You can search by location or topic. GO