Emily Parker describes her life beginning after her surgery to remove her leg. She described her childhood as always being in pain, never being able to keep up with her classmates, and constantly dealing with the term “disabled.”
Parker was born with a genetic disease, neurofibromatosis, which caused her tibia to break when she was nine months old. Parker and her family tried to fight the disease for 10 years while enduring 14 surgeries in the process. Multiple techniques were used to heal her leg, like casts, braces, bone rods and halo devices.
After the second halo device was placed, her leg did actually heal for about a year. It wasn’t until a roller skating accident that it broke again because the bone itself was so brittle and fragile. Emily said she didn’t even realize the bone had broken again because the pain was not excruciating. Emily and her mother both went to the hospital soon after where they were given two options: a third halo device implant or amputation. Emily said she remembers thinking the halo device might have worked but amputation was a definite answer to life without suffering. She knew she would have a life outside her disability.
After the surgery, Parker had to learn how to walk again, as if learning how to walk for the first time in her life.
As she began this new experience, reality set in. “It was like –‘Wow. This is my life now. And this is how it is going to be forever.’ ”
Parker currently serves in an amputee mentorship program. She says serving new amputees is one of her biggest passions in life. When giving them advice, she points out the realization that each amputee’s life is not over, it is a new beginning. She mentioned the hardest part is coping with the fact that a physical limb is now gone from the person’s body. Amputees can look at it as cutting away the wrong that is harming their body.
Another piece of advice would be to find a physical activity that the amputee is passionate about. For Parker, that was snow skiing. Snow skiing was the first physical activity she was able to try and overcome.
If being an amputee has taught Parker anything, it is that she can do anything she sets her mind to. She will have to make some adjustments in certain activities, but other than minor issues, the sky is the limit. Parker definitely credits amputation as her new form of confidence.
“Being an amputee has really given me a true sense of purpose and life to where I am able to accomplish anything I desire.”
In addition to gaining confidence, Parker was able to gain new friendships and community because of her amputation. She talks about a funny rule in the amputee world: only another amputee can name your “nub.” Fellow amputee and friend, Brenna, named Parker’s nub “Glen.” Parker also named her full time prosthesis “James” and her formal leg “Clarisse.” She said it is a rule all amputees know to name all prosthetics.
Best friend and roommate Rhema Jones talked about some of the funny and unusual memories with Parker. She said it was different to see a leg laying in the tub from time to time or hear the process of attaching the leg because it does make noise.
Jones forgets majority of the time that Emily is an amputee. It’s the jokes and humor between the two roommates that reminds Jones of Emily’s disability.
“She is a normal person and every now and then I forget she doesn’t have a leg,” Jones said. “It doesn’t change anything.”