This and the next update come from Monday, April 20; I’m just a week late in posting. Before I get into what transpired on Monday, I should take a few sentences to tell you who Jen Griffin is. Jen fell ill over two years ago, and even though Jen didn’t contract meningitis, she was required to amputate both of her legs and all of her fingers/thumbs due to the sepsis that her original infection caused. Just like the blog you’re currently reading, Jen’s family created a blog to notify her friends, family and supporters about her condition and recovery. Her story and Jamie’s story are so painfully similar that Nick, Jen’s husband, said that our blog made him feel like he was reliving the events surrounding Jen’s hospital stay. Of course, not everything is exactly the same. As I mentioned, Jamie still has parts of two fingers and parts of both thumbs. Whereas Jamie’s legs, arms, back and tush were covered with wounds due to her infection, Jen didn’t have any of those symptoms. Also, Jen had her amputation surgeries as she was coming out of her 8 week, medically-induced coma; Jamie didn’t have her amputation surgeries for almost three months after she originally fell ill. I take it that you’re getting the point – Jen and Jamie’s stories aren’t identical, but despite these differences, I don’t think we’ll find anyone with such a similar story to Jamie’s. Jen has about a two year head start on us and is clearing a path for us to follow. So far, we’ve met many folks who lost both of their legs, and some had AKAs (above-the-knee amputations) and some had BKAs like Jamie. Some people had lost a digit or two, some lost entire arms, some had mental complications, some had complications related to their internal organs. Despite the scores of people we’ve met, only Jen Griffin is dealing with the same life situation that Jamie is about to enter. This is why this meeting is long overdue.
I have a feeling that this meeting may have changed everything for Jamie’s mindset. Jamie’s had a while to come to terms with her new condition, and it will take her many more months and years to deal with, but one thing she’s been saying lately is, “I could have dealt with losing my legs, but it’s losing my hands that really sucks.” I mean, she’s right. And, even though I’ve been telling her for a while that she’ll be able to do nearly everything she used to be able to do, but she’ll just be terrible for a little while… it’s not a very big logical leap from “I lost most of all of my fingers” to “I can’t do anything for myself, ever again.” (Note: Jen and Jamie met the day before Dr. Boutros came and removed the pins from her left hand and before Jamie held a pen in her un-shaped hand unassisted. When she met Jen, she hadn’t had this earth shattering revelation yet). Even though I’d informed Jamie about the extent of Jen’s condition, I don’t think Jamie was mentally prepared for what she saw when Jen entered the room: an apparently normal, attractive, happily-married woman who was able to do anything she wanted to do, didn’t appear to be slowed by her prosthetics, and had a really good outlook on life.
In all honesty, we’d been waiting to meet with Jen Griffin since before we ever left Austin. Jamie and Jen bonded instantly. Jamie appeared pretty awestruck at all of the things that Jen (sans fingers) was able to do. She opened her purse, got stuff out of it, used the phone, text messaged people… she was normal. Sure, she used the “cuffs” when she needed to hold silverware to eat, and there were a few other things she needs assistance with, but Jamie was blown away. Jen told Jamie about all of the tricks of the trade, which are too numerous to list completely here (though a few of them include finding a good seamstress to change your clothes from buttons/zippers to Velcro/snaps; also, get a touch screen phone, etc.). We talked mainly about Jen’s experiences in those first few months after she got out of the hospital – What didn’t you like about your prosthetics? How long did it take to do this or that? What do you wish you knew going into your fittings for prosthetics? – you know, stuff like that. They had some alone time, too. I don’t know what they talked about, but Jamie needs to ask questions of people that actually know the answers. Not questions about how to diagnose an illness, but how to deal with overcoming it. Not how to fit a person for prosthetics, but how to walk on them. We can have the most trained specialists in the world, but they won’t know how to cope with this situation on a personal level. This is the bond that I was hoping would be forged out of this meeting, so I’m glad they really hit it off.
Nick Griffin is pretty cool too. He’s from Australia, and everyone likes that.
After the meeting, Jamie was just totally enamored with her new friend. She talked about all the cool stuff Jen could do… things that Jamie thought were out of the question (other examples: driving, showering). If it wasn’t for the significance of Jamie’s meeting with Dr. Boutros the following day – you know, where he took the pins out of Jamie’s hand, almost cried when Jamie held a pen on her own and told us we can go home as soon as possible – we’d still be talking about our meeting with Jen. It’s just wonderful that Jamie found someone we can find some guidance from on the “no-fingers” issue. But, maybe that’s the most important takeaway from the meeting – Jamie realized that she DID have fingers and she has thumbs. Sure, she has way less fingers than I do, but Jen has less fingers than Jamie, and Jen and I text each other frequently and have Google-talk conversations all the time. To say that Jen’s attitude and perseverance have inspired Jamie and changed her outlook is an understatement. She’s done so much more for Jamie and for us. Jen is excited to be a part of our lives for years to come, but not as excited as we are to have her in it.
You see why I’ve been putting off these blog posts? Just so much to say. What a great introduction to a wonderful person. [Btw, Nick Griffin, mom and I had a nice time too, but who cares about us? :) ]