“You are so lucky you didn’t do anything.” S.T.
Yes, someone said that to me soon after my surgery, 8 years ago. I still see and speak to that person on a regular basis. I have confidence that it was intended as a positive statement – meaning that because I was not occupied in some employment or vocation that required two hands, my adaptation to one-handedness was “easier” than it might otherwise have been. Think about that for a moment….lucky?
I recently had the opportunity to watch the movie “Soul Surfer”. It had been recommended to me, but I had neither the inclination nor the curiosity to do so. However, a long airplane ride provided the perfect opportunity. So I watched it.
For those of you who may not know the movie, “Soul Surfer” is a 2011 American drama about the life of surfer Bethany Hamilton. In 2003, at the age of thirteen, Hamilton lost her left arm, just below the shoulder, to a shark attack. The film details the events surrounding this attack and her struggle during the aftermath. The film is directed by Sean McNamara, who based the screenplay on Hamilton’s autobiography of the same name and on the filmmakers’ interviews with the family. The title refers to a term coined in the 1960s to denote someone who surfs purely for pleasure, but the word soul has a double meaning as a reference to Hamilton’s Christian faith, which helped her recover her surfing career after the attack. AnnaSophia Robb stars as Hamilton, and Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt star as Hamilton’s parents.
I cried, of course. The movie gave me an opportunity to experience a grieving moment, recalling the real feelings of waking up without a part of your body and dealing with the reality of what that means. I thought the film did a good job of showing how many things in life appear to be two-handed. Adjustment, adaptation and acceptance are the key to moving forward. The film also expressed the real feelings of frustration and joy at being able to set priorities on when and how life’s activities will be put back into place. I am not a surfer, I am not even a swimmer; but I do understand the effort and determination it takes to feel independent, confident and “whole”.
Bethany Hamilton’s experience, as well as Aron Ralston’s (the young man who cut off his arm to save his life after a hiking accident) happened around the same time as my amputation. They both appeared on the television and told their stories of undaunted, courageous response to adversity. At the time, I thought I was lucky. Now I speak about my experience and understand that luck has nothing to do with it.