Thursday, December 8, 2011

Going Out On A Limb (Part 2)

Today is a continuation of my interview with David. I noticed that in answering the questions David forgot to mention that he was born an amputee. I wouldn't want anyone thinking his reply to that little boy was factual.

Here's David with the leg he had when we adopted him. He got a big smile on his face when I pulled it out and asked if he would pose for some pictures. Usually I have to beg to get him to smile in pictures. Not this time - this grin is genuine.

Now on to part 2 of our interview:

I know you have faced challenges in both your sports activities and in the workplace. Let’s start with sports. You have chosen to play able-bodied sports rather than joining disabled teams. As a teenager in Richmond you played on the same soccer team for four years. One year you were the team’s MVP, and another year you were named Richmond’s Disabled Male Athlete of the Year. Tell us a bit about that time.
Yes it is true I got those awards while playing soccer in Richmond. It was such a great team to play with and the guys were supportive. There were things the guys knew I was weak with such as throw ins and when players went by my right side. My teammates always watched my back for me.
When you would play a new team, one that had not seen you before, what was the reaction of the opposing players? 
The new teams I played against always just stared or took it easy on me. They’d learn later during the game I was a threat and start paying more attention to where I was on the field.

Far left: David in his West Richmond United uniform
Top Right: David in his soccer uniform from Nelson
Bottom Right: David at the orphanage in Thailand

Do you have any funny soccer moments you would like to share with my readers?
No I have no funny stories, just kidding! How can I NOT have any funny stories. First time I had a hand ball during  scrimmage with my team in Richmond my team mates yelled, “Handball!” I replied, “ I’ve got no hands, so how is that possible?!?” 
Or the two times my artificial leg come off while playing soccer. The first time I had a leg accident was during a rainy Thanksgiving tournament. I had the ball and was rushing up the left wing and was just outside the 18 yard box when I decided to take my shot. I was unbalanced and running when I fell/slid/rolled on the field. The reason this happened was because my leg strap had come undone while I was running, and when the strap comes undone I’m not secured in and the leg came off. That was probably the most embarrassing thing to happen in front of both teams and those who were watching.
I would like to add that, in what was one of my biggest parenting disappointments ever, I managed to miss this moment. Rebekah and Alexandra were also playing in the tournament and I was at one of their games. I will always be a little sad about this. Most parents anxiously await their child’s first goal. Not me. I had been waiting for the moment that David and his leg parted ways out on the field. Later games provided a repeat performance, but still, to have missed that first time...
Now you are playing in an able-bodied men’s ball hockey league. Did you encounter any difficulties signing up for a team? Do you feel like you are on equal footing (no pun intended) with your teammates?
There was a slight discussion as to whether or not I could play in the league. They were worried that I would get hurt, and also they didn’t know if the equipment would work. So I was told to show up for the tryout and we would go from there. At the tryout I had to prove I was capable of playing and also that I could keep up with everyone else. I easily proved that. 
I’d have to say in certain aspects I’m on equal footing with the guys. I’m as fast or faster then some guys in the league, skill wise I’m good enough to get what needs to be done during games.
In terms of work what would you say your limitations are? 
I find it interesting that David left this question blank. He said he was having trouble with it because he couldn’t think of any limitations, which says a lot about how he views life!
Do you think there is a prejudice against hiring you because of your amputations? And if so, do you think that prejudice is because they perceive you can’t do the job, or because they don’t want a physically disabled person in the workplace? 
I think there is a little bit of prejudice when it comes to hiring me for jobs. Most of it would be due to them thinking I won’t be able to work a certain job. All I ask for employers is to give me a trial run so I can prove that I can adapt and learn certain task requirements.
What things do people do and say around you that make you feel uncomfortable? 
People bother me by saying things such as “I admire you”,  “You’re an inspiration”, or “You put me to shame.” I’m just doing my job and am not some rare specimen you’ve seen for the first time.
What would your suggestions be for how people should react when they encounter a disabled person? Should they say something, or is it better to keep their thoughts to themselves? Let’s say on a scale ranging from, “Oh my gosh, you don’t have any hands” to “That hockey arm is ingenious” what, if anything, is acceptable?
My suggestion for when it comes to encountering a disabled person would be to treat them like any other person. Refrain from staring or being dumbfounded by the fact that a disabled person can do a difficult task. I prefer if people say something instead of just watching and not saying anything. People can ask whatever  questions they like, but the really awkward spotlight questions are hard to deal with. When a person starts the conversation with me by saying “I respect you…” it’s hard for me to really say anything but “thank you” and I get tired of those compliments fast!

The conclusion, in a few days...


  1. I'm with David on the "you are so inspiring" thing. Basically if you are disabled or sick in anyway and you manage to get out of bed and actually do stuff, you are apparently inspiring. However, if you don't get out of bed every day, life gets boring - FAST.

  2. Kristie,

    I love David's answer to your question about limitation. N/A. Yes, indeed.

  3. what a fantastic series of posts -- and i get david's complaint about people saying things like "you put me to shame." what is one to say to that! given his delicious sense of humor, though, i'll bet he comes up with something funny to say in response.

  4. "like any other person" Yes, people are people. But admiring David makes sense.

  5. @Stitched Together - I have read your blog for awhile now. I am sure you can identify with David in many ways!

    @keiko - The reality is that there are some limitations on what David can do in the workplace. But not nearly as many as what other people (potential employers) would think.

    @lori - I am glad you are enjoying these posts! And yes, David has a great sense of humour!

    @Ric - I think it is really natural for people to admire David when they first see him. The funny thing is, after being around David for about an hour everyone shifts from admiration to totally forgetting about his disability. Which is exactly the right thing to happen!

  6. What a fascinating set of posts. Thanks so much for posting these...I'll stay away from the word inspiring and just say they gave me some perspective...

  7. I think Wiz would be a little jealous that David can play/participate in more sports than he can. His surgeries mean no contact sports at all.

    I love it when you talk about your children growing up and how they handle their medical issues. It makes it easier for me to keep letting Wiz take his baby steps towards independence.

  8. "inner exaggeration meter", haha, I like that (and you're right, all true).

    And about the former reader, I should have said former commenter. She could still be reading.

  9. @Rachel - I am glad you liked the posts. And I think it is okay to use the word inspiring, just not in front of David! :-)

    @Kate - No contact sports would be a tough one. Does soccer count as a contact sport? I am guessing it does. I remember being at the stage you are at right now, wondering what this was all going to look like when David and Alexandra were grown-up. If it is any comfort, I have to say it isn't as scary as I had pictured it being back then. You have the right approach - just take baby steps.

    @Ric - :-)

  10. I agree with Rachel, your interview with David has given me a good dose of perspective as well. Thanks for that.