My Life, By Aviva Drescher

Aviva ColorEntering 2nd grade on crutches and a brand new stump, I felt the stares. I hated being different. I was asked by my 2nd grade teacher to tell my class what happened to me that summer. So I went on to explain that I lost my leg while playing on a conveyor-belt when my foot got caught and churned. I had been sleeping over at a friend’s house and we snuck out of the house on her suggestion to ride the machinery. What a mess. I learned early on how fragile life is. Never be a follower I learned at the fragile age of six. People always stared at my leg. In school, around New York City, and of course when I went on the beach in a bathing suit. Children would ask questions all the time. “What happened to your leg?” “What’s that?” I could be in jeans and my bulky knee would show and a new friend would put their hand on my knee and say, “What’s that?” It was a heavy situation to explain and I never wanted people to feel sorry for me. So I had my light answers ready: “Oh, I lost a part of my leg in an accident. I wear a BRACE so that I can walk better.”…. “Part of my leg, brace, walk” sounded much cooler than “stump, prosthesis, fake leg, peg leg and lost leg.” I didn’t wear shorts, skirts, or dresses. I covered it up with pants, boots and long skirts. Adults were overly protective and kind, children were inquisitive and naturally judgmental. I just wanted to be like everyone else and I succeeded. I was captain of my high school volleyball team, dated a hot football player and functioned like a normal teen, college student and young adult. The leg was ALWAYS in the background. I never felt for one minute sorry for myself. I was lucky to be alive and it could have been much worse. This is my approach towards everything. Gratitude. My parents were phenomenal. They successfully treated me like everyone else. They had expectations of responsibility, integrity, and hard work. They encouraged me to ski, ice skate, roller skate, play sports, have boyfriends etc. They did not, thankfully, coddle me. Wearing a prosthesis came easy to me because it was all I knew from the age of six. I have no memory of having two legs. To me, it’s like wearing a pair of glasses. At 26 years old I had elective revisional surgery and amputated my leg further in order to have an abrasion free life and a better looking prosthesis. Finally, I could wear heels!!! Ahh the things we take for granted. Around this time friends of friends who lost their legs would come to me for advice. I discovered an ability to really put people who were going through the process of losing a limb at ease. I put myself out there on a private level. I still kept “the leg” in the background. As I aged, and I became more confident in my own skin, I started helping others more and more. I became a mom (four times) and always referred to my prosthesis to the children as my “special leg.” They only know me wearing a prosthesis and see nothing unusual about it. It is part of who I am. If anything they innately understand that people are different and we must all be fearless and accepting. I had four children, several degrees and had chosen to devote my time to my children and other children who needed prosthetics and emotional support.I worked one on one with new amputees and helped raise money for charity. One day I was handed a contract to do a crazy show called Real Housewives of New York. There was no way that I would EVER be on that ridiculous show with those crazy women. NO WAY. As I thought about it, I saw an opportunity to help others on a large scale. I imagined young/old new amputees seeing me run around with my children and function like everyone else. I decided to take the hit of becoming a caricature (one of those crazy women) in exchange for the ability to help other amputees and physically challenged. Had I been able to watch someone on televison function as an amputee when I was young, I would have grown up with more confidence and less doubt. I wanted to give this visual to others who needed it. Television is a powerful source for visuals. Raising money for my charities was also enhanced through the television platform. When Ramona asked me one hundred questions in the shoe shopping segment I was not rattled. I had spent 35 years answering questions about my leg. I am open and honest and it did not feel offensive to me. To onlookers, she behaved like a child and was insensitive. I would not suggest that she ask those questions to anyone else in a similar predicament. However, I welcomed her questions as I was able to get the information out to viewers through her interrogation. In reality, she did me a favor. The show was cathartic. I was announcing to the world that I wore a prosthesis. It took me 35 years to do that. I have helped so many individuals who reach me through social media outlets and we have raised significant amounts of money for charity. Unfortunately, my leg and phobias, which in reality are in the background of my very busy life, were front row and center on the show. This was disappointing because it undermined who I really was and what I was trying to do. What is done is done. Move on and focus on the positive. One of the hardest parts of my life was seeing my parents sad about my leg. Why were they ever sad? I was perfectly happy! I meet parents today with children facing physical challenges and I tell them that children are resilient creatures who adapt very easily. I beg these parents never to allow their children to see them sweat. It’s like an airplane pilot.. The children are the passengers and the pilots are the parents. If the pilot starts to panic or get upset, you know what happens to the passengers right? Same with children and parents. Parents need to put on a brave front for their children and act as if everything is fine. They need to be models and examples of strength. That way, in my opinion, all will be fine. To all those with physical challenges or any differences at all- I say do your personal best and own it. The race is with yourself.  Life is short and even in the most dire of circumstances, happiness can be achieved. As long as there is breath there is life. Happiness is all about perception. Be grateful for what you have not what is missing. Everyday, I am grateful that I did not die in that machine in 1977. I am grateful to be wearing a prosthesis. It was a gift!

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