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I Am Not One-Armed

July 19, 2012 — 49 Comments

I am not a “one-armed” anything.

A recent article about a limb-different boy in Texas winning his events at a swim-meet has people talking about the mis-use of the term “one-armed.”  Ben Ramirez clearly has two arms, but is missing part of one; like me.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend – Ben Ramirez

So, what’s the deal?  Why does the media default to “one-armed” when there’s any kind of arm limb-difference?  Jim Abbott even spoke to the phenomenon in his book, Imperfect.  Jim has nearly two full arms, but a malformed left hand, and still he was referred to as a “one-armed pitcher.”

“One-Armed” Olympic Champion Pitcher, Jim Abbott

In fact, I very deliberately chose the domain because, well…it’s accurate.  I didn’t choose or IWishIHadAnotherArmWhichWouldActuallyGiveMeTwoAndAHalfArms.ThatSeemsGreedy.Org because my arm is not really the issue.  Plus, that last one is really long.

And as obvious as it may seem to us that “one-armed” is the wrong term to use, I’m going to be honest with you here and say…I understand it.  I understand it because I’m still getting used to all the terms myself.  Eight months ago I had never heard the term “limb-different.”  Never.  In my whole life.  When I started visiting message boards and different online groups, it was like learning a foreign language.  LBE?  RBK?  I’ve learned that those mean Left Below Elbow and Right Below Knee (amputees).  (I bet somebody has a super sweet grid of all these terms somewhere.  I want it.)  Just today, in fact, I got an email from someone who used AK in his note and I had to think hard about what it meant.  Ahh, Above Knee!  And I’m still a novice at all the other terms like Symbrachydactyly.  I just googled that and had to look at it seven times to make sure I spelled it correctly.

It’s a whole different world, this limb-different community.  It’s fun and exciting for me, but there are times I feel lost.  And ignorant.  I am limb-different and can probably tell you less about the science and terms and lifestyle than a ton of the moms around here!  But, I suppose that makes sense.  I grew-up this way and never thought of myself as different, so why would I take the time to learn about it?  My mom, on the other hand (so to speak), probably knows more about it than I do, too.

So, I’m thinking two things.  The first is that we need to be patient.  We need to understand that differences are always a challenge and people generally do their best to treat them with respect and dignity.  That said, it’s also an opportunity for us to teach!  To teach those who are different than we or our kids are how to approach our differences accurately and with respect.  You wouldn’t describe someone with blonde hair as “black-haired” and think it was good enough.  “I mean, hair is hair, right?” you might think.  And you’d be wrong.  And someone would correct you.

I don’t view this as a fight at all.  It’s an opportunity.  Let’s seize the opportunity and learn together.

Also, please don’t buy the domain  I’m saving-up for it.

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