Finding My Place: Part Two

Guest Post by Carolyn Mckinzie

A few months after that, I took a secretarial job at an anti-coagulation clinic that was only a few hours a week. But it was something, and I just couldn’t stand doing nothing. I worked there for a couple of years but then left following knee surgery. My battered body wasn’t keeping up with my mind!
I took a few years off from working, but I had recovered quite well following the amputation and subsequent knee surgery. I had also started writing articles and being involved with the Amputee Coalition of America. Through their resources, I realized that all of the thoughts and feelings I’d been having since the amputation were completely normal. I communicated with other amputees and got great emotional peace and acceptance from that. Not only did that help me, but I was helping other new amputees, and that was great for my psyche. I was starting to feel better about myself than I ever had and the drinking seemed to resolve itself.
My family was still there for me and even though I don’t think they understood what I was going through, they still loved me and for that, I am still very grateful. My son would eventually live with me again until he was old enough to be on his own.

By 2008, I walked unassisted.
I did all of the activities I wanted to do, hiking and dancing included! I decided that if I could get through the day without any problems, there was no reason I couldn’t get back to nursing full-time. I took a hospital job. It was 10-hour shift, four days a week. I had told them at my interview about my amputation but assured them that I was walking fine and was sure I could do the work required for the position. I know I wasn’t required to disclose that, but I really felt that it was only fair. Although I loved the work, it didn’t take long to realize that I had bitten off way more than I could chew! It was 10 hours of run, run, run. I was blessed with a wonderful manager who approached me about possibly decreasing my work hours in an attempt to make it more manageable for me. She told me to apply for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which would allow me to adjust my hours when I needed to accommodate my disability. I cut down to working just three 10-hour shifts on evenings when things weren’t as fast-paced because there were only 4 or 5 patients. That worked for awhile, but again, I had to leave when it just became too much.

I felt like I had failed.
And I had failed BIG. I was so disappointed that I just wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do. And I felt like I had let people down. I told them I could do the job, but ultimately I could not. It’s such an emotional struggle when your mind is completely capable of doing what you want to, what you love to do but your body won’t allow. This isn’t how it was supposed to be!

That was when I met Dr. Donna Carol Maheady.
She is the founder of Exceptional She is a pioneer in helping disabled nurses and nursing students assert their rights to accommodation for employment and education. I have worked with her on a couple of writing projects, most recently a CEU course for lower-limb amputees returning to work in healthcare and the steps they should take to ensure they find the work that is right for them.
I was starting to see that perhaps direct care was not where I belonged. Maybe writing was the way to go for me. I had always gotten positive reviews for various articles I had written over the years. I had also started speaking publicly to various groups, sharing my story and experience.
I was asked by Dr. Maheady to write a chapter about my personal experience with limb loss for her most recent book: “Tales from the Trenches: Truly Resilient Nurses Working with Disabilities.” I felt like I had finally found what I needed to be doing; I had finally found my place.


My advice to others is simple

Do a complete self-evaluation to know what your abilities and limitations are. Don’t be unrealistic! Not everybody is going to be able to climb a mountain post-amputation so don’t let society make you feel like your physical accomplishments, no matter what they might be, aren’t grand enough.
Only in recent years has the awareness of limb loss been heightened, primarily due to soldiers with one or more missing limbs returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Amputation does not exclude a person from working in healthcare.

Workers with an amputation may choose to return to work or work for the first time after they have recovered fully and regained mobility. Mobility may require assistive devices such as a cane, crutch, walker or wheelchair, or no assistive device.
For Part One of Carolyn’s story click here:




Carolyn Mckinzie is a Speaker and Amputee Nurse Consultant.
To contact her:
Phone: 207-624-1076
Facebook: Amputee Nurse Consultant/Carolyn McKinzie, LPN, RBKA

To learn more about Nurses with Disabilities see: