Editor’s Note: Monica Vickers was born in 1954 missing both legs and an arm. Her ability to type faster and more accurately with one hand than most two-handed people led her to a successful career as a medical transcriptionist. Not feeling safe on prosthetics, she gave them up as a young adult and became a full-time wheelchair user. A published author with a 4.9-star rating on Amazon, Vickers is currently enjoying retirement.
I know it sounds pretty crazy, but I don’t think I was really aware of the fact that I had a disability growing up because my family insisted that I do everything that everyone else did.
There were no concessions made for me.
When I was really little, I was making my way up a flight of stairs, as children in the crawling stages often attempt to do, and my mom was terrified. She wanted to grab me, but my dad wouldn’t let her. He told her, “She has to learn how to do steps.” That was the attitude throughout my whole life. My dad insisted that I try first, and if I couldn’t do it, then I could ask for help.
I used artificial limbs growing up, and when I went to college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I continued using them. It was very hard because classes were far away, there were steps, and it was very difficult to walk in the snow. That’s when I decided to get a wheelchair. That made things a little easier, but I still needed somebody to push me through the snow. Some days, I would miss class simply because I couldn’t get there. It was daunting. I eventually got an electric wheelchair.
Out On My Own
I didn’t really realize the world saw me as different until I moved out on my own to California, mostly to avoid the snow, and started looking for a job. I went to an employment agency, and they asked me what kind of job I was looking for. Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I could type. That’s when I encountered my first real roadblock. When I sat down to take the typing test, I was told how to turn the typewriter on. I thought that was very condescending, and it really ticked me off. I did the five-minute test, told the agent I shut the typewriter off, and walked out.
She asked me to wait while she graded it, but I told her I didn’t want any job from that agency. As I was on my way to my car, she ran out to the parking lot and said, “This test is phenomenal!” I had typed about 120 words per minute with only a couple mistakes. She tried to get me to stay, but I wouldn’t. In parting, she told me that I really had a talent for typing and that I should look into a career in medical transcription. Later that day, I found a medical transcription job offer in the newspaper and applied. When I went in to take the test, I could sense they were hesitant to hire me, but they didn’t want to send me home for no reason. They must have been worried I’d think they were discriminating against me if they turned me away, so they hired me on a trial basis for three months.
After the trial period, they were more than happy to hire me permanently. I stayed with them for 12 years, and then I left to open my own medical transcription business. As HIPAA came into play in the ‘90s, I went to work for a large transcription company that had all the necessary compliance software. I worked for them until I retired two years ago.
I met my husband, Mike, at an Amputees in Motion dinner dance in Los Angeles. When I saw him across the room, I thought, “I like him,” but at that point, I had sort of resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to find anybody. Later that evening, I found out he had come alone as a volunteer driver for people who couldn’t get themselves to the dance. We had an open seat at our table, and he asked if he could join us. When the dinner moved onto the dance floor, he didn’t go dance; he just sat with me. I told him not to do me any favors. He said he didn’t dance, so we sat there and chatted. At the end of the night, he asked if he could see me again. I thought, “Oh, well, okay!” So a few weeks later, he came to see me in San Diego.
We dated for 12 years before we got married. During that time, his family didn’t accept me. His mother even called me at one point and said the family could handle me being Mike’s friend, but not his wife. Due to that pressure, we broke up. Two months later, Mike called to tell me he was marrying someone else.
But, a few years later, Mike realized he made a mistake. He got divorced, and we got back together.
His parents still didn’t accept me, but he didn’t care what they thought anymore.
We got married anyway, and eventually, they came around.
Grandma Knows Best
When I was about 10 years old, my grandmother told me I should write a book. I said, “Seriously? About what?” She just said someday I’d know. She kept insisting, so I promised her I would do it. As I got older, I realized what she meant, so I fulfilled my promise and wrote a book called My Extraordinary Life.
It was kind of an unsettling experience, but luckily an old friend helped me. She already knew most of my story, so she prompted me with questions about my various life experiences. If I didn’t go deep enough, she pushed me to elaborate. With her help, I got to the core of just about everything.
Editor’s Note: My Extraordinary Life has been featured as a BookWorks Book of the Week, was a Beverly Hills Book Awards finalist, was named one of the best indie books of 2015 by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, and has a 4.9-star rating on Amazon. It is available for purchase on Vickers’ website: http://myextraordinaryamputeelife.com/buy-a-book/.
Information and Support for Amputees
I read Amplitude Magazine, and I think it’s a good resource for amputees. I like some of the stories they feature. I think it’s a nice magazine for new amputees or newly disabled people. They often have articles on dealing with socket issues, sweating, skin problems, etc. Information like that is important for newer amputees. Sometimes they promote different support groups that people might not know exist, which can be handy. It’s helpful, amputee to amputee, to see somebody who has been successful.
There is Life After Limb Loss
I think that when you have a fresh injury, the first thing that hits your mind is, “Now what? Now what am I going to do? Now how am I doing to do this?” Just remember that how to do things and what to do next with your life will come. You’ll figure it out. Just give yourself some time. There is life after a limb loss.
Amplitude magazine provides valuable and unbiased news, information, and resources for amputees who want to live more fully, as well as articles and information relevant to their families and their caregivers. It offers content on a wide variety of topics, including peer support, active living, emotional issues, health and wellness, mobility, and adaptive living—anything that will help amputees enjoy all that life has to offer. Learn more at www.amplitude-media.com.
Betsy Bailey has a diverse background including experience in marketing research at American Express, business operations and client relations with 601am, travel and culinary writing with VegDining, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.
Betsy is excited to get back into writing, something she’s adored since childhood, and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. On top of her work with Wheel:Life, she also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!