another story like mine.

August 12, 2011

occasionally wordpress gives me insight as to who is finding my blog. search engine results prove that there are some other finger amputees out there looking for a story like mine. i decided to do more digging today and found dj digs. a fellow “creativity-in-suffering” guitarist. check out his story.

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loss unifies.

June 24, 2011

i met a fellow finger-amputee today in the bakery. i handed him his cookies and he said, “hey! you’re like me.” he showed me his missing ring finger and we talked for a moment like it was the most casual thing in the world. i wish there hadn’t been a line. we only had the opportunity to exchange a few words. i wanted to talk to him for hours, as if he were my long lost uncle.

i think a lot of amputees would agree. we’re all bonded together even as strangers. loss unifies.

the chicken or the egg.

December 29, 2010

as promised, my video project is now available online! and for now, embedded exclusively here, on my wreck account blog! thank you to all of you who have kept up with my story. some of you come to me, ashamedly admitting that you have been reading, as if it is some sort of invasion of my privacy. don’t worry, i keep a private journal. this blog is for the purpose of the public eye. it means a great deal to me that you have been reading. so thank you.

the following video is something i put together with my awesome and generous friend, justin wylie, for a scholarship application. for those of you who have been following the blog from the beginning, you will understand why this is a really big deal for me. admittedly, i am playing right-handed guitar for this song. it is a little glimpse at the past and an open view of my current situation. this is the first song i wrote on my right-handed guitar following the accident. my guitar had been in his case for a very long time prior to this song…here’s how i felt about that:

http://player.vimeo.com/video/18247919

Kristen Wright | “The Chicken & The Egg” from Justin Wylie on Vimeo.

the chicken or the egg

does it really matter
what came first?
the chicken or the egg?
i don’t care
i don’t care

what am i supposed to do with this
new kind of loneliness?
a heart cut down
in the top of her pride

when i saw him today
i thought i would cry
and all i can ask is, “God,
why, why, why?”

i’ve learned that in loss
we’ve gotta love
even when no one understands
love with all we’ve got
cause that’s what the heart demands

You smile as i admit it
“i am weak”
and i cling to the feeling of Your lips
on my cheek

I’ve learned that in loss
we’ve gotta love
and he feels familiar in my hands
i’m gonna love with all i’ve got
cause that’s what my heart demands

(copyright 2010)

happy new year everyone. here’s to more in 2011!

finally.

November 14, 2010

it was incredible playing for an audience tonight. it has been far too long and it was really good for me.

Playing left-handed at my first show since the wreck.

my performance was far from perfect, but i’m pretty sure i played in tune and i bared a little bit of my soul. that’s what matters right? and i learned so much from the performance…but really. i’m performing again. one word: bliss!

i alternated between playing left-handed and right-handed. one song is right-handed because my finger picking is much stronger coming from five fingers and honestly, playing right-handed is far more familiar and sounds better. i don’t think i’ve mentioned this yet on the blog, but i’ve been playing right-handed with a cut-capo system. it’s basically instant open tuning, which allows me to fret most chords with two fingers.

the show went really well. stay tuned for the video project! it is finished! i’m just waiting to get the finalized product online and it will be yours!! here’s a picture from tonight to tide you over.

piano scales.

July 12, 2010

did i mention that i am a music major? well, i am and i’m pretty sure that most music majors from all over the country learn piano before they graduate. at belmont, you have to pass this exam called the piano proficiency and the exam includes a variety of piano skills that have to be demonstrated, one being scales. i, by no means, am a pianist. i have tried to learn several times, but piano is not an instrument that i have ever felt extremely comfortable playing. at the time of my accident, i was in my third semester of piano classes and i was preparing to take my proficiency exam at the end of that course. i was generally ready to pass it. i had learned all of my scales and i was starting to feel like the skills of piano were attainable.

i was really good at scales. now, in the real world, scales aren’t the most valuable of skills to be proud of. no one pays for a ticket to listen to a pianist demonstrate E harmonic minor. but at belmont, it is essential to play scales well for a firm foundation in piano, and i was on my way to piano proficiency greatness.

piano scales were designed to be played by ten-fingered people, so you can imagine my current frustration. i am still required to pass the piano proficiency, and i genuinely want to. i’ve always wanted to be halfway decent behind the ivories, and i want to truly earn the degree that belmont proudly uses to create wonderful musicians. most of my peers have passed this exam by this point in their four-year plan, but i’ve decided to take a vacation from piano classes until the spring semester of 2011 and practice independently until then. because piano is going to be so different for me now, it’s important to explore my current abilities and limits. currently, i’m starting from square one with scales.

i can proudly say that i am working on a method and have mastered the C, G, D, and A major scales. each scale presents a new challenge and the challenges of gracefully moving from white to black keys is much easier with ten fingers. also, i have to deprogram my mind from the original understanding of which fingers move together since i’m learning to play the scales with both hands.

relearning piano and relearning guitar bring completely different challenges and frustrations. guitar is difficult because i’m teaching my hands to do something that is unnatural (playing left-handed) and new (having zero callouses on my right hand after having several years worth on my left). having eight fingers does not play as large of a role in holding me back from learning. piano is different. it is not physically difficult to push a key, but my loss of two fingers seems to be screaming much louder when i try to learn a new scale. because each scale is different, i have to figure out what combination of 3, 2, 1, 2, 1…etc. i can play to get from one octave to the next. i am curious to see how i will progress with the rest of the scales. my goal is to have all of them mastered again by january. by then, i will be starting my first piano class since the accident. i’ll keep you updated!

nine months.

June 17, 2010

today marks nine months since the accident. i know i haven’t written in two months. i’m going to do what i usually do and blame it on homework. although, i am happy to report that i am six days away from being completely done with summer school! this means that i am home in indiana again. i am taking six credit hours at the local community college which will help me to keep a more sane level of course work when i go back to nashville in the fall. to clarify, i am not taking summer school so that i can “graduate on time.” the semester off last fall will have me graduating in december of 2012 instead of may, but that is within four years of schooling.

it is so good to be home. i am completely devoting this summer to relearning guitar and making music. i have been picking up the guitar more than ever now that i have more time on my hands, and i am starting to get more familiar with my old tricks. i am even writing a little bit more, which is extremely exciting. i have really struggled with the pressure of writing over the past nine months, but i am starting to learn how to let go of that. at first, i really struggled to write because i was afraid of having to write amazing, gut wrenching, post car accident songs. those may come, but i’ve learned that writing is a creative process that isn’t meant to be pushed into a mold. also, i had a lot of baggage with learning to write without my guitar skills as a firm foundation. before, i wrote within the limits of my guitar (which is a horrible place to be, even before a double digit amputation); and now, i’m learning to write without that limit. it is a much freer and a much more terrifying place to be as a writer, but i am anxious to see what songs may come of it.

being as it is nine months since the accident, i wanted to do something special, so i’ve included a photo of me playing left handed. sometime in the future, i’d like to do a video, but this should do for now. as you may be able to see, there is a little contraption clipped to the bottom of the sound hole.

playing left-handed with my new hand saddle!

just earlier this week, my dad fashioned a sort of saddle for my left hand to rest in. my dad is a genius. i was telling him that i was having trouble stabilizing my left hand for finger picking because i used my pinky against the frame of the guitar when i was playing right handed. it is difficult to see in the picture, but he essentially made me a device to stabilize my hand over the strings. i just started working with it earlier this week, so everything is really new. i will keep the blog updated to see how i progress with it. right now, it works great; however, my left hand doesn’t. so it will definitely take some practice.

as far as everything else goes…i’m doing pretty good. God has blessed me with the greatest family and friends anyone could ask for (yes, this means you!), and my PTSD isn’t as acute as it was earlier this year. i still get the occasional bad day, but God has taught me so much in this journey, and i am so blessed! i promise to update this blog FREQUENTLY this summer. once summer school is over (6 DAYS!) i will be nonstop music. i love you all, and thank you for all your support and prayers these past nine months!

two months.

November 20, 2009

two days ago marked two months since the day of my accident. people have asked me if the time has flown by. in a way it has, but it also seems like that day was so long ago. isn’t that how it always is? time does seem to move a lot faster when life isn’t all consumed the way mine used to be. i feel like a kid on summer vacation. yet so much has happened in the past two months, i feel like that day was a year ago. i guess it is good to report that my days are not dragging along. but the 17th of the month always seems a little longer.

the past month has thankfully been a little quieter. more physical therapy, no surgery. it’s strange looking back on the challenges from the past two months. the day of my wreck. losing one finger. the week at the hospital. living with my hand attached to my hip. losing another finger. going home to heal. getting acquainted with a new hand. teaching that new hand old tricks…and those are only physical challenges. there have been several mornings i have woke up to look at my hand, only to realize that my fingers are not coming back, and the challenges are not going away. when i dream, i have two whole, healthy hands. i guess there’s a part of me that is under the impression that my body is just going through a phase, like a fractured wrist, and i will heal and go back to the way things were.

i’m slowly learning to see my hand as my hand. i know one day it will feel natural and all, but i also know i’ll look back on this moment and be glad i left it behind. the past two months have been a sequence of events i never want to live again. i never want to go back to the days i had my flap. i never want to go back to the day i saw my hand in the mirror for the first time. i’m sure i will not want to go back to this moment, but i’ve learned we must live in the difficult moments we are in until we can look back and see how far we’ve come.

playing left-handed.

November 8, 2009

i’ve really been struggling with the loss of my music lately. now that i’m over the largest part of my immediate health struggle, i ache to do things i cannot.

my right hand doesn’t understand. i was listening to a new song by jason reeves with a beautiful guitar picking line. all i wanted to do at that moment was grab my guitar and pick the strings. (jason has this effect…check him out if you’re unfamiliar.) i miss playing my music. i took it for granted before all of this happened. it’s strange. i was never a singer-songwriter who constantly lived their instrument. it was my passion but it wasn’t ever something that i couldn’t go a while without. i could always go to it, and it would still be there. i rarely picked up my guitar just to play it. now it’s all i want to do.

for those of you who do not know, a wonderful friend blessed me with a left-handed guitar three days after my accident, while i was in the hospital. it has given me a lot of hope for my playing, but it frustrates me to know i will have to start over again after seven or so years of playing right-handed. the callouses that had formed on the fingertips of my left hand have softened to new skin. my right hand struggles to remember the form of the simplest chords. i wonder if i will get the fast-twitch muscle memory back in my left hand so i can pick the strings the way i used to.

i’ve been reading about other guitarists who suffer from hand disabilities and i came across an article on a guitarist with focal dystonia. apparently his ring and little finger are frozen, curled inward, without function. he switched to left-handed guitar, which is apparently about as easy as, ‘trying to breathe through your feet.’ i think this is hilarious, haha! but i am encouraged from the article. the man says you have to be willing to sound awful. this is huge for me, because i often get frustrated when i’m not picking up a skill immediately. (for my fellow music majors – case in point: ear training.) but i think this is good advice, especially for me. one thing that assures me is my constant desire to play now. i think it will get the guitar in my hands until it works. i hope it does…please pray for my patience.

moving forward.

November 5, 2009

i am happy to report i am healing very well. much has changed since my last post. i’m sorry it has been so long…see now how much i procrastinated as a student?

my last post (three weeks ago) had me in a soft cast the week after my second amputation. the soft cast served to keep my hand immobilized to protect my new skin graft. i went back down to vanderbilt on october 20th for my post op. they removed the cast, revealing my new hand to me for the first time. the medical technician told me i handled the situation better than ninety percent of his patients. this may be true, but after dealing with a groin flap every night for two and a half weeks, i feel like i’ve seen it all. and there is a lot of truth there. i had been preparing for that day for a long time. in all honesty, the most prominent emotion i was feeling at that moment was relief. my skin graft looked healthy. i was done with surgery for a while. i made the right decision for stage #6. i could move on.

one particular new struggle of the day was the ‘go go go’ my surgeon kept speaking of. translation: physical therapy. my middle and ring finger had essentially been immobilized for a month. they were stuck in a slightly bent curve. i could neither extend nor touch my thumb to my finger tips. my surgeon prescribed six weeks of PT, three times a week. fortunately i have been able to carry out the doctor’s orders here in columbus.

two weeks later i am not only touching my fingertips with my thumb but i am also gripping things, such as: a glass of water, my contact case, my hair (to tie it back), etc. this has been one of my greatest victories. it has been a challenge to be so completely one-handed. i’ve gotten extremely creative. i use the crook of my left elbow to grip bottles while my right hand twists off the cap. if that doesn’t work, i’ll try squeezing it between my knees or feet. haha! i have become much more independent, which is particularly exciting for me. although, the forced dependance i have endured this past month and a half has probably been a once in a lifetime experience.

i spent the entire past week in nashville as my roommate’s guest so i could sing with session and chorale in their fall concerts. (if you are not belmont savvy, session is an all women’s a cappella group that arranges all of their own music…we also happen to be amazing. chorale is a classical mixed ensemble. also amazing.) both groups have been so generous to keep me involved and it was so wonderful to be on stage again making music. it was a little strange being back at first. i had been separated from the campus for so long, i felt like a high school senior on a college visit. however, everyone was so welcoming and i am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful place.

i still have a long way to go. the grip i have is often too weak. i still cannot make a fist. i still cannot straighten my fingers. but physical therapy has been going extremely well and i am eager to see how i will progress. in addition to soreness in my stiff fingers, i have been struggling from phantom pains (pain in my amputated fingers despite their absence.) it’s a very strange sensation, but overall my pain has been very tollerable. the spreading incision line i complained of in my last post is almost completely healed. all of my stitches have been removed and all the scabbing is gone. i still have some bandaging, but i have come so far. each new menial task i am able to complete on my own is a huge victory.

again, i am so grateful for the continual prayers.

it’s okay.

October 15, 2009

this morning i woke up to get the dressing changed on my graft site (which happens to be right underneath my flap incision…also in need of gauze and tape). my incision line is splitting. it’s not bleeding, but scar tissue is visible. common sense told my parents and i splitting incision lines weren’t good, so we took a few photos and sent them to my surgeon. i laid in bed all day waiting to hear back from him, worried i would split in two. i did absolutely nothing all day. well, i watched cory and topanga get married on youtube, but i did nothing. turns out, when someone gets this much of a nip and tuck, splitting incision lines are normal…a part of the healing process.

crazy isn’t it? somehow, the exact opposite of what i thought was healing for my body…is okay.

two days from now marks one month since the accident. i’m not really sure where i am. some days i am great. some days i am not. some days i’m going to wake up feeling pulled together. some days i’m going to feel ripped apart. i’ve come to learn that nothing in this healing process is certain. i went through a groin flap procedure and all i have to show for it is a splitting scar on my body. however, because the flap failed, i may gain more function in my hand. i have no idea how splitting equals healing. we’ll see.

sometimes the exact opposite of what we think we need…is okay.