Quadruple Amputee Writes Cookbook for People With Prosthetics

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A quadruple amputee's writing a cookbook for people with prosthetics. (Published Friday, Nov 26, 2010)

    Every so often, life presents us with little challenges. For a Friendship Heights woman used to living life on her terms, life threw her a big challenge.

    Cheryl Douglass lost both arms and legs to an infection, but she said this Thanksgiving, she has a lot for which to be thankful.

    Douglass always loved being in the kitchen, eating her favorite French foods and cooking for Thanksgiving. But these days, all that takes a little more effort.

    "Trial and error. It's problem solving nearly every time I do something,” she said. “But it's becoming easier now that I've been doing it."

    She is doing it with mechanical hands. Two years ago, a violent strep infection forced doctors to amputate her arms below the elbow and her legs below the knee. She spent months in a coma. But when she woke up, there was no time for sorrow.

    "I never felt like I wouldn't get back," Douglass told NBC Washington. "I always just assumed that somehow or another I would be walking and doing things again."

    At 62 years old, Douglass was outfitted with prosthetics and took to the task of starting her new life. She learned to walk again -- first in a swimming pool.

    "That was quite great. No. 1 because I had not stood erect in like three or four months at that point," Douglass said.

    But within weeks she took to sidewalks and even steps. Now, Douglass walks quite well and is back in the kitchen where things don't always come easily -- but they do come.

    "I have to think to tell my arm to open my hand because I still have the same nerves," she said. "So I say, 'Open my hand,' and my hand opens. I say, 'Close my hand,' and my hand closes."

    Douglass is now taking her cooking to a new level. With a friend, she's working on a cookbook for people with prosthetics or limited hand function.

    "We're simplifying recipes so that they'll still be flavorful but not as much in and out of the pan," she said

    While Douglass has a hard time with the word, she's thankful that her fight and her triumphs can be inspirational.

    "At one time, somebody said, ‘Oh, you're a miracle.’ Well, I can go with miracle because it's sort of a miracle that I'm alive and that I've been able to do as much as I’ve been able to do,” she said.

    This month, Douglass received the National Rehabilitation Hospital's Victory Award for exceptional strength and courage in the face of physical adversity, joining the likes of Stevie Wonder and Bob Dole.