Page 3 of 3   <      

Force of will propels Md. woman's recovery after quadruple amputation

Quadruple amputee Cheryl Douglass and her friend Vera Foresman, a professional chef, are writing a cookbook for people with prosthetic hands.

She has already played tennis, albeit just volleys from a wheeled walker.

"I may not run after many balls, but I'll play again," she says.

She and Paul moved from Chevy Chase D.C. to a one-story apartment just off Wisconsin Avenue. They have already vacationed in Hawaii and California, where she was fitted for updated prosthetics. (She ordered an extra inch to her legs, boosting her to nearly 5-foot-6.) They are thinking of a cruise on the Adriatic next year.

Earlier this month, Cheryl was awarded NRH's annual Victory Award for "exemplifying exceptional strength and courage in the face of physical adversity." (Past recipients have included Stevie Wonder, Bob Dole and Patricia Neal.)

"You only see a patient like Cheryl once or twice in your career, to have such devastating injuries and to bounce back like this," says Alexander Dromerick, chief of rehabilitation at both Georgetown and NRH. He credits Cheryl's positive disposition and a deep support team. "Her husband has been amazing."

Paul, a newly minted expert in prosthetic technology, health insurance arcana and ways to bake a chicken breast, says he is awed by his wife's progress.

"I would say you can do at least 90 percent of what you could have before," he says.

She considers.

"Maybe 80 percent," Cheryl says. "There are lots of things that are still very difficult."

It can all be frustrating, she admits, the slow walking, the chronic skin irritations around her prosthetics, the food wasted in spills and mistakes. She still spontaneously catapults the odd bite of food from her fork. But her can-do reflexes are strong.

"Whenever stuff like that happens, her typical reaction is to laugh and say 'Oh, well,' " says Claire. "Her sense of humor is totally intact."

Like a lot of Thanksgiving cooks, Cheryl is already looking past the coming holiday feasts to the subsequent need for aerobic recovery. On her to-do list for next year: Acquire some good jogging feet.

"I never was a big runner, but I guess I will be now," she says. "I have to stay in shape."

<          3

© 2010 The Washington Post Company