TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

TBI Tales: One Usable Hand

Living With One Usable Hand


Dorothy Mah Poh Choo

(presented by Donna O’Donnell Figurski)


As a hemiplegic, I have one usable hand. It’s definitely very challenging. To carry on with life, I had to find new ways of doing things. I lost my job when I could not return to work full-time. Though I live with my children, I am home alone during the day when they go to work.

I learnt that the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” is true. Creative thinking can find new solutions to old ways. Besides finding new ways, I also use many aids, the most useful of which is a portable trolley. With it, I can carry things around. I found a one-touch can opener, which does the job with just one press of a button.th-1

The fingers of my remaining hand can do much more than before. I can hang socks on a peg carousel with one hand. Using a peg system I invented, I hang towels and small items on an airer. (It was most frustrating trying to hang undies before that.) I still do most indoor house chores. Washing dishes is very noisy, but I do my best.

My best achievement is putting the bread clip back onto the bread bag, after an occupational therapist I asked in rehab told me it couldn’t be done with one hand. It is important to acknowledge all achievements, no matter how small.

Cutting Board with NailsI cut meat and vegetables using a special cutting board with nails in one corner to hold the item. I butter bread using a special board with raised sides that hold the bread in place. I open jars by pressing down on an anti-slip mat, which stops the jar from moving. There are mats everywhere. There is one where I eat so the plate doesn’t move around. I cook using a heavier pan so it doesn’t turn round and round from stir-frying. I use the gas burner closest to the wall so that the pan doesn’t fall off the stove onto me.

Doing things with one hand is a matter of breaking the activity down into individual steps. For example, to put a cup into the cupboard, I open the cupboard door, get the cup, then put it into the cupboard. Before I had only one good hand, I would just take the cup, open the door with one hand, and put the cup in with the other hand.207041972

Of course, some results won’t be as good as they would be using two hands. I have accepted that and learnt to laugh at myself. Folding clothes takes double the time now and results in a messy pile. Wrapping presents is a sloppy task. After I lost my left arm, I wrapped presents for the last time at the end of that year. I handed the “wrapped” presents to my friends saying, “Sorry – not my best effort. It’s a one-handed job”. LOL! Life is better when you are laughing.

Doing things with only one hand takes a lot of patience and determination. I keep trying until I do it. I’m also very safety conscious. If I can work out in my mind to do something safely, I will do it. Waiting for someone else to do something can be quite frustrating. (I don’t like sitting on leather chairs – it’s cold. I had an old doona on the electric recliner I sleep in. It kept slipping off, and it annoyed me terribly. I had the brilliant idea to sew one end so it would slip over the chair like a cover. I asked my daughter to do it, but she was very busy, and the days stretched on. I got up one morning, helpplanned everything in my head, took some measurements, threaded the needle using a needle-threader, and off I went. The work took four hours, but I did it. My daughter didn’t notice it for weeks, until I pointed out that she didn’t need to do it for me anymore. She was impressed.)

Most things are possible if you put your mind to it. If something is truly hard, ask for help. It is not worth it to get hurt.

I have learnt that success is just one more try after failure. Life is worth living. Don’t give up.


Thank you, Dorothy, for sharing your story in TBI Tales. I hope that your experience will offer inspiration to my readers.

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the author.)


If you have a story to share and would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please submit your TBI Tale to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com. I will publish as many stories as I can.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)


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Comments on: "TBI Tales: One Usable Hand" (6)

  1. Mary Jo schaffer said:

    You are awesome you have me to move on more than ever thnk you !


    • Lisa Ross,

      Thanks for reposting. I hope that folks on your site will benefit from Dorothy Mah Poh Choo’s story.

      Donna O’Donnell Figurski


  2. who’s Dorothy mah poh choo?


  3. lol omg i hate my memory!


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