Stump Kitchen: Born An Amputee (AMNIOTIC Band Syndrome)
Hi, I'm Alexis. I experienced amniotic band syndrome in the womb, so I was born with a congenital amputation on my left arm. Well, maybe 'amputation' isn't actually the best word to describe my limb difference, because I never really had a whole arm to begin with. What the doctors think happened was that when I was developing inside my mom, a piece of amniotic tissue got caught around my left forearm and stunted the growth of my arm. This really was their best guess in the eighties. Nobody actually knows what really happened, and I kind of like the mystery :)
One of my favourite stories growing up involves a sweaty ball bit at chuck E Cheese. It was my birthday - I think I was turning 10 or something - and I had a myoelectric prosthetic arm. It was battery powered and had electrodes that touched my muscles, and by moving my arm a certain way I could open and close the hand. It was great for party tricks. But on that fateful day in the ball pit, I guess I was just having too much fun, and my arm slipped right off my hot and sweaty 10 year old body. All I remember is my not-so-pleased dad digging around lost socks, old bandaids, and plastic balls to try and rescue my (extremely expensive) arm. Once it was saved, he handed it to my mom through the mesh of the ball pit and she casually popped it into her purse, with the hand sitting just outside the opening, as if it was waving it everyone behind her.
A few decades (and a few more fake arms) later, I am the proud creator of a YouTube show called Stump Kitchen, which celebrates limb difference, body diversity, and disability through cooking! I discovered a love for cooking and working with ingredients when I started cooking for myself after becoming vegan, and I noticed that I used my stump naturally as a kitchen tool - a juicer, a masher, as a spatula, you name it! This whole process helped me fall in love with this awesome part of myself that I had kind of forgotten about in my adulthood (yes, sometimes I even forget I have one hand!) I also swear, wear sweatpants, and don't give a shit about dropping or burning stuff! Now Stump Kitchen is a building a beautiful community and audience of folks just discovering how to exist in the world with a limb difference, or any type of disability. It's a safe place to try out vegan cooking, because that can be kind of a daunting thing! It's creating representation of diverse bodies in the media, which we desperately meed more of. It's what I get to do with my life now, and I am so. damn. grateful.
Photos: Natalee Faith Photography