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Roxy's resolutions

Roxy Mueller's New Year's resolutions aren't just a January tradition. She makes resolutions every day.

After 15 months dealing with the loss of both legs below the knee, eight fingers and most of both thumbs, Mueller says, "I've decided there's nothing I can't do, it just depends on how long I want to wait."

The 53-year-old Cottage Grove resident and former school bus driver contracted bacterial meningitis that nearly killed her in October 2008. She left the hospital in January 2009 with one goal for the year -- to dance with her son at his wedding in August.

She reached that goal and has set a new one for 2010 -- to learn to drive again.

"I'm always looking for an alternative to former activities," she said in a recent interview. "Ziploc bags are a challenge, so I changed to the bags with glides. I can cook now but can't pour.

"My favorite activities were sewing and gardening," she said. "I can thread a needle and have begun sewing simple wall hangings. I plan to start gardening this spring and I've learned to write again. I also had to devise a new technique for using a walker since I don't have fingers for gripping.

"It's called 'finding a new norm,'" Mueller said.

While she's learned to use her first set of prosthetic legs, Mueller said she would receive new ones soon; the old ones don't fit as well. And, her feet are being recalled, she said. "They squeak when I walk."

She's not in a hurry to buy prosthetic fingers, however. "They're not as reliable and cost $10,000 each," Mueller said. "I've found new ways to do many things now, I'm not rushing into new fingers. I'll wait for the more advanced and road-tested models."

Mueller is considering becoming a motivational speaker. "There's too much life to live," she said. "It's too easy to curl up in the corner and give up."

Before her illness, Mueller said she probably would have thought there's no way someone can live without fingers and legs.

"But everyone has some problem they're fighting, you can just see mine," she said. "I don't want to be defined by what was taken away, I just look a little different."

When she has low points, Mueller said she turns to humor or sometimes just has a good cry to release the tension.

Kindness counts

In late April, friends, neighbors and colleagues of the Mueller family held a benefit fundraiser to help pay medical bills.

"More than 600 people attended," Mueller said. "It was phenomenal. People came we didn't even know. Thanks are due to so many."

She and her husband Leo have been to similar fundraisers since April. "It's important to go even if you don't know the family," Mueller said. "People don't realize how important those little things are -- opening the door for someone who needs help, benefits. People have been extremely giving."