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Published December 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

‘More to life than legs’

Amputations haven’t stopped Doris Eidem
For some, losing both legs might mean quitting a lot of life’s daily tasks. But for 90-year-old Doris Eidem, instead of quitting, she quilts.

By: Kelly Smith, The Forum

For some, losing both legs might mean quitting a lot of life’s daily tasks. But for 90-year-old Doris Eidem, instead of quitting, she quilts.

“I always say hard work never hurt anybody,” she said. “It’s too bad I lost my legs, but I won’t let it get me down.”

Doctors had to amputate Eidem’s right leg about nine years ago due to complications from poor circulation.

“I was hoping I could keep this one,” she said pointing to her left leg. “They tried.”

A month later, though, Doris had her 22nd surgery – losing her left leg, too.

“How can you ever live without your legs?” she asked herself then.

The adamantly independent 90-year-old has found a way.

Against the suggestions of her four children, she decided against moving to an assisted living home. She was determined to stay in her farmhouse home of 60-plus years.

“Still here,” she said looking at her daughter with teasing, wide blue eyes. “I told you so.”

It’s the land where she and her late husband, Lloyd, raised their family – about 10 miles south of where she attended a one-room school and grew up with 10 siblings.

Lloyd was – like her – a persistent, hard worker. He focused on the fields of soybeans or barley or beets.

“We never could go on vacation,” she said.

So about 10 years ago, when Eidem’s husband of more than 50 years died at age 76, she was determined to go on.

“She’s happy here,” said her daughter, Marge Lee, 61, of Moorhead. “She’s always been very independent (and) she has a very sharp mind. I just admire that she’s pretty much taken care of herself.”

Veering around in her wheelchair, Eidem easily navigates her house and still tries to garden outside.

Lee stops in once a week to go shopping or to pick up groceries with her. And her son, Terry, lives only yards away with his wife. He also helps.

While her surgeries signaled a loss of some independence, Eidem learned to adjust.

For a woman who has lost a lot, she has also gained a lot in perspective and resilience.

“I learned there’s more to life than legs,” she laughed. “I’m so happy it wasn’t my arms or my eyes.”

The quilts she works on help keep her going. They help her stay true to her vow that no loss will get her down.

“To me, it shows she still has her mind (and) she still can do things productively,” son Terry said of her quilt-making.

Eidem is at her sewing machine every day by 8 a.m., crafting colorful patchwork quilts – she can finish one in three days, she says – and then it’s back to bed by 8.

“I’ve quilted since I was a little girl,” she said. “I quilt because it’s something I can do. It makes so many people happy.”

Eidem celebrated her 90th birthday in June among family – besides her children, she has seven surviving younger siblings, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren in all.

“That’s where a lot of the quilts go,” she said with a smile.

She’s made far more than 200 quilts. She danced at her grandson’s wedding last winter, twirling around in her wheelchair. And she loves to peer out her kitchen window to watch her son and grandson work around the family farm.

“She’s remarkable,” Terry said. “A lot of people would have said, ‘I can’t do that,’ and quit. She didn’t give up.”

“She’s a fighter,” he added. “She’s an inspiration to all to keep on.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515