Amputee Coalition Provides Grey's Anatomy With Insight Into Limb Loss and the Journey to Recovery
The Amputee Coalition is working with ABC's Grey's Anatomy to provide insight into limb loss and the journey to recovery and readjustment. Now in its ninth season, the producers of the top television drama have written into its storyline the leg amputation of one of its main characters following an airplane crash.
"This is the first time on national television that viewers will be shown the arduous journey following amputation," said Kendra Calhoun, president & CEO of the Amputee Coalition, the leading national nonprofit organization working to ensure that amputees do not go through this difficult period of recovery and readjustment alone.
"We applaud the producers of Grey's Anatomy for raising awareness of limb loss by writing into its storyline the leg amputation of a main character, and for actively striving to ensure the portrayal is as realistic and authentic as possible," Calhoun added.
Calhoun said that the show's producer contacted the Coalition this summer, asking for help in arranging what essentially amounted to an extended peer visit via phone between actress Jessica Capshaw, who plays new amputee Dr. Arizona Robbins, and an amputee who had gone through limb loss due to trauma. Since then, Capshaw has had regular conversations with Peggy Chenoweth, a below-knee amputee who is the Coalition's social media coordinator, about what happens after limb loss and what to expect emotionally and physically. In addition, the show has interviewed Dr. Jeff Cain, a past board member of the Coalition, who is a family practice physician and bilateral amputee.
"More and more amputees are in the media, which is positive because it shows people living well with limb loss," said Marshall J. Cohen, chairman of the board of directors for the Amputee Coalition. "The Coalition urges accurate portrayal of amputees in the media, and we are a strong advocate for amputees to play amputees in Hollywood and on Broadway. Of course, on Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Arizona Robbins is an established character and it would be unrealistic to expect the show to replace Jessica Capshaw with another actress who is an actual amputee."
Cohen, himself an amputee, said that, ideally, every new amputee would get a peer visit and educational resources before leaving the hospital. He explained that the Coalition has 1,000 certified peer visitors across the nation and more than 260 local support groups in its national network. He also said the Coalition has the country's largest repository of information on living well with limb loss and that it is a leading advocate to ensure fair access and continued investment in medical innovations and technology.
"We've worked hard to get insurance coverage for arms and legs passed in 20 states, and we have 30 more to go." Cohen said. "We are also working on the federal level for passage of fair insurance coverage because we believe that arms and legs are not a luxury."
Calhoun explained that 2 million people are living with limb loss in the United States today. Of those living with limb loss, nearly 45 percent lost their limb due to trauma.
"Each day, more than 500 Americans have an amputation," said Calhoun. "Part of the Amputee Coalition's mission is to promote limb loss prevention. While some limb loss can't be prevented, the leading cause of amputations is actually from complications due to diabetes and vascular diseases, which means that many amputations could be prevented. The Coalition is working to reach those currently at risk for limb loss."