The first time I was invited to an Amputee Coalition Conference, I had no idea what the Amputee Coalition was, let alone what such a conference would entail. I had recently been given the opportunity to do patient advocacy work with my prosthetic care provider, and was asked to join them for their exhibit hall booth and a breakout session. Heck yeah, why not? I thought. Even though I’ve been an amputee for quite some time, I’d only met a handful of other amputees and was seriously starting to question whether we were an endangered species – Were there other people like me out there?! My question was answered immediately upon setting foot in the exhibit hall. There were over 800 people in attendance at that conference – 2011 in Kansas City – most of them were amputees! A moment I’ll never forget took place at the exhibit booth of the company I was representing. I was working alongside a young woman who also happened to be a bilateral above the knee amputee. We were making small talk and I remember feeling kind of awkward because I wasn’t sure exactly HOW these sorts of conversations were supposed to go – what do amputees even talk about? After a few minutes, she asked “So how did you lose your legs?” “I was born without tibias, missing my shin bones” I responded. What she said next dropped my jaw – “Me too” Up until that moment, I’d never met another person who was missing their legs because of the same genetic condition. I’ll never forget that moment, as it was the first time I truly realized I wasn’t alone as an amputee.
If you’ve never been to an Amputee Coalition National Conference, the aforementioned story is just a tiny bit of insight into the types of meaningful moments and memories that are formed at one of the amputee community’s most highly-anticipated annual events. If you’re considering going, you might be asking yourself some questions like
“What’s it going to be like?”
“Who’s it for exactly?”
“Is it even any fun?”
“Should I go?”
I want to help you answer those today!
“What’s it going to be like?”
The Amputee Coalition National Conference is everything you can possibly imagine and so much more. This year, I was lucky enough to join the conference as a member of the Amputee Coalition’s social media team, so I got to experience a little bit of everything! From the moment you walk in the building, you’ll start seeing individuals with all sorts of different amputations and limb differences – these are your people! There are breakout sessions throughout each day of the conference, on any subject you can think of (and some that make you go “Hmm… Never thought of that…”) – from sessions dedicated to specific levels of limb loss, to daily living and exercise, to relationship + intimacy panels! The exhibit hall is packed end-to-end with companies and organizations dedicated to improving your life as an amputee! For the duration of the conference, everywhere you look, there will be someone like you! I can’t emphasize how incredibly cool this feeling is!
“Who exactly is it for?”
So yeah, it’s the AMPUTEE Coalition Conference – there’s gonna amputees and people with limb differences there, in case you hadn’t heard. While people with amputations and other limb differences make up the vast majority of conference attendees, it’s not some “cool kids club” where you can’t come if you’re not missing a limb. Caregivers, advocates, manufacturers of prosthetic components, care providers, and pretty much anyone else with an active interest in the amputee community should be in attendance! The 2017 Amputee Coalition National Conference had a record-breaking 1245 attendees and we’re looking forward to even more next year!
“Is it even any fun?”
Ok, I’ll admit, I had my apprehensions at first. The conference in Kansas City was my first time seeing any real quantity of individuals with amputations/limb difference and I had no idea what to expect. What do other amputees do? What do they talk about? Are they going to be friendly or are they all grumpy because they’re missing legs (or arms)? These were all honest questions that ran through my mind before the conference began. Amputees are hands down the most fun group to be around, in any setting. I’ve attended conferences wearing several different “hats” – education, personal training, marketing, and none of them can hold a candle to the endless amounts of fun had by amputees! I mean, seriously, where else are you going to see anything like this..
“Should I go to Tucson?”
I won’t twist your arm or tell you what to do, but I will say that the Amputee Coalition National Conference is an experience you will not regret. I firmly believe it is something that every amputee (and caregiver) should experience at some point in their journey. There’s legitimately no other adventure quite like a trip to the National Conference! The breakout sessions will leave you inspired and informed, the exhibit hall will open your eyes to new technologies and possibilities for your life. Most of all, though, your life will be forever changed by the people you meet and the memories you form. The Conference is your once-a-year chance to experience the indescribable feeling of truly being a “person among people” – YOUR PEOPLE!
See you in Tucson!
Learn more about the Amputee Coalition Conference
About the Author:
Trevor Bunch is a bilateral above knee amputee, personal fitness coach, and athlete. Physical activity has always been a passion of his, and he has put that passion to use by helping coach other amputees at all stages of their journey. Whether it’s motivation/mindset coaching, exercise or nutrition instruction, Trevor is always happy to help those who reach out to him maximize their physical potential!