inMotion Magazine

March | April 2018 26 Living With Limb Loss MY ROAD TO I was asked recently: “How did you become an advocate?” “Good question,” I thought. As a new above‑knee amputee, I had no ambitions to be an advocate for anybody but myself. I simply wanted to return home and go back to work. However, two short months after my amputation, the trajectory of my life changed. I was asked to meet with a new double amputee who was down in the dumps and wasn’t interested in getting better. Frankly, the thought was a bit frightening, especially because I didn’t even understand all the jargon. What’s an AKA? What does bilateral mean? Why me? I reluctantly agreed. I wondered and worried. What was I going to say? Where would we meet? (At my home, I was told.) As his family transferred the man into a wheelchair, I walked out to greet them. I noticed as I led them into my house, there were three sets of eyes riveted on my shiny new C-Leg and not me. The questions started before we even sat down. Replying was a relief. It meant that my secret (the fact that I was clueless about what else to say) was safe. The peer visit was a success. Step One – What had not been noted until now was the transformation that occurred to me. I became an advocate for someone else and it felt good. Really good. Only much later did I understand that when helping others, it heals oneself, too. I had taken my first step on the road to advocacy. All I could think about was arranging as many peer visits as possible. I learned quickly, however, that one-on-one peer visits were too few and far between. Step Two – I shifted my thinking to activities that would reach many amputees at once by helping my support group facilitators. I developed forms to more easily capture new attendees’ contact info. Gently (I hope), I nagged them to send reminder emails before every meeting. And I never missed an opportunity to promote the group to new attendees. “Please return so we can celebrate your progress; soon, you will be helping others,” I told them. And it worked. In my early days, attendance was sometimes as low as two or three people. Today, the group averages 25 to 40 people. And not just amputees. Many loved ones attend, too. Herb Kolodny and fellow graduate from Partners in Policymaking, Tara Frey.