April is Limb Loss Awareness Month, and it’s all about telling our story. Individual stories of loss and recovery, stories about the Amputee Coalition and stories about how we move on with life after limb loss.
Everyone’s story is unique. I’ve heard many of them over the years, each one as interesting as it is important. Increasing awareness about limb loss is as easy as starting a conversation and telling your story. Who needs to hear your story? Professionals, legislators, friends and others who need encouragement.
My limb loss “awareness” began when I met a Vietnam veteran and amputee in the health club where I worked. He could use most of the equipment – we just needed to find ways to accommodate for his lower-limb amputation. Not many years after that encounter, I was involved in an accident at work that crushed my foot and resulted in a below-knee amputation. Limb loss awareness became a personal experience for me, and that was a much different experience. I went from observer to participant and I wasn’t ready – none of us are. Knowing I had survived, when I might not have, was consolation but it still left me with many questions about how I would go on. It took time for the healing of my body and mind but it left me with an awareness that we are all built to cope with tragedy, adapt to change and, in time, move on with our new normal in the light of each new day.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long until I became aware that there are lots of people, professionals, and other amputees who wanted to help me move on with my life after amputation. They relayed their stories of how they moved on after their losses and encouraged me in a way that no one else could.
A few years later, I realized that I wanted to help others keep going after limb loss as well. I began telling my story and leading a local support group. Not long after that, I went back to college; when I graduated I was given the opportunity to work in the professions that got me going again after my loss: physical therapy and prosthetics.
In the process of helping others, I became aware that not everyone could get what they needed to move on after limb loss. I met another amputee by the name of Tony Barr, who shared my passion for helping amputees get what need. Together, we started an assistance fund that provided prosthetic limbs for those who could not afford them. The more I told that story, the more people we were able to help as the word spread.
Through it all, I’ve become aware that our own stories change over time as we grow, learn and overcome the obstacles in our way. Each time we tell our story along the way, we get to look back and see how far we’ve come and perhaps dream about how far we’ll go.