According to the national Amputee Coalition (www.amputee-Coalition.org), there are nearly 2 million people living in the United States with limb loss. Of those, about 65% have a lower limb amputation. On average, there are more than 132,000 new lower limb amputations each year.
It’s interesting to note the major causes of just the lower limb amputations. 50% are the result of non diabetes related vascular disease, 36% are a result of diabetes related vascular disease, 13% are the result of trauma (accidental or combat related), 1% are attributed to cancer.
As the Coalition states, “regardless of the cause, the prospect of losing a limb can be overwhelming, frightening and emotionally devastating. In many cases there is no choice or time to prepare.”
In my own case, at age 73, after dealing with stage 4 prostate cancer for 15+ years, several very serious infections had occurred in both of my ankles and feet. I had one foot in an orthotic brace and was told amputation of the other lower leg/foot was an absolute necessity.
I woke up after surgery realizing that I had only one “real” foot, nothing below my other knee except a small flap of skin and flesh. After a short post surgical stay in the hospital, and 2 weeks in a rehab facility, I began work with a prosthetist and soon was fitted with my first “artificial leg.”
All the professionals said the appropriate positive things. My wife and children were also very supportive, but in my own head it was “overwhelming, frightening and emotionally devastating.”
So many questions that I didn’t even know enough to ask! The underlying fear: How was I going to be viewed by occasional acquaintances or strangers? Would I be able to drive, walk, golf again? Would I be “disabled” or “handicapped” permanently?
It was after I joined a new amputee support group being organized and moderated by my physical therapist, Dr. Bethany Nelson at ProHealth, Peachtree City, that I got to meet other people who had to deal with the same types of questions.
It was very reassuring to hear the stories of the other members. Some were younger, some were closer to my age. There were both male and female members, some married, some not. Everyone’s stories had some similarities and some differences from mine. Some had suggestions that were beneficial to me, while others had questions that I could offer suggestions for.
The bottom line was that in the presence of the group, we all felt a certain “normality” not necessarily felt in a “normal” situation. This is the reason I am writing to you at this time, to offer this opportunity to other amputees who may live in this area.
The PTC Amputee Support Group meets once a month, currently the first Tuesday of the month, 7-8:30 pm at the ProHealth facility at 1777 Georgian Park, Peachtree City, GA 30269, 770-487-1931, www.prohealthga.com.
The group was formed about 1 1/2 years ago by our moderator, Bethany Nelson, PT, DPT – Vestibular Specialist, Amputee Rehab Specialist; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
She has almost 20 years experience, much of it devoted to developing skills and knowledge in amputee rehabilitation. Bethany teaches Prosthetic Rehab to graduate-level PT students at GSU and at Mercer University.
There is no charge and plenty of free parking that is easy to handle for those who have difficulty walking. We have had people attend from Fayette County, Coweta County and even from Spalding County. We only ask that if someone is planning to attend, they call or email either Bethany or me so that we can have enough chairs, etc., set up ahead of time.
Peachtree City, Ga.