When I became an amputee I was given plenty of pamphlets on what to expect. I knew about phantom pain and that I would need to relearn how to walk. I even had a basic idea about what prosthetics were available at the time. But there were numerous things I was never told (or never listened to, I WAS a teenager at the time). Here are some of the things I wish I knew from the start:
- Confidence goes a long way. For one, you need confidence in yourself and your prosthetic to be able to walk, run, climb, dance, etc. But the most important thing that confidence does is throw away the worries and doubts about others opinions. You may still be limping, but you embrace it so that it’s not as big a deal to YOU. This isn’t something that happens overnight, but over time.
- People are staring because they are curious. I used to be bothered by people staring at me, I felt like a freak and like I was being judged. Over time, I learned that most people are simply curious. For one, prosthetics are pretty cool looking (even cooler looking with a UNYQ prosthetic cover!) and a lot of people have never seen them before out in the wild. If someone stares, try to keep that in mind.
- There are plenty of weirdos out there. Devotees fetishize amputations and there seems to be a crew of them that prowl amputees on social media. NO ONE seems to tell new amputees about these folks or how to deal with them. The “ignore and/or block” method has been very helpful for me, along with locking down social media so only people I personally know are connected as friends.
The Amputee Coalition Conference is one of my favorite events of the year. I love getting to hang out with friends and make new ones!
- Your prosthetist can be your biggest supporter or your biggest obstacle. My first prosthetist was a nice guy overall, but he did not listen and was not interested in trying new things. When I realized my prosthetic was not helping me progress and wanted to try something new, he was against the idea. Ultimately I switched to another prosthetist who was willing to try new things and I still see him 15 years later. He’s even the one that looked into UNYQ’s covers when I requested more information. A great prosthetist is priceless!
- Peer support is worth its weight in gold. When I lost my leg I felt like the only teenager in the world with a prosthetic. Luckily, I was able to attend the Amputee Coalition youth camp where I met other kids and teens with amputations. We pushed each other to try new things, shared funny stories, and provided helpful tips. Later in life I met others through my prosthetist and physical therapist and recently started going back to amputee conferences. Being around other amputees helps you realize you are not alone, and often they will help you realize your full potential.
- Look at as many inspiring stories as you want, but put it away if it starts to make you feel bad. Really this piece of advice can apply to all individuals, but I think even more so for amputees. As a teen I was bombarded with pictures and stories about adaptive athletes, who are incredible, but it made me feel a bit inadequate because I was never an athlete. Active, yes, athlete, no. While it is great to read inspiring stories about amazing people what is most important is to realize it is ok to be YOU.
- You don’t have to be an athlete to be active. Get out there and walk around! Dance in your living room! Flail your arms like an inflatable tube man! Anything that gets your blood pumping is going to improve your well-being. I even recently tried out Adaptive CrossFit at the 2016 Amputee Coalition National Conference!
Being active is important to me. Hiking (and taking time to enjoy the view) is one of my favorite activities!
- Carry extra supplies. Sometimes all you need to do when something feels weird is take your limb off, and more than likely you’re going to want to put it back on! If you use liquid or lotion type items most can be kept in a travel size container. For air travel I always keep vital leg gear in my personal bag to avoid worry about lost items.
- Leg farts are hilarious. I’m not kidding. Every time I put my leg on a little bit of trapped air needs to get out of the socket. This inevitably results in what I fondly call a “leg fart.” They are absolutely hilarious. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar and hates fun.
The road to recovery is long and hard, but it certainly is not impossible. My journey has been possible because I believe in myself, surround myself with supportive people and have learned a few tricks along the way. If you’re a new amputee, feel free to ask questions here and if you have advice, please contribute!