Helpful Hints for New Amputees

By John Doyle (ACDoylefan

Here are some tips, in no particular order of importance, taken from JohnDoyle's AmpuChat Newsletter.

1.     Try to talk to another amputee with the same level of amputation, age,activity level etc. You'll be dealing with many emotional issues. Trynot to be a "woe is me" type. Don't let emotional issues get to you.You can get sympathy from family and friends. But family andfriends can't provide relevant information, tips, and the kind ofcamaraderie you can get from fellow amputees. To find otheramputees check with your doctor, nurses, hospital, rehab center, orprosthetist.

2.     Don't do anything along medical lines without consulting aprofessional. If their advice sounds "weird" you should get a secondor third opinion from other reliable sources.

3.     Place commonly needed items in easy reach. Keep frequently usedfood on the lower shelves of the refrigerator. "Reach & grab" tools areinexpensive and are available through several rehabilitation andtherapy mail order sources.

4.     Explain to your family and friends that, when you need help, you'llask for it - and then ask when you need it! No one is trulyindependent. We don't grow our own food; we depend on farmers.We don't build our own furniture, refrigerators or cars; we buy them,have them made, or get them serviced by others. We are all       interdependent!.

5.     All major changes take time to adjust to. Don't give up! All of us (notjust amputees) feel blue now and then. Sometimes we go to our pity-party but then we come home again. However, do not hesitate to seekprofessional help if you're becoming very depressed. Reluctance toseek help can be dangerous.

6.     Regardless of the reason for your amputation, get on with your life.Ignore apparently well meaning people who say things such as, "Iknew a person who lost both arms and both legs and dances balletwhile performing brain surgery." Even worse are the folks that say,       "Your Great-Aunt Joan (or Uncle Bob) had the same surgery and she(or he) became a total invalid. It was such a burden on the family."These folks have no idea what they are talking about. Their "insight"is second hand, or worse, simply wrong.

7.     It's okay to be a little self-centered for a while. Give yourself a treat (see 21, below.)

8.     Set realistic goals and a reasonable time to reach them. If you don'tachieve them, don't think you have failed. You just need to adjust thegoal or the time frame and try again.

9.     Keep up with your interests and hobbies. If you can't do them for thepresent, then at least read magazines about them. Just because youcan't do something right now, doesn't mean it's out of reach for thefuture.

10.   Don't become obsessed with being an amputee. While, initially, beingan amputee can be time and attention consuming, do the best you canto return to your pre-surgery life style.

11.   If you can manage to put people at ease they'll usually treat younormally. When you encounter a person who hasn't seen you sinceyour surgery, talk briefly about the amputation at an "appropriate"moment, and then let it go. This way, you aren't wondering, "Whenare they going to ask about my (arm/leg)," and they're not fixated on"I wonder what happened to (him/her)." Clear the air and then justbe yourself. There is more to you than arms and legs. Those are onlyparts, not the whole of your being. The bigger you make youramputation the bigger others will make it, too.

12.   When the time comes for your first visit to the prosthetist, goprepared with a list of questions. Write them down as you think ofthem. It's hard to remember what you wanted to ask when you'reapprehensive about being examined. Ask questions and jot down theanswers. (Same thing goes for the doctor's office.)

13.   If you don't feel comfortable with any of your medical team getsomeone else. You're the boss!

14.  If you have a computer or have access to one, you can use it to get information:

a. Use a "search engine" (A kind of yellow pages/Dewey decimal system for the internet) My favorite is Enter the words amputee, amputees, amputation and/or prosthetics.

b. Listservs (automated mailing lists) have some good information. Some listservs are very clinical--aimed at professionals,. Some are self-help. One such listserv is AMP-L. Address a message to and type SUBSCRIBE AMP-L on the first line. You may meet "cyberfriends" through your posts. Keep in mind that you are seeking information or providing information. The information on the lists can be very useful.

c. Access to computer areas is usually much faster (and sometimes cheaper) late at night.

d. For security reasons and to avoid possible harassment, don't give out any personal information, such as your address or phone number. You don't even have to use your real name if you don't want to.

15. Eliminate as many "traps" in and around your house as possible if youuse crutches. These might include small throw rugs, chairs that arenot pushed under a table, telephone or electrical wires, etc.

16. Install slip protectors in the tub or use a non-skid tub mat.

17. Use a shower stool and install grab bars if possible.

18. Never walk without foot protection on your sound leg. Stepping oneven a small pebble accidentally brought indoors could cause you toflinch and could result in a fall.

19. If you are facing a non-emergency amputation, seek a surgeon whoknows how to construct a good residual limb. A prosthetist is probablyyour best source of information about who the most artful surgeonsare.

20. You can expect this to be a trying time for you, your family and yourfriends. Always feel free to discuss your feelings. Don't wait untilyou're ready to explode. It will usually be at the wrong person!

21. Try to give yourself something to look forward to each day, even if it'sonly for a half an hour. It can be watching a TV show or video,reading, listening to music, talking online, sending an e-mail or eventaking a nap! Find ways to reward yourself for hanging in there!

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