What The Doctors Don't Tell You About Amputation
Being an amputee, surprisingly, comes with quite a few advantages as well as the disadvantages. Although many amputees do not have the opportunity to elect to have their limb removed, there are many out there that do!
My friends and I often laugh about my 'cripple privileges,' which is a phrase that we use between us - I don't tend to use the phrase around others or able-bodied individuals in case they think that it's acceptable to use for others! Regardless, it does mean that I tend to 'get away' with things that my able-bodied peers wouldn't, such as complimentary drinks or an extra scoop of ice cream.....although that might just be because I'm a bit cheeky and tend to ask for extra. You don't ask, you don't get?
Connections With Other Amputees
I often find that since being an amputee, people expect me to know all of their amputee friends or people in the community. I find myself spotting other amputees in the street and almost forming some kind of mutual bond with them, similar to when you find someone driving the same car as you. There is often a very British nod, signifying that we understand each other's journey and I will often have random conversations with other amputees as we discuss our different feet options and their struggles with real support from the NHS. You'll never have to break the ice with another amputee - you'll both just remove your legs until the ice cracks.
As an amputee, you will get very used to people staring and pointing at you, as well as asking questions. I find that I am often used as the poster child for different organisations, which has both positives and negatives. It's fantastic as you have the opportunity to experience many things that you otherwise wouldn't be able to. Companies love having diversity in their portfolio so you can really get in touch with some great organisations out there!
Although I often become tired of the extra attention, it does feel great sometimes as I do tend to receive 10x the praise for doing something. Being an amputee also does mean that you have yet another memorable trait about you. Having said that, people will often just remember that you are an amputee and nothing else about you. I suppose it does mean that you are just motivated to be an awesome all-round individual full of other memorable traits.
Able-bodied person: I just did a 5k run Stranger: Cool
Amputee: I just did a 5k run Stranger: Oh! That's awesome! You're amazing! Tell me every little detail of how you achieved that!
Extra Planning and Effort
Studies have shown that using a prosthetic can use up to 300x more energy to do general activities then those that are able-bodied (based on a bilateral above-knee amputee). If you suddenly have your amputation or go from being quite able-bodied to an amputee, things can seem pretty difficult HOWEVER, you do adapt. You learn to do things in your own, sometimes strange way.
You get used to having to plan everything, from booking train assistance 24 hours in advance, to allowing extra time just to put your leg on in the morning. For the first few weeks of having my prosthetic, I completely forgot to allow another 10 minutes to attach my leg and would often turn up late for events as a result! You have to plan when to tell your potential interviewer that you need an accessible interview room and plan whether your wheelchair (if you're using one) is going to fit into a room. The trick is planning, planning, planning.
Stumpy and Socket/Prosthetic Problems
People don't necessarily realise however amputees can get quite a lot of problems with their stumps including blisters, phantom pain and the bane of my life......SWEATING.
My stump just sweats and sweats......maybe because i'm an active, male amputee but I know a lot of amputees have this problem. There are many solutions out there, including special liners and deodorants however it's still a massive pain!
Trying to ensuring a good socket-fit can be quite a fight. Too tight, you'll get blisters yet too loose and it will fall off - which one would you prefer? Your prosthetist can be both your best friend and your barrier. Fortunately my prosthetist, Alan Tanner, at Blatchfords is fantastic and really supports the activities that I do.
Another great thing about having a prosthetic leg is that you get to be part robot as well as have the potential for some pretty awesome Halloween costumes. You also have a great opportunity to play some great pranks on your friends/strangers.....April fools day, here I come!
I know I've said it a few times however I love my blade, Bender I could never imagine having a 'normal leg!'
As well as all of the pros and cons discussed above, there are also some pretty unique things that people don't really think about:
- You'll always get a great parking spot with a blue badge (as long as the able-bodied folk haven't stupidly used them)
- Regulating temperature can be extremely difficult without all of your limbs. Not only do you get very cold quickly but you also struggle to cool down when hot - better get yourself a dryrobe!
- It takes a while to get your confidence back after an amputation. Not only do you look a bit different but re-adjusting your balance and confidence while standing can take it's time
- Having an amputation is a great way to lose those last few kg. I only lost 2.5kg but it does wonders for your BMI
- Prosthetic legs can make quite a bit of noise. Mine tend to make a farting noise but they can also squeak quite a bit....not ideal if you want to do some mission impossible tasks
- Half-price pedicures for life! Who doesn't love a good discount?
- You'll have to carry extra....stuff. Whether it's more stump socks, another liner or a whole extra leg, you'll have to get used to carrying a bag full of just extras
- You can fit into smaller spaces. Why do you need to fit into smaller spaces, you ask? Who knows.....Less limbs=more space. More space for fun?
- There are some people out there that have have an attraction to amputees..often called devotees. Unfortunately, it's just something you have to get used to. I frequently receive messages from devotees however I find the 'blocking method' most useful (i.e. just block them)
- DISCOUNTS!! - There are lots of discounts out there available to amputees and their carers. Free cinema/theatre tickets and discounts on shoes - it's all out there if you search for it.
These are all things that I have learnt in the last year that I wish I had been told by other amputees and my doctors. I'm generally a very positive person so I have placed a positive spin on this blog post. but have also been realistic. Being an amputee can be very difficult at times, especially when your stump hurts and you are particularly tired. However I hope the above has actually shown you that there are also many advantages to being an amputee.
Life isn't over if you have an amputation. Look at the positives and embrace them.
Much love x