By Liz Zemke, RN
Peer visitation, education, resources and support are key components to thriving after amputation. Talk to any amputee who has "adjusted" well and there is a common message shared. They did not allow limb difference or amputation dictate their future, define who they are or deny them their dreams. After limb loss, they began to write a new chapter in their lives.
Beware the Black HoleBut before the new chapter began, they came face-to-face with difficult decisions, were apprehensive about the future, feared the unknown and may have experienced depression, anger, grief, guilt, frustration and hits to their self-esteem and self-image. Facing amputation can be much the same as facing a black hole.
Peer Visitors Make the Difference in Battling Your Demons
In an ideal world, every hospital, rehab center and physician dealing with amputation would refer their patients to the Amputee Coalition as well as to a certified peer visitor. By speaking to another person who has gone through amputation and made the adjustments successfully, you can begin to unravel the knots of fear, doubt, worry and confusion. You'll even undo pre-conceived perceptions and misconceptions along the way. Peers provide knowledge and support that leads to informed decisions and empowerment. This inspires the confidence that is vital to start your new chapter off on a more positive path, and lead you to better outcomes.
Anyone facing amputation or loss of limb can benefit from talking to a peer visitor. I see the most positive impact from the people who see me walk through the door without knowing I am an amputee. Though I share this information, sometimes the true impression is left only after I remove my prosthesis, put it back on and then move about the room while talking to them about living as an amputee.
If you are facing amputation or limb loss and want to know more about peer visitation, contact the Amputee Coalition and ask for the names of peer visitors in your area. If you'd like more articles or information on peer visitation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit Central CA Amputee Education and Resource Group or look for Amputee Support at Abilities Expo.
About the Author:
Liz Zemke has been a registered nurse for 44 years and an amputee for 20 years. Her amputation occurred two years following a life-changing accident. She has been widowed twice, will be 65 this year and currently works with an elder law and VA certified attorney where she assists people in getting their veterans benefits. She is also an Alzheimer's Advocate and provides education and support. She facilitates a support group for amputees, coordinates a fun day at Children's hospital for the kids going through limb loss, and peer visits new amputees or those facing amputation who are referred from many hospitals and local doctors.
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