2015 Amputee Coalition Of America National Conference

File Aug 10, 5 26 36 PM

I can remember my very first amputee support group experience. It was July 1978 at Magee Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia PA. Just 45 days prior, both of my legs had been amputated below the knees as a result of me being electrocuted while playing on top of a train boxcar. A traumatic accident to say the least but I was thankful to be alive. A group of amputee patients had assembled in a small meeting room to hear an invited guest, who was also an amputee, speak about what life would be like in the real world once we completed rehab. This gentleman was elderly and a bilateral below knee amputee like myself. I was very interested to learn what my future would be like from someone who had already gone through the rehab process and was experienced at being an amputee. As he spoke I quickly realized that this gentleman was less than inspirational. Frightening is a better adjective that I would use to describe him. He told us stories of what we “could not” do once we reached the real world. He said “you can’t climb stairs. You can’t walk on carpet. You can’t walk on grass and uneven surfaces.” He said that if your bed is on the second floor of your house, which mine was, you would have to move it to the first floor because you can’t climb the stairs to get to it. As a 14 year old kid sitting in a wheel chair listening to this man talk, I was terrified! I was raised to respect my elders and at that time I respected this man’s word as gospel. I’m sure he meant well, but he did a lot of psychological damage in that room on that day. After my discharge from rehab, I remember being overly cautious at my first attempts at climbing stairs, walking on carpet, on grass and uneven surfaces. After my success, I quickly realized that I could do ANYTHING that I put my mind to and I quickly dispelled all of the negative advice that the scary old man had given. But still the “at home” rehabilitation process was a lonely experience for me. No one in my neighborhood was an amputee. No one in my school was an amputee. No one in my family was an amputee. I had so many questions about living with limb loss but no one to answer them. The lack of organized support groups in the late 70’s not only affected me but the disabled community as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few mom & pop groups assembled here and there. Most were vocational in nature, but nothing that promoted education and activity, which was what I was in desperate need of. Today there are numerous amputee support groups both small and large all across the world that offer guidance and education to those who have recently lost a limb. The Amputee Coalition Of America (amputee-coalition.org) is a non profit group who’s mission is to reach out to people living with limb loss and empower them through education, support and advocacy. On July 23, 2015 my daughter Autumn & I travelled to Tucson AZ to attend the ACA’s national conference. 872 amputees and their family members from all over the world gathered for 3 days of fun and enlightenment at the JW Marriott Star Pass Resort & Spa. Manufacturers of the best prosthetic technology were on hand showcasing their latest products. Getting a chance to see so many beautiful amputees gathered in one place who were living and laughing and showing their “mettle” was so empowering. Because of events like this, no longer do amputees have to feel marginalized because of social stigma. We proudly show our prostheses to the world. We are survivors and all the world is inspired by our accomplishments. Enough of me talking, please enjoy this VLOG (video log) of my experience at the 2015 ACA National Conference:

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