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“I Wish I Had Known”

“I Wish I Had Known” | Heather Carter


Before I became an amputee… I wish I had known…

  1. Your Life WILL Change:

Much of the time we understand the physiological ways that our life will change, or at least we believe we know what will happen. The truth is, it’s most often not the big factors that truly bother us to our core, but rather the many little things that add up over time.

  • Showering
  • Using the restroom at night
  • Driving
  • Flying
  • Sports

While these are all important to our lives, they are all physiological changes. How about the psychological changes? Have you thought about how you will perceive yourself when you first see yourself missing said limb? How about wearing shorts or dresses… get dressed up for occasions? Or even something that seems so small as simply putting on a bathing suit. While these are superficial examples, they do matter.

Now consider, what you feel your “purpose in life” is? Were you in an occupation that demanded any physical capabilities? Were you an athlete? How active are you? These are the types of questions you will want to contemplate so that you have a plan in motion before begin this journey.

  1. People Stare Because They are Curious:

After becoming an amputee and we are finally released “into the wild” , we believe that people are staring at us because we are freaks, we believe that they find us unattractive and think they must think we are ugly.

However, that is far from the truth… Over time, we learn that people are simply, at the root of it- curious. While we have grown to become accustomed to prosthetics, most of society has not and therefore it is not normal to them. In many locations, people have never seen an amputee before. As the individual who is subject to feeling like a “goldfish” we get frustrated and angry when people stare but we are quick to also show frustration when they approach us and ask “what happened?”

So, to ease the awkwardness between both yourself and the spectator… just make eye contact and smile. 

  1. Your Prosthetist is one of the Most Important People in Your Life Now:

In the beginning, your doctor will refer you to a reputable prosthetist and this will be your first encounter with this specialty so you trust your physician. These specialists (prosthetists) mean well and want nothing but the best for you… However, sometimes their abilities or opinions do not compliment yours- therefore your prosthetist can be either your “gift” or your “biggest obstacle”.

So, my advice is to be honest with your prosthetist at all times and let him/her know exactly what your goals are and what you hope to do with your new way of life… That way the both of you are on the same page and are able to push forward with a healthy life plan.

  1. Beware the Internet:

As we are all aware, the social media sensation has become the “way of life” and we can find any and everything on the internet! Being said, be cautious with who you interact with! There are many types of people out there who will either antagonize you about your amputation, there will be other who have fetishes for amputees (they will appear over eager to communicate) and there will also be people trolling you on social media. Be aware of where your “block” button is on each and every site you are a part of.

  1. You Can Become Active Without Having Previously Participating in Sport:

There are many options to being active outside of the traditional sports. For instance, there are organizations out there that cater to dancing, yoga, pilates, hiking, rock climbing and many many more and don’t require any previous athletic experience. As long as the activity gets your heart racing, your blood circulating and your body sweating then you are only making your recovery process that much easier.

  1. You Will Forget About the Absence of Your Limb:

I’m sure it’s hard to believe, but this is so true!

Beginning: For example; I was out at a venue with a big crowd of people (shortly after my amputation- so I wasn’t wearing a prosthetic yet) and after a patron of that facility had continued to physically touch me that entire night (even after my requests to stop), I decided that I was going to get up and walk away…

Well, I only made that first step… (haha) and then fell while realizing I only had one leg. We all began to laugh and he finally “got the message”.

2 years later: I am an athlete in many forums, one of which I play softball with the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. Well, during one of our games (while I was catching) a bad throw was to come into the plate and was thrown so off target that I had to run half-way between 3rd base and the plate to retrieve the ball before the runner scored… I successfully made it over there and after grabbing the ball I realized that I had in-fact sprinted over there forgetting all about my prosthetic leg. (I have had many issues trying to figure out how to run since becoming an Above-the-Knee amputee)

  1. Phantom Pain is Real:

Many have a hard time believing that people can experience pain in a limb that no longer exists, but this phenomenon is 100% real. I do not want to put fear in your mind that you will be in absolute agony always, as you likely will not. There are three types of phantom limb sensation for people:

  • Lasts a short while and eventually decreases or even goes away
  • Lasts a multitude of years but the pain will become intermittent
  • Lasts for the rest of life for a few individuals but there are many blind studies and much research taking place to try and find a solution for these sufferers

New Opportunities Arrive:

While this situation will seem like the end of the world for a while, I promise it will get better! The opportunities that will come out of your becoming an amputee will enrich your life with people and circumstances you could never imagine! You will become a part of organizations that you never realized existed, you will be able to inspire others around you and truly help by giving back to the community and/or even mentoring a person who’s about to walk in your footsteps.

If you are interested at all in becoming an active amputee then just reach out within your community or find a local representative and begin your new journey!