Bilateral Upper Limb Loss
by Amber Henson, on Nov 23, 2021
Bilateral upper limb loss* can be devastating to the patient, their family and their friends. But the loss of both upper limbs doesn’t mean a lifetime of having to constantly rely on other people. Many of our patients have found their way to independent activities of daily living (ADLs) through occupational or physical therapy, peer support, home modifications and, of course, prosthetic rehabilitation.
*Please note: This article focuses on acquired upper limb loss, as opposed to congenital bilateral limb differences.
The loss of both upper limbs can be the result of: electrical accidents (Gerry Kinney or Jason Koger), farming accidents, military attacks, on-the-job accidents (Wells Middleton), and serious illnesses or infections that lead to sepsis (Merlyna Valentine). With time and patience, our patients discovered they can do many things that might have seemed impossible when they first became amputees.
We offer support to our bilateral limb loss patients through the Arm Dynamics peer support network. You can watch Gerry, who had his accident in 2016, and Jeff, who lost his arms more recently, have a chat about the value of peer support:
As for home modifications, you’ll find that there are a lot of different options. Our clinical therapy specialists are ready to walk patients through the various changes that may be necessary. By making modifications, our patients are able to be independent in the bathroom and kitchen, and around the house. "Universal design" are helpful key words for those looking to make more permanent changes. Dressing trees are a tool that can make it easier for bilateral amputees to put on their prostheses, and there are also prostheses that can be put on without them.
Several of our patients are able to continue doing outdoor work with body-powered devices or ETDs. In a series of videos provided by Gerry and Jason, you’ll see them driving, using a skill-saw, painting, running a riding lawn mower, and offloading a tractor from a trailer. You’ll find more videos of Gerry in our Life Hacks article. You can also read about Jason hunting in our Hunting with an Upper Limb Prosthesis article.
Our prosthetists and clinical therapy specialists understand that it’s necessary for people with bilateral limb loss to wear their devices for longer periods of time than someone with unilateral limb loss. That’s why our prosthetists fit bilateral patients with custom-made silicone sockets that feel lighter and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Our clinical therapy specialists are experienced in teaching each patient how to use their prostheses to reduce wear on the body and increase efficiency. Having an upper limb specialist providing care for someone with bilateral limb loss versus a general prosthetist can be the difference between day and night.
If you or someone close to you has experienced bilateral upper limb loss and would like to learn more about how our Arm Dynamics upper limb specialists can help, please contact us. You are also welcome to leave a comment below. We hope you have found this article helpful.
For more information, see related Arm Dynamics articles here:
- Bathroom Hacks for People with a Bilateral Limb Difference
- Home Modifications for People with a Bilateral Upper Limb Difference
- How We Help Our Patients Learn to Use Their Prosthesis
- Seven Reasons Arm Dynamics Centers Are Different From Other Prosthetic Care Providers
- How To Increase Wear Time with Silicone Sockets