Effects of an Amputation on Friends of the Patient
by Amber Henson, on Aug 17, 2021
When a friend has an amputation, you may be feeling a lot of emotions while you try your best to support them. But chances are, you’ve never had a friend experience an amputation before, and you’re a bit lost on what is the best way to help them while also coping with your own emotions.
First Up, Listen
The first time you hear about your friend’s amputation may be by telephone or during a visit. The best thing to do in this situation is simply listen – their experience, either traumatic or caused by a disease/illness, is something they want you to know about, so be sure to do your best active listening.
Think of Ways You Can Help
You should, of course, ask if there’s anything they need. But a lot of people who are recovering from traumatic situations can have a hard time determining what they need. If you can think of tasks that they might find helpful, ask them – Can I pick up your kids from school for a week? Organize a Meal Train? Can I come watch a movie with you? If they aren’t taking you up on any of your suggestions, it’s your call, but you can still do things like drop off meals or a pie or encouraging notes. Just let them know that you’re thinking about them.
Be a Pal to Their Partner
Even if you’re not close with their significant other, keep in mind that your friend’s partner is also going through a lot, and support for them can sometimes be forgotten while people try to support the patient. Depending on the level of amputation and the amount of recovery necessary, they can suddenly become a caregiver, temporarily or longterm, which can be a lot to deal with on top of the grief they're feeling about their loved one being in pain. Check in with your friend's partner and ask how they are holding up. Offer to help them as well, if possible. They may have a better idea of what kind of assistance would be most useful.
Take Time for You
Make sure that you check in with yourself. Your friend, someone you care about, has lost a piece of themselves and may be having a hard time. That’s tough on you! You should have someone you can talk to about how you are feeling. Don't feel guilty if you are struggling.
It’s important to remember that an amputation not only affects the patient and their relationships, but also their partner, their family and their friends – everyone who cares about them. Any feelings you have are valid. You may not want to burden your affected friend with your feelings, but you should talk about how you feel with your own family and friends.
We asked one of our patients, Diana Gazzano Gibson (above), about the support her friends provided after her above-elbow amputation:
"My friends played a huge role in my recovery. To say they immediately were supportive is an understatement. One of my closest friends flew immediately to see me when she heard about my accident. My larger friend group came together to share inspiring words and video messages with me to make sure I knew that I could do anything, even with one arm. They all pitched in to buy me new workout gear which included a brand-new pair of Nikes that didn't need to be tied – so thoughtful! During the weeks after my amputation, my friends would come to my house to spend time with me – we played games, laughed, and we even found humor in my new normal."
We often receive inquiries to our site from the friends of people who have had amputations and want to learn more so they can help their friends. Is that you? Feel free to contact us. You are also welcome to comment below with any questions you may have. Or maybe advice if you have that! Thanks for reading.
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