Life After an Amputation
by Amber Henson, on Jul 25, 2023
Wow. In the days, weeks, and even months following an amputation, you may find yourself in a constant state of “wow.” “Wow, how did this happen?” “Wow, how do people do things without the use of the other hand (or finger or thumb or even both hands)?” “Wow, what will my life look like?”
It’s a lot. It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s all those things and more. Each person’s amputation is unique because each person is unique. No one has the same reason for their amputation, the same amputation level or the same post-amputation goals as someone else. This can make it hard to relate to other individuals who have had limb loss and cause you to feel isolated. You might think, “Sure, that guy also lost his hand because of a machine at work, but he doesn’t have to use the same tools that I do to get back to work.” Or, “Yes, that woman also lost her arm because of a skiing accident, but she doesn’t have three kids under the age of 10 at home.”
But in reading several people’s stories, you might find that you connect with pieces of their experience. You can begin to comprehend what life looks like after amputation, and maybe begin to understand what your life could look like going forward.
Let’s look at life after an amputation in terms of goals. Do you need to get back to work? Do you need to take care of your family? Or do you need to keep your hobbies alive, to make sure that your passions are still there and keeping you going?
Work After an Amputation
A main goal of many patients is to return to work. Our clinical teams are well versed in helping patients adjust to using a prosthesis at work, whether it be the same position they were in prior to injury, or a new position. Our patient, Xavier, worked at a paper mill and his hand was amputated when it was caught in the rollers. After his amputation, Xavier experienced neuroma pain. He endured two revision surgeries and his pain level was reduced by half. After learning to use his prosthesis with help from his clinical therapy specialist, Xavier returned to work at the same paper mill in a new job, processing raw materials. You can watch Xavier tell his whole story below:
There are many other patients who had returning to work as a major goal. For example, Austin is an above elbow amputee who needed a special activity-specific device so he could use a chainsaw to work as a tree faller in Yosemite. Mark, who lost three fingers on a construction job, was able to return to work with the help of passive, positionable digits. And Claudia, who lost her arm above the elbow at her job at an onion packing company and returned to the same company in a different position.
Our patient Eduardo is a great example of someone who was injured while pursuing his hobby but was able to return to his job as a chef. You can also read our two articles on the subject of work, “Getting Back to Work After an Upper Limb Amputation” and “Using a Prosthesis on the Job.”
Parenting After an Amputation
We have a series of articles that talk about the specifics of parenting, starting with caring for babies, all the way up through the teenage years. Many of our patients are parents, like Wendi, who was injured in a snowboarding accident well before she had her son, Hank. After 12 years and 19 surgeries to make her left arm less painful and more functional, she decided on an elective amputation above her elbow. Her son was three at the time and adapted beautifully. Wendi, who is a single mom, now has a prosthesis that helps her participate in her son’s life, work as a manager at Trader Joe’s, and pursue her hobbies, like weightlifting and paddle boarding.
Nicole is the mom of three children and had an accident at work that resulted in the amputation of her arm below her elbow. With the help of her ETD, i-Limb Ultra and her activity-specific device, Nicole is able to make meals for her kids, go on ATV rides with them and play with them in the backyard. You can watch her video below:
Abram is a great example of a stay-at-home dad with three children and both an upper limb and lower limb prosthesis. You can read all about him and how he’s able to use his arm prosthesis for doing things like holding his kids’ hands while carrying groceries. Jason is a father, who had both hands amputated after an electrical accident. When he had his amputations, Jason and his wife had two little girls, and have since had a son, and now they’re all in or approaching their teenage years. Claudia, (above) is also a single mom who uses her prosthesis to play basketball with her son and walk their dog. Our patient Darren, had an elective amputation like Wendi (above), and he and his wife also had more children following his amputation, just like Jason did.
Hobbies and Pursuits After an Amputation
When our patients come into our centers after an amputation, we are always sure to discuss what they like to do for fun outside of work. Depending on the hobby, we may recommend a second prosthesis, like an activity-specific device. Some prostheses that may be helpful at work or home won’t be able to handle the rigors of activities like bowling, fishing or hunting. We receive a lot of inquiries from people who want to get back into the gym for exercise and weightlifting — our patients Xavier, Claudia and Wendi (above), are all individuals who got back into lifting weights following their amputations.
Our patient Dennis became a thumb amputee after he was injured while working as a defense contractor in Afghanistan. Without his functional thumb prosthesis, Dennis was having a hard time pursuing his hobbies of martial arts and golf. As a martial artist, Dennis wanted to be able to hold weapons. You can watch how his thumb prosthesis allows him to do so in his video below:
Michael is a retired staff sergeant who lost his arm above the elbow while serving in Afghanistan. He worked closely with his prosthetist and technicians to create an activity-specific device that would allow him to ride a bike. Tom was injured as a teenager in a wakeboarding accident that led to his wrist disarticulation amputation. Tom now has activity-specific devices that allow him to paddle board, snowboard and fish. Gerry was a lineman before his on-the-job injury that led to his bilateral amputation. Now he spends his time working as a skilled do-it-yourselfer at his home and farm, and has completed numerous large-scale projects such as laying a brick patio and building and wiring an outdoor barn. Gerry uses power saws, is a welder, and runs large machinery with the help of multiple prostheses.
So what does life after an amputation look like? With the right prosthesis, helpful prosthetic care, insightful clinical training, and supportive family and friends, life after amputation can look like whatever YOU want it to look like.
If you are interested in learning more about how our prosthetists, clinical therapy specialists and prosthetic technicians and assistants can help you create the life that you want following your amputation, please contact us. If you would like to tell your peers about your life following an amputation, please leave a comment below. We hope you have found this article helpful.