If you don’t know what to say or do when crossing paths with an amputee, just ask

Amputee Coalition of Toronto-Nathan Phillip's Square

Michael Armes, third from left, with the Amputee Coalition of Toronto group. The group visited Nathan Phillips Square on April 5 where the Toronto sign was lit up in orange to support Limb Loss Awareness month. – Michael Armes/photo

The month of April. Spring has sprung, baseball is back, we’re bracing for the NHL playoffs, and it’s the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil month. We all know these things.

Do you know what else April is all about?

Are you stumped? I know I am … April is Limb Loss Awareness Month!

Sept. 1, 2017 was the last day that I would ever bear weight on a living left foot. My ankle, weakened from a past infection, collapsed. For two months, I worked with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Quinn to try to heal it, but it just wasn’t happening. So under the knife I went on Nov. 6, 2017 to remove part of my left leg below the knee.

Fast forward to today … I have been walking on my “training” prosthetic for three months and I’ve been back at work full time for two. I’m doing very well thanks to a terrific rehab team, support from family and friends, and the support of my fellow amputees at the Amputee Coalition of Toronto.

I’ve been very fortunate. My amputation, while necessary, was still a choice in many respects. I faced no complications from surgery, my stump is healthy and I get around well. I have a supportive employer and do well for myself.

Many people don’t have things go so smoothly. Often suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, depression and anxiety. Many have complications such as open wounds or infection that hinder their readiness for a prosthetic. While everyone’s experience is different, the one thing I see in common with all my peers is incredible resilience and a strong motivation to get their life back on track. They’ve inspired me a great deal.

I’m not going to pitch for donations to War Amps. I’m not going to preach about etiquette either. If, in your mind, charging your iPhone battery is more important than someone charging the battery for their microprocessor arm, knee or foot, karma will deal with that just fine.

Just know we’re out there, we all have our own story and we’re all just trying to live our lives just like those with four living limbs. If you aren’t sure what to say or what to do, just ask.

Michael Armes underwent surgery on Nov. 6, 2017 to remove part of his left leg below the knee. He lives in Caledon East with his wife, Shelley.

This article first appeared on The Caledon Enterprise  April 4, 2018

 

Amputee Coalition of Toronto welcomes all amputees in Toronto and the surrounding GTA to join our support group for more information on monthly meetups, upcoming events, and a safe space to share your journey. We’re in this together!

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