The Importance of Amputee Rehabilitation
Adapting to a new life after an amputation can be challenging. These challenges can often be overwhelming and isolating. Some amputees find that losing a limb takes an emotional toll on their well-being, while others don't know who to talk to or where to get information.
Luckily, they are not alone.
The CHRISTUS Ochsner Amputee Support and Networking Group prides itself on being a safe environment for its amputee community. It's a place where they can talk about their everyday issues. They can problem-solve together and meet others who are just like them and have faced similar struggles.
Amputee Community Support
Erin Rhoads, Director of Rehabilitation Services at CHRISTUS Ochsner Health - Southwestern, Louisiana, said the group came to fruition after recognizing a need for community support services.
Despite having rehab services for inpatient/outpatient amputees, they noticed patients who left their hospital or rehab care still needed some support. The kind of support they could only get from their communities.
Erin said they have been meeting since August 2022 on the first Wednesday of every month. Meetings typically last from 5-7 p.m. and take place at CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Campus.
"On a slower meeting, we may have four or five amputees here with our team members that come regularly," Erin said. "On a busy month, we may have ten plus."
Erin said their support group also with speakers who provide education-based topics that are relevant to them. Members can also reach out to each other to find resources. They can also learn what it's like to be an amputee through others' experiences.
"I think that it's been very beneficial because these people have emotional support from one another," she said. "They can ask questions about things that someone else who's been through the situation can help them with. As a therapist, it's really helped us find things that we should be working on with our patients."
Getting Back to a Normal Life
Seth Authement of Bell City, Louisiana, said the group has helped him realize that his life is not over, and he can still live a normal life. Seth was 17 years old and coming home from a basketball game when he got hit head-on by an 18-wheeler. The impact sent the engine through his dashboard, which sent its engine rod lancing through his ankle.
Doctors initially thought they would be able to save the leg, but two months later, he was told he could not keep it. Seth remembers feeling uncertain as he lay in his hospital bed, wondering how his life would be as an amputee. He worried whether he would still be able to do the things he loved. He also worried about how he would be perceived by others.
Seth eventually learned how to do things differently with a prosthetic, but it was not without its challenges. He said the first few months were some of the hardest. He recalls falling a lot, the end of his leg constantly shrinking and growing. He would also get upset by people staring at him.
Seth said he did not feel like himself until his sister put her leg next to his and joked that her leg was 'finally longer than his.' It was upon realizing that she still saw him as a normal person that he started to see himself as one too. After that, he got up and started doing what he used to - hiking, swimming, playing his guitar, and spending time with his dog.
He finds the CHRISTUS Ochsner Amputee Support and Networking Group helpful because he and fellow amputees who are uncertain about their future can get the information they need and connect with others like them.
"It's done me good because I'm seeing other people conquer their journeys or start their journeys to live a normal life with their prosthetics," Seth said. "And it's good to be someone who has had their leg for a while that's able to talk to them like 'hey you can do this' and seeing them get better only makes me want to get better too."
Join the Support Group
His message for amputees thinking about joining is to come to share their stories or to hear other people's stories.
"You never know the one story might inspire you to do something that you would've never done," he said.
It's a sentiment shared by Erin, who encourages those interested to contact their outpatient therapy clinic for more information. Walk-ins are also acceptable.
"They can just come on in," she said. "We'd love to have people at the group." She said they've also developed an amputee clinic that's held once a month at their outpatient therapy clinic at the St. Patrick Campus. "It's for any amputees anywhere in their journey."