It is easy to take mobility and good health for granted. The majority of us can walk on two legs, use our arms, and see with both eyes. We complain about a pain in our foot or an ache in our back, but never think about how lucky we are to walk.
Being born without a functioning limb is difficult enough, but losing one later in life is an entirely different matter. After knowing life before limb loss, it is a challenge to adapt to new circumstances. It may result in depression, frustration, anxiety, and isolation. Because of the many struggles associated with limb loss, it is important to honor Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month this April.
What is Limb Loss Awareness Month?
There are more than 2 million people in the United States who live with limb loss or limb difference. Furthermore, almost 28 million are at high risk of amputation surgery. Because of the struggles these individuals face, The Amputee Coalition created the Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month to educate the public and help patients who are suffering.
This month is a space for amputees to tell stories about their surgeries, new prosthetics, and the journey towards self-acceptance. Many individuals upload a video or write a story during this time. They share their experience on social media with the hope of bringing awareness to this issue.
What to Know About Limb Loss and Limb Difference
Here are some statistics on the realities of limb loss in the United States.
· There are about 185,000 amputations surgeries each year
· Hospital costs associated with amputation are more than 8.3 billion per year
· Black Americans are 4 times more likely to lose a limb than white Americans
· The main causes of limb loss include vascular disease (54%), trauma (45%), and cancer (2%).
· Nearly half of individuals who have an amputation due to vascular disease pass away within 5 years.
· Those with diabetes that have a lower extremity amputation have a 55% chance of requiring a second amputation in the other leg within 2-3 years
Limb Loss and Depression
Those who suffer a limb loss go through a range of emotions. Roughly 32-84% experience some type of psychiatric disorder. This includes depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phantom limb phenomenon.
Phantom limb phenomenon is a distressing condition in which patients experience sensations in a limb that no longer exists. This can bring back traumatic memories and is difficult to treat.
Experts have found that those who experienced limb loss feel as though they have lost a spouse, lost one’s sense of wholeness, or experienced castration. Those who do not receive help suffer emotionally and have a lower quality of life.
Depression can also occur because it is more difficult to perform tasks. This is particularly true for those who lost a limb in an accident or a blast. PTSD is the most common affliction that impacts these individuals.
Resources for Limb Loss and Limb Difference
It can be isolating after a limb loss. It is hard to talk to friends, convey feelings, and adjust to a new way of life. Thankfully, there are many resources available to help. These include –
· Amputee Coalition – Trains over 15000 volunteers to speak with and support amputees. Please call 888-267-5669 or visit amputee-coalition.org for more information.
· Hanger Clinic – Offers peer-to-peer support programs and an online community for those with limb loss or limb difference. Please visit hangerclinic.com for more information.
· Amputee Empowerment Partners – A free resource for families, caregivers, and coworkers of those with limb loss. Please visit empoweringamuputees.ning.com
· National Amputation Foundation – Offers legal counsel, social activities, and psychological aid for those with limb loss. Please call 516-887-3600 or visit nationalamputation.org for more information.
· United Amputee Services Association – A non-profit organization that assists amputees across the United States. Also provides financial aid for replacement surgeries. Please visit opedge.com for more information.
Have you lost a limb or do you know someone who has? Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, and fear? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.