Amputee Support Network

GF Strong Rehab Centre

Amputee Services

Amputee Support Network

Nancy - Greater Vancouver and Lower Mainland - Above Knee

Peer Visitor Program

My name is Nancy, I'm 32 years old, and it's been 2 years since my amputation, at the time of writing this bio. The peer support thing is very important, which is why I'm willing to take part in this web site. I never had the benefit of a peer support buddy throughout my hospital stay and rehab program. I felt alone because of the nature of my amputation and didn't relate to trauma accident amputees. Their issues are different. I would have wanted to talk to someone - closer to my age, maybe someone with an addiction issue, similar interests, someone who has dealt with big stuff who is positive about their life after amputation.

I have always had a full time job, looked after my dog, and led an active lifestyle (biking, camping) with friends. Prior to my amputation, the last 4 years of my life had been really unhealthy. I've done recreational drugs for quite some time, but my life turned a bad corner when heroin entered my life. My heroin habit took over my life and really messed with my head. I overdosed and was unconscious for 2 days before I was found. Lying in one place for that long caused really bad muscle, nerve, and tissue damage, and kidney failure, so the doctors had to amputate my left leg above my knee to save my life. Thankfully my kidneys returned to normal once my system was stabilized. I spent quite some time in hospital and a rehab facility. I lost my home, my job, my dog, my self respect, and just about everything else known to me, except my life.

I've had some really caring health care people work with me, and others who have treated me like a 'piece of shit', because I am a drug addict. There is a stigma associated with drugs. People don't understand that addiction is a disease. That said, I am tired of doing drugs, and want to have a normal life again, to be clean, and to find out what I'm physically capable of, so that I can go back to work and look after myself again. I struggle every day. I am changing patterns of behavior in every aspect of my life - patterns of thinking, feeling, reacting.

The prosthetic fitting thing has been really frustrating for me. It has taken a long time, longer than I think is necessary but those in the know keep telling me to hang on, and not give up on myself. I've been on interface liners/pin suspension sockets, and am currently working out the bugs of a suction socket. I use a Mauch SNS knee, delta twist shock/torque, positional rotator, and a Axia foot. I find it hard to split my energy between working on my prosthetic fitting/multiple apts that are required, and working on my addiction and recovery. Some days I don't feel like I have enough energy for either issue, yet both are important to allow me to move forward with my life.

I've named my limb 'Fletch' because I hate the word stump. Fletch is a unique part of my body, and I acknowledge it as a 'little being' that has to work harder every day than other parts of my body. At the end of a long day, Fletch likes a deep massage to work out the aches.

For my one year anniversary of my amputation, I walked with a group of rehab amputees in the Vancouver Sun Run, 10 km. I never thought I would be able to do this, inspiring for me to push myself. Didn't have one single skin breakdown, but boy was I sore all over for several days afterwards. Also volunteered at the Prosthetic School at BCIT to allow the students to practice their casting and fitting techniques on me.

People in my recovery network tell me my story is powerful because I have now chosen life; these people have been open to my story, non-judgmental, accepting at face value. In the early days after my amputation, it was hard to be honest about why this happened to me, about doing this to myself. That's a part of my own grieving and emotional recovery, coming to terms with this, not being hard on myself. I'm ready to give back to people with both addiction and disability issues.

Most people you meet want to know 'what happened, that's including strangers and people walking across the street from you. It's nice to have a rehab team - but no one can understand like someone else who's been in my shoes, someone else with an amputation at the same level, to fully get what it's like to wake up every morning, to use your crutches on bad leg days, the extra time to change your shoes - those intimate details of living with an amputation. There's two aspects of people staring at you - those who gauwk at you, and those who are complimentary about your prosthesis as if it was an artwork piece. I chose not to wear a foam cover, and like my socket laminated with a cool piece of fabric or artwork. Most of my component pieces are black, so it all fits nicely together from top to bottom. I chose to focus on those people's comments who appreciate the 'coolness' of my prosthesis.

So seek out a peer - don't hesitate. Listen and take what you like, and leave the rest. If the first person isn't right for you, then keep talking to others. Believe in yourself even in the tough times, when you think 'fuck it' maybe life on crutches is OK. Believe in your spirit, even when some days you can't find it, or it's exhausted. Tackle your prosthetic fitting one apt at a time. It's easy to get sidetracked with the little issues, but always keep in mind your long term goals of a comfortable fit and good alignment.

While you're waiting for the perfect prosthetic fit, or at least a resolution of multiple problems, take up an new activity that doesn't involve your prosthesis, so that you can still be active and get out in your community. Swimming is great. I use a pool wheelchair to get from the change room to the pool deck, and use a flipper on my foot to help keep me going in a straight line. It will take few times of this experience to get more comfortable with how your body feels, the change room and showering process, and deal with all those people who are curious.

Spend your energy wisely. Everything just takes longer, and you will learn to master each task in your own way. While its important to educate those people in your life about energy expenditure, some of them will never get it. Let that go. You're not whining. Only you know how your body is feeling. It's very very important to listen to your body - don't let your pride, other's pressure, or others ignorance force yourself to keep going, to push through it. A half hour rest for me in the late afternoon re-charges me for the rest of the evening and I'm worth it. I'm better for me and better for others around me, when I have this short rest.


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