In the July/August issue of Amplitude, I discussed how I changed direction after my amputation and, by doing so, improved my enjoyment of life.
In this issue, I want to share with you some of my tips for success.
Find a Way to Believe Again.
For me, the first step was believing I could walk again. I achieved this when I attended my first amputee support group meeting with my wife, my primary caregiver. As people walked in, they each said a quick hello and sat down. My wife and I became concerned because we didn’t see any amputees, and we wondered when they would arrive. Much to our surprise, as everyone around the table began to introduce themselves, we learned that they were all amputees. We didn’t notice because all of them were wearing slacks and walked in without canes or crutches. This was my aha moment when I concluded that if they could do it, so could I.
Decide You Are Going to Adapt.
My goal-setting instincts also kicked in. First, I wanted—no, I needed—to walk again. I also needed to ride a bike, go on vacations, and be self-sufficient and an equal contributor to the household.
Get Involved in Something That Interests You.
I was introduced to the Sports Association of Gaylord Hospital, which is dedicated to teaching people with disabilities to enjoy adaptive sports. I participated in wall climbing and bike riding. I bought a new road bike adapted with a clip to hold my prosthetic foot in place and an adjustable seat. I also joined a health club, and my strength slowly returned.
Always Strive for Improvement.
We must make an effort every day to regain our quality of life. About one year after my amputation, I noticed my progress leveling off and was faced with a decision. Do I accept this level, or do I continue to strive for improvement? I chose the latter. I returned to physical therapy, worked harder at the health club, and accepted that progress would be more difficult. I refused to quit.
Three years after my amputation, I was finally satisfied with my ability to walk using a cane. At 69, I am constantly surprised at the continued improvement in my strength, balance, stamina, and gait, which translates into improved safety when I walk. It seems that it is never too late to improve one’s health and fitness, and I am surprised that many individuals with two legs but poor knees and/or hips walk worse than I do.
Overcome Your Reluctance to Ask for Help.
While I was motivated to help myself work, walk, dance, and ride again, I didn’t have to do it alone. My wife and many healthcare professionals were there to help me. At first, it was the doctors and nurses who helped me recover from the cancer and my surgeries. As of May 2013, I gained two new best friends: my prosthetist and my outpatient physical therapist. Together, they taught me how to use my prosthetic leg and improve my walking. I sometimes wondered what motivated them, and the answer is simple: Helping others lifts them up and gives them a great sense of accomplishment. Our success becomes their success.
By following these five tips, your chances of getting your life back after losing a limb will greatly improve. Go ahead—give it a shot.
— WORDS Herb Kolodny