According to the nonprofit Amputee Coalition, well over two million people in the United States live with limb loss, and that number will only increase over the next decade. Contrary to popular belief, most amputations are a result of common illnesses like vascular disease and cancer, rather than major accidents – but there are also thousands of military veterans and car accident victims who suffer from amputations every year.
At Hare Wynn, we regularly represent clients who are dealing with catastrophic injuries like the loss of a limb. In some cases, negligence can be the root cause behind an amputation. Whether your amputation was caused by a medical error or a serious fall injury, however, the fact remains that these injuries have deep and long-term costs, most of which are hidden to the outside world.
In this post, we’ll touch on some of the most common issues amputees face after losing a limb, and how they can find support in the aftermath.
THE HIDDEN SIDE-EFFECTS OF AMPUTATION
After an amputation, other people only see the external evidence of the injury. The initial shock of losing your limb may be intense, but more often than not, amputees report that it’s the invisible costs that cause them the most lasting pain and distress.
Here are a few of the hidden issues amputees can experience after the procedure:
- “Phantom” pain and sensation. Because there’s more widespread knowledge about amputation than in the past, many people already have a rough idea of what “phantom pain” means. However, experiencing it is an entirely different story. Amputees may get frequent spasms, cramping, and shocks in the residual limb. They may even feel as if their limbs are still there from time to time, causing balance issues or serious falls.
- Grief for the lost limb. It can sound strange to non-amputees, but losing a part of one’s body is a mentally and emotionally traumatic event, more similar to losing a friend than becoming injured. Thus the amputee will experience intense grief, as their mind tries to come to terms with what happened to them. Depression, anxiety disorders, and feelings of inadequacy can haunt amputees long after surgery.
- Dealing with social perceptions. Most people don’t realize how isolating an amputation can be. From getting intrusive questions to hearing preconceived notions about amputees, it can be difficult for an amputee to process the way people react to them. In some tragic cases, friends and family members may not be able to fully accept the amputee as they are.
- Relearning basic physical motions. Although lower-body amputees face more significant impediments to daily movement, upper-body amputations change the balance throughout your body as well, forcing you to re-learn many basic motions.
FINDING SUPPORT AND SOLACE IN THE AFTERMATH
Of course, it’s equally important to understand that many amputees are able to find success, meaning, and lasting happiness after their injuries. Although the adjustment period can take many years, amputees often point to a singular turning point: Finding and keeping a strong support system. One recent study even corroborated that getting support from other amputees was the single best predictor for recovery.
Amputee support groups are one of the best ways for individuals to connect, share common experiences, and talk about their grief and isolation in a safe setting. There are also many physical therapists and healthcare providers that focus on holistic healing, and on helping amputees re-adjust to their bodies. By bringing their hidden struggles out into the light of day, amputees may start to feel a little less alone.
If you need legal representation in the wake of an amputation, our injury team at Hare Wynn is here to provide compassionate counsel on your case. With more than 130 years of experience, we can help you get the compensation you need to adjust after your injuries. Contact us for a free consultation at 800-568-5330 to learn more.
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