April is Limb Loss Awareness Month

Bjoern Eser (left) and Rob Williams (right) on top of Mt. Ramelau in Timor Leste
Bjoern Eser (left) and Rob Williams (right) on top of Mt. Ramelau in Timor Leste

Awareness-Building Needs To Happen On All Fronts

Raising awareness about people with limb differences and the issues they are struggling with needs to happen on all fronts. And all of us can play a role in it.

  

Issues On My Wish List

April is Limb Loss Awareness Month. I think the word has been out there and each year the campaign is reaching out to more and more people. Numerous organisations and even more individuals are doing their very best to move amputee issues more into the spotlight. It feels right that there is a whole month dedicated to an increased awareness for people who have experienced some kind of limb loss or another.

  

There is still so much to do that could make life for people with limb differences a whole of a lot easier. Without thinking about it for more than a minute or two, I can come up with a long list of things I would like to become a reality. I don‘t mean fancy pie-in-the-sky luxuries, but just the bare bones of an improved situation. 

   

For me, being an active amputee with an appetite for trying out new things, easier access to high quality prosthetic limbs covered by an ordinary health insurance would rank high on my personal list. And I am not just talking about being entitled to one artificial limb for my day to day use. I would like to have the chance to have a second or even a third one to be able to engage in a variety of sports and outdoor activities, on land and in the water. 

 

I am also quite keen on inclusive physical education in schools being the norm rather than the exception. This would help people with limb loss to feel integrated, feel accepted, be part of the group. And it would be of benefit for the other children, too. I am convinced that growing up around people who are different from ourselves helps to create awareness for their needs and interests. It helps to see and experience life through their eyes leading to increased tolerance, respect and the willingness to assist each other. And in the end it helps to create a more humane society where people‘s needs are at the centre of what we are doing.

 

I‘d like to see evidence-based policy work with the explicit aim not just to improve the rights of people with limb loss but to also increase their opportunities to participate fully in public life. And I want to see more work of the kind that Alleles, Art4Leg and others are doing. Their ,pimp my prosthesis‘-style products allow amputees to wear their artificial limbs with pride and confidence. Something that should not be underestimated. Bringing limb loss out into the open and moving away from the skin-coloured elastic stocking image that is still attached to it is an essential part of the wider inclusion process of people with limb differences.

 

My Contribution To Raising Awareness

Breaking the barriers between people who are personally affected by limb differences and the rest of society. Providing information what it means to handle your daily routines, creating opportunities to meet and share, to listen and talk. Assisting people who lost a limb to get the best prosthetic devices that are on the market. Advocating for policy changes and the lot. All this is one part of what Limb Loss Awareness Month is all about.

 

But in my eyes there is more to it. And in many ways it is closer to home, so to speak. It‘s building up an information and support network among amputees. Peer to peer assistance, from one amputee to another. Face to face as well as through the world wide web. One-off advice on how to deal with skin issues when wearing a prosthesis to long-term mentoring for people who are struggling with accepting the loss of a limb. Sharing inspiring stories from people who have done exceptional things and overcome immense challenges to pointing out new little hacks and how to master our daily life more easily. Pointing out grants to get involved in sports to inviting people to join a parasport event. The opportunities are endless. And often they don‘t take much more than good will and a bit of commitment.

 

In many ways the basic concept for www.theactiveamputee.org grew out of this idea. Creating awareness first and foremost among amputees. That is what I am interested in. That does not mean that I consider all the other work not to be important. Far from that. It is essential that these issues are dealt with. But when I look at them I often find it hard to engage, find it hard to see an entry point for me to be active. I don‘t mind challenging situations and problems that need to be addressed. But generally I like practical action that focusses on solutions. And providing new insights so that amputees can make informed decisions is part of this hands-on approach. Sharing stories that inspire amputees to try out new activities, leave their comfort zone and allow the magic of something new to happen is part of it. And creating opportunities for amputees to be engaged is part of it.

 

May Limb Loss Awareness Month 2017 be yet another inspiring month full of amazing events. And hopefully this page can contribute its share to create an inclusive society that welcomes people from all walks of life, no matter the number or form of their limbs. 

 

Post by Bjoern Eser, the creator of The Active Amputee