"I Am Passionate About The Challenges I Face!"
Today it's time to share another amazing story of survival and resilience. This time it's about Elin, a young woman from Sweden. She first caught my eye with her Instagram stories out her life after sepsis. Shortly afterwards, she ran a lovely Instagram take-over for ANATOMIC STUDIOS, one of my operational partners from Malmö. And only a few days ago, Elin showcased her range of amazing prosthetic covers on social media. So I thought it's high time to reach out to her and learn more about her life after the life-changing events from 2019.
This article is part of my cooperation with ANATOMIC STUDIOS.
Fighting For Survival
Bjoern: Elin, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, despite your very busy schedule. I really appreciate this and look forward to our discussion. When people see you on social media, they see a confident young women from Sweden, often smiling and seemingly happy. Some know you are a wife and mother of two beautiful children. Others know about your passion for culture and fashion and your writing for Femina Sverige. What people often don’t know is that just a few years ago, you almost lost your life. For weeks, it was a battle for survival. You won this fight, but it changed your life forever. Can you tell us a bit more about what happened back then and how it impacted on your life?
Elin: It started in March 2019 when my family and I were on holiday in Gran Canaria and I started feeling sick. It got worse every day and four days after we arrived on the island I sought medical attention. On April 1st, I was hospitalized and the next day I ended up in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator on the intensive care unit.
I had suffered a septic shock which was caused by streptococcus bacteria. For a long time, I hovered between life and death while the infection spread before the antibiotics finally started to help. Several of my internal organs also began to collapse.
After 18 days in a Spanish hospital, I could be flown home to Sweden for continued intensive care. Due to my sepsis, my feet and fingers did not survive and later had to be amputated.
Bjoern: If you look back at the time in hospital, realizing what had happened and that your life would be very different from what you thought it to be just a few weeks earlier, who and what was important for you during the initial months when coming to terms with your new situation? What were the main physical as well as emotional challenges and how did you overcome them?
Elin: It was very important for me to have the support of my family and my friends. I suffer with the people who spend a long time with me in hospital alone. In addition, I had a fantastic team at the hospital who did a lot for me. The hardest part for me was that I was completely dependent on people around me as I had no control over my life anymore. I could neither eat nor turn in bed when I wanted to. To be honest, the situation was really stressful. In the initial weeks, I mostly lived hour by hour. But I had hopes of getting stronger to regain control.
Choosing To Show My Body Has Really Given Me An Emotionally Freer Life
Bjoern: Many people affected by limb loss and limb differences struggle with acceptance. Saying ‘Yes!’ to their new body, their new situation and the new limitations it might bring; all this can be a lengthy and painful process. How did you deal with this transition? What were the hardest moments for you and your family? And what helped you to embrace the new situation?
Elin: For me, the amputation was the only way out to keep my life and be active again. There was no doubt that my limbs could not carry me forward in life. Therefore, I have always seen my prostheses as my best friends. They take me further and allow me to experience almost anything I want.
But obviously, I also miss the parts of me and I feel sadness to have lost them. I will never again experience the simple physical life.
Bjoern: Are there any words of encouragement you want to share with others who are struggling in this regard? And what advice would you have loved back then when you were coming to terms with a life after limb loss?
Elin: What you have to understand is that the biggest influence on how you want to continue your life depends on yourself. It is I who bears the greatest responsibility for how the continuation of my life should look. But it is also not wrong to be overly clear and explain what you may need help with to get where you want to go. A lot of patience will go a long way.
Bjoern: From you amazing Instagram profile, it is obvious that you have a passion for fashion, culture, and for all things aesthetic. You developed your very own style. A style that does not shy away from showing your scars and prosthetic devices, but instead showing them with pride and confidence. How important is this part of you for your identity as a woman, a mother, an amputee and sepsis survivor?
Elin: Not hiding and choosing to show my body has really given me an emotionally freer life. I have never before been ashamed of my body either and today I have great respect for it because I know how much we have been through together.
I'm far too happy living a free life to care about other people's view me. I also can't take it for granted that they understand everything I've been through. But I have a sense of self that I know exactly how hard it has been - and sometimes still is.
Finding Aesthetic Solutions For My Prostheses With Anatomic Studios' Covers
Bjoern: In the intro I mentioned that I recently saw you during the Instagram takeover from ANATOMIC STUDIOS, one of the pioneers of 3D printed prosthetic covers. When did you first start experimenting with prosthetic covers? What do they mean for you? And how did they help you to develop your own style and personalize your prosthetic devices?
Elin: I thought it was an exciting world to get to know when I became an amputee and came into contact with prostheses. Yes, therefore, I spent a lot of time finding aesthetic solutions that appealed to me. For me, it has been like an extra golden duck in everyday life to be able to design my prostheses with my own ideas in order to enjoy them. I was so excited when I got in touch with ANATOMIC STUDIOS, seeing that they shared my thoughts that life as an amputee can actually be made more enjoyable.
They have several nice designs to choose from and their metallic colors are my favorites. It was easy to find something that I would enjoy.
Bjoern: Our body image - so how we see our body‘s physical characteristics and our attitude towards them - is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing, with wide-ranging implications for our overall wellbeing. According to your experiences, what can people affected by limb loss do to develop and further strengthen a positive body image and improve their overall wellbeing? What works for you?
Elin: I am passionate about challenges. It is new goals and challenges that have taken me forward. My very first goal in rehab was to be able to brush my hair by myself. So you can also keep in mind that goals and challenges can be very individual.
Now, after almost four years, my goal of being able to go on longer walks without pain still remains. But the biggest challenges are showing society that you are capable of a lot despite living with disabilities. There are many myths that still live on in society and we are a minority group that rarely gets to take a seat and be seen.
Accessibility, Supporting Communities, And Access To Devices Are Key
Bjoern: Last but not least: If you were the Government’s Commissioner for the Interests of People with Disabilities, what are three things you would change in society? What would be your priority issues that need to be addressed?
Elin: I would like to make the community accessible to everyone. Much better adaptations can be made in public premises and shops, for example, where it is not clear that only people with disabilities should benefit from it. You want to blend in and avoid having special solutions.
I would also like there to be more communities for people with disabilities that allow you to support each other, get tips and meet.
In Sweden, I also wished that people would be more generous with modern aids and prostheses. That everyone who wanted to be able to practice training and activities with the help of the right prosthesis. For example, I miss the downhill skiing that I competed in as a child. There are many good aids on the market, but they rarely reach those of us who need them.
Bjoern: Elin, thank you so much for the interview. It's been a real pleasure.
Elin: Thank you :)
And if you want to learn more about Elin, you find her on Instagram.
Post by Bjoern Eser, the founder of and shaker and maker behind The Active Amputee.
Meet the team, see their favourites
I am immensely happy to announce that The Active Amputee has teamed up with ANATOMIC STUDIOS in Malmö/Sweden. ANATOMIC STUDIOS produces amazing prosthetic covers and we have been in contact on and off for the last five years. The work of the ANATOMIC STUDIOS founders Emelie and Christian and their team has been featured in this blog back on 2018, Emelie has been on the podcast in 2020, and we explored ways to deepen our collaboration during my visits to Sweden in the summer of 2022. read more
The podcast with Emelie Strömshed
In today's episode, Emelie and I talk about fashion and personal style, we talk about self confidence and being proud as an amputee, and we talk about the new doors that have been opened by modern technologies and advancements in 3D printing. listen to the show
Interview with Emelie Strömshed
The age of the off-the-shelf look for artificial limbs is slowly coming to an end. With significant advancements in 3D printing technology in recent years a number of companies are now offering stylish prosthetic covers. Emelie from Anatomic Studios in Malmö/Sweden tells us more about the company and their approach to assisting amputees to find their personal style. read more