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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum
Suzy

DESPERATELY NEED ADVICE

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Hi Guys/Gals

John & I have a very good friend who was with the Army in Iraq. To cut a long story short, this guy returned from Iraq in October 2004 having lost his both legs below the knee. Due to bad break in his legs/hips he has been forced to spend the time up until now in a wheelchair so that his woulds could heal and his stumps firm up enough to allow his prosthetic legs to bear his weight.

Anyway, he is now going to an Army rehab unit to have physio to get him up on his feet. As this is new to our friend, we thought we would seek help from our "posters" on this forum. I know Ed is a great advice giver but to be honest anyone who can help would be great.

Due to him having below knee amputations, will he be able to walk unaided, or will he require a stick? We presume that because he retains his knees this will make walking easier for him.

Also, will he no longer require a wheelchair? Someone told him that due to having both legs amputated, he will still require this but I know from reading this forum that even above knee amputees manage to get around without chairs.

Thanks for your help chums.

Suzy & John

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Hi Suzy

Sorry to hear about your friend.

I am bilateral below knee also, although everyone is obviously different, with differences in their level of amputation etc., I should imagine your friend being in the army is quite a fit and active person which will help a lot with his recovery.

I have been an amputee for 35 years and by and large get along ok and have led a pretty normal life. I was 12 when I lost my limbs, but did the usual teenage things, went to work, got married had a family. Initially, like your friend spent time in a wheelchair, but progressed to pros. limbs with crutches, two sticks then one stick, then no sticks. I still have crutches and a stick which I do use if I have a problem with my prosthetics, didn't bother having a wheelchair for years, but now keep one folded up for emergencies as it actually keeps me more independent to have use of one.

Hope your friend does well and hope he soon comes along to join us on this forum.

Ann

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Hi Suzy & John

With damage to his legs & hips, your friend's situation doesn't sound straight forward. Everyone is different & the damage to his legs & hips will affect the way he walks.

But, to answer you question, usually a bilateral below knee amputee should be able to walk unaided - I'm BK & AK & until recently I was walking without sticks. Your friend may need to use a stick(s), but that's more dependant upon his other injuries in combination with his amputations. And, you're right - having knees, makes walking a lot easier.

Many bilateral amputees use a wheelchair when they aren't wearing their prostheses (e.g. at night), as it makes life more comfortable. Some, don't as they can weightbear on the ends of their stumps, usually because they have had amputations through a joint. However, if you have had an amputation through a bone, then the chances are that you can't weightbear through the end of your stump (Ed, is one of the exceptions ;)). But, to get around in the home, your friend could try crawling...I would imagine that he's already tried that (?).

I hope the rehab goes well for your friend & that he's soon back up on his feet. :)

Lizzie

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Hi Suzy, I'm sorry to hear about your friend, please send on our best wishes to him. I'm an above knee, but my good leg isn't too good. I use a wheelchair at night because I find that easier, but it all depends on the individual. The human spirit is pretty amazing when it's pushed to the limits and some people achieve incredible results.

Once your friend can make it to rehab and gets moving things will change for the better. Sometimes because of lack of general movement hip and other joints become stiff etc, gettting up an about makes a difference to everything.

I wish your friend all the best of luck and hope his journey on the road ahead is a smooth one.

Regards

Mel

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Hi,

Pretty much have to say that the advise given so far is right on. The only addition I'd make is to say how fortunate he is to have friends like you, that helps. Also, I'd like to say I'm sorry that he has to endure this, but I am very grateful for his service in the war. A person of that caliber has both the mental & physical strength to get through this. Still, none of us our super heroes. Sometimes it gets hard emotionally. Remember we're here if you need us. :)

Linda

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I'm RBK myself so don't have too much advice in that respect. However I am an Ex-serviceman and would urge your friend to contact the British Limbless Ex Servicemens Association at http://www.blesma.org/. They can offer all kinds of advice and information for serving and ex servicemen. Of course he can always pop in here as well, as you already know.

There was an article recently in BLESMA's magazine about a soldier who had lost one leg above knee and had returned to active service so it's not all bad news these days.

By the way, although I haven't used my wheelchair in over a year I have retained it just in case I have any problems. I was advised to do this by social services who also got it upgraded as well.

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Hi Suzy:

I am afraid your friend is just one of many who have and will return from Iraq……changed.

I have read many articles in the mags about the high end programs and prots being supplied by the American government to these individuals. They are top notch.

Aside from that, I believe your friend, in the end will be just fine. I know of several bilateral bks who are very successful. No doubt he is young, fit and possesses the military “mind” to get the job done. Financially, he will be ok for life. There are ak / bks back in the service I understand.

………….or maybe he will use this as a reason to get the hell out of there………..whatever.

I believe his rehab will be much shorter than others from the “civy world” just because he will be surrounded by fellow servicemen. He will not fail when they are around…………………..

It will be when he is “out” that, in my opinion, he will have to face his life…………..on his own………and may have difficulties at that time. It will be then that he will need friends like you.

ED

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John and Suzy:

It would seem that the time spent in rehabilitation is incredibly important to a bilateral BK's physical and emotional advancement. At Walter Reed, the time spent with other young men and women facing the same potluck of challenges creates a supportive environment. Heath Calhoun (an American bilateral leg amputee) has recently joined Wounded Warrior Project full time in the States as an advisor. Although Heath joined my nephew on a cross country (LA to New York) bicycle ride, his wife Tiffany is still unsure as to whether financial problems which forced Heath back home prematurely from his Walter Reed rehabilitation diminished Heath's improvement in ambulating with the two prosthetic legs. Nevertheless, Heath's ability to ride his bicycle 4200 miles in a meandering trip across the States this summer speaks of the capabilities inherent in a bilateral status even with a limited rehab.

Planning for a full life is the attitude displayed at Walter Reed by the peer visitors, amputees from earlier conflicts who volunteer to share their experiences and successes in life with the new amputees. Jim Mayer has gained fame as the "Milkshake Man". Seen by new amputees as merely a middle aged guy bringing in milkshakes and hanging around to chat, it is usually on the fourth or fifth visit that the new amputees begin to wonder aloud to him about the difficulties of amputations. It is then that Jim will raise his pants legs one at a time to show that he has had bilateral leg amputations since Vietnam, and has done everything the new amputees are hoping they will be able to do. The Wounded Warrior Project has sponsored ski trips for the new amputees at Vail, Aspen, and other winter resorts and water skiing trips in New York in the summer. I have always thought it made perfect sense for the British amputees to have discussions with the American amputees to improve both systems. It may be there are ways that the American system with its emphasis on the best prosthetics for our amputees (at the expense of other financial assistance; the British Armed Forces Compensation Scheme seems to outclass the American system) can assist your friend's progress. It is the one area the US government has spent top dollar on soldiers. The Wounded Warrior Project is on the web at woundedwarriorproject.org and the phone number is 540 342 0032 in the US.

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Suzy

We are all here to help, I'm a one leg A/K but amps like Afet & Ed have been there and bought the tshirt

Wish him all the best, I just hope Tony Blair gets our boys out A.S.A.P

PJ :)

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Hi All

Thanks and a thousand thanks for the replies. Ed, I knew you would come up trumps again and I have passed on your message. Our friend is in the British Army so I am hoping that the "legs" he gets will be just as fine the as the ones the Yankee guys get.

It was interesting to read in the last message of the milkshake man who visits Walter Reed. I dont think there is anything like that in Britiain. NOt since Douglas Bader who used to visit amputees. However, I am certain that with rehab and his sound military background, our friend will soon get back on his feet.

He is a bit miffed that the chair/crutches/sticks will not be out of his life, neither will the adaptations in the bathroom, however, he is looking forward to going upstairs on his own - instead of wheeling up a ramp!

We shall let you all know how his rehab goes and have shown him this site so, hopefully, when he can get his head around all that has happened, he can join the board himself. In the meantime, forgive us if we correspond for him. You know what these military guys are like - all big brave soldiers and dont want anyone to know that they are suffering!

Anway, we agree that they should bring the boys out and we salue them all.

Suzy & John

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It was interesting to read in the last message of the milkshake man who visits Walter Reed. I dont think there is anything like that in Britiain. NOt since Douglas Bader who used to visit amputees.

Hi Suzy

I think you may find that there are quite a few amputees who are happy to meet and chat with new amps. A lot of centres have User Groups, I know that the Limbless Association also have volunteers who do this, but sometimes you do need to ask.

Ann

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Hi Susy-

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. He is so blessed to have friends like you. I wish I could say more than, the best is yet to come and he's in my prayers. But he will find the strengh to go on and be more independent, it just takes some time.

I'm a civilian here in the USA, so I can't only express my experience. It been about a year since my last surgery, I have amputations on both legs bka. I have been using my prosthetics since mid December 2004. I used to use the wheelchair ramp until I got steady enough and termine enough to walk the steps. I still you my wheelchair and my bedside toilet during the over nite hours. During the days, I use the cane when I leave the house and depending the lengh of my journey, I bring my wheelchair. When I'm home, I pretty much walk with out my cane, don't use my wheelchair either. I able to you the bathroom without any assistance.

May your friend have the mental & physical strength to get through this. Please tell him we are here if he needs us.

Patti

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