By Jack Richmond, former Amputee Coalition President and CEO
Your story of limb loss or limb difference is the story of a life-changing experience, and it is also a story that can change lives. One of the ways your story can do this is through advocacy. Your story can help your local, state, and federal legislators connect the dots between limb loss/limb difference and access to the care and technology our community needs to live our lives.
Over the years I have had many opportunities to share my story of limb loss and help others share theirs. One memorable experience happened a few years ago at a lead advocate training session before our Hill Day in Washington, D.C.
A retired high school teacher who had above-knee limb loss was struggling to formulate his “ask” for the next day. I asked him to tell me his story. He told me he had lost his leg in an accident when he was 17. He recovered pretty quickly and with the help of his state-of-the-art 1970s prosthetic leg, he went on to college to fulfill his dream of becoming a teacher.
He told me about his students and how they would laugh when his old hydraulic knee would let him fall in the middle of a class. He said he would just get up, dust himself off, and say, “Well, there’s your lesson in gravity for the day. Now back to our regularly scheduled lesson.”
He said it was kind of funny back then, but now if he falls at 70 he could break something and end up in the hospital. He went on to explain that now that he had a microprocessor-controlled knee he couldn’t remember the last time he had fallen. He said, “If you think about it, this knee has actually saved me and my insurance money by keeping me able to work and out of the hospital.”
I had to chuckle a little and say, “I thought you were having trouble with what you were going to say to your congressman?” He told me he didn’t know how to explain the bill we were asking him to support, you know, “the ask.” I said, “It’s simple. You want to ask for two things: that they listen to your story and help by supporting the legislation because it will help others like you.”
He had a great story with all the right ingredients: a personal story about his experience with limb loss that included him getting his college degree, working as a teacher for 40 years, his struggle with outdated technology, and the happy ending of finding a solution that keeps him from falling. He was able to connect the dots for his representative between the problem, the need, and the solution.
And that is how the unique story of your life-changing experience can be one that in turn changes lives for the better.
To get involved and tell your story, join the efforts of the Amputee Coalition and become an advocate. The free virtual Advocacy Forum events offer powerful training opportunities to elevate your voice and represent the interests of the limb loss and limb difference community. During Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, these virtual advocacy events will prepare you to leverage your unique story to make a meaningful difference alongside other amputees and allies. If you are passionate about improving the lives of amputees, join us online this April!
Embrace our 2023 theme and Inspire to Elevate in your communities during Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month!
For more information and resources in preparation for April, please visit the Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month webpage. Make sure to tag the Amputee Coalition on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using the hashtags: #InspireToElevate, #LLLDAM, #LLAM #NoAmputeeAlone, #WeThrive.