By Vala Hallgrimson, Certified Peer Visitor and Lead Advocate (Washington State)
Have you ever thought about what you would do after retirement? Well, that’s where I was five years ago until the world chose for me. January 20, 2018, I went into the hospital with severe sepsis. Almost a year later I finally came home from the hospital and rehab on December 9, 2018. During that time, I became an amputee with a left below the knee, right partial foot, right-hand fingers with partial thumb, and left partial fingers.
After returning home, I returned to work for a short time. Within two months, I found the Harborview Medical Center support group that was close by. Joining a support group was one of the BEST things I did for myself. There I met individuals new to being an amputee and those who have been an amputee for many years. I would hear about the struggles that each person had gone through. I would listen to the others help them through difficult times or answer their questions. I was very fortunate that my experience was positive, for the most part. I knew God had a plan for me and I could see that in my work.
As time passed, I became more active with the Amputee Coalition. I attended the 2019 National Conference in Texas with the help of a scholarship offered by the Amputee Coalition to cover part of the expenses. There, I took my first swim and first dance as an amputee. I spoke to vendors and took a class to become a Certified Peer Visitor. I have not missed a conference since and HIGHLY recommend attending. This is one of the BEST things I did for myself. There were over 1,000 people who looked like me. I had never seen an amputee before and I loved it! This year’s event will be held Aug. 2-5 at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld Hotel. Join us!
The Amputee Coalition also trains people to become Certified Peer Visitors, Advocates, and Lead Advocates, so you’re not alone in this endeavor. Advocacy Forum virtual sessions will be held throughout Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month in April and equip you to participate in advocacy activities. This opportunity positively impacts our community and is something I have wanted to do for a long time. This year we are advocating to enshrine insurance Fairness into law, the So Kids Can Move state campaigns, and the Hannah Cvancara Service Act. We would love to have you join us online each Wednesday in April. We are the people legislators want to talk to, the amputees. Whether it’s having insurance that works for you, getting the correct prostheses, or getting your dream job, you deserve it all. We deserve it all.
I appreciate how much equity this work brings to our communities and feel blessed to be a part of it. This is a better retirement than I could have imagined. You are powerful! You are kind. You listen. You are appreciated! You are needed! Go to the Amputee Coalition website for more information and to register for the Advocacy Forum virtual workshops. This will be one of the BEST things you do for yourself and our community!
Are you connected? Become a community member by joining the Amputee Coalition today! Embrace our 2023 theme and Inspire to Elevate in your communities during Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month!
For more information and resources, 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.