Editor’s Note: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helped us celebrate Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month in April. VA News published this article by Amputee Coalition Executive Board Chair John Register to help spread the word. It appears here with permission from the VA.
For more than a decade, Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month has raised awareness of limb loss prevention and recognized people living with limb loss or limb difference. Established by the Amputee Coalition, the only national nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of amputees and their families, it has been supporting, educating and advocating for impacted people since its inception.
More than 2.7 million people live with limb loss in the U.S., and 28 million Americans are at risk of amputation. That includes 1.8 million Veterans within the VA health care network. Those at higher risk include:
- 5 million Veterans who are living with diabetes
- 400,000 who are diagnosed with sensory neuropathy
- 70,000 who have foot ulcers that aren’t healing
The Amputee Coalition has worked with VA on care continuums by providing training and technical support to VA’s Amputation System of Care, including implementation of our Amputee Resilience Programs throughout the VA health care system and in 15 cities across the country. This impacts more than 50,000 people living with limb loss.
This year’s theme is “Inspire to Elevate,” and all the activities focus on four elements of that theme:
- Elevate Your Story
- Elevate Your Voice
- Elevate Your Community
- Elevate Your Potential
As part of Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, we are sharing Veterans’ stories. Annika Hutsler felt she had something to prove when she enlisted in the Marine Corps. “All female Marines have something to prove,” she said. During boot camp when she was 21, the former ballet dancer began to feel pain in her foot. She did what all Marines would do—she ignored it.
Unfortunately, the pain didn’t go away. Eventually, doctors discovered the cause was a tumor. She underwent more than a year of surgeries and more pain before the below-knee amputation of her right leg in April 2019.
With support from the Marine Corps, Hustler has been recovering. She is an adaptive athlete with a dream: competing in Alpine skiing in the Paralympics. She won multiple medals in the Warrior Games less than a year after her amputation.
For Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, Hustler told her own story in this inspirational video.
For more information about how you can get involved in Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, visit the amputee coalition web page.