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FRIENDS & FAMILY: Grow With New Friends and Celebrate Their Journey

By Colin Schaefer

The Amputee Coalition celebrates its diverse community and highlights the voices of its community members with various types of limb loss and limb difference in this issue. Some people living with limb loss or limb difference experience big life changes that set them on a different path forever while others have smaller changes over time. In the end, we grow into who we are supposed to be, although it may take time, and the journey can be challenging. Join us in celebrating the journey of those who took time to share their stories with us in this edition. Rest assured, you are not alone in your experience; you have support at the Amputee Coalition, and we invite you to get involved with our dynamic community.

Paul Glantzman is a recent amputee from New York State who experienced amputation in November 2021 due to an infection. Paul is a Type 1 Diabetic diagnosed in his 70s who has faced adversity his entire life. Paul was told by others that most people with Type 1 Diabetes die young from debilitating complications, the worst being the dreaded amputation. His biggest fear was undergoing an amputation, and it came true. However, Paul’s views on amputations have since changed. Through his journey, he realized he can still do all the things he wants, just differently. He shared, “It takes discipline to get better, but it’s worth it. I can still do all the things I love. I can still play the piano; I get to be with my wife, and I can still see my two kids, whom I am very proud of. It’s different, but I’m grateful.” Paul, an accomplished musician from Mannes College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music, is excited to get back to doing what he loves, playing the piano. Another thing Paul is looking forward to is completing his rehab in February 2022 and celebrating his 47th wedding anniversary with his high school sweetheart, Sara, and their two kids. Paul thanks his rehab center and PT staff, particularly Scott and Katie, who have taken such good care of him during his stay.

Meet Melissa Heuser, an amputee since birth due to Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS). She is a right below knee amputee and is missing six finger digits, three on each hand, due to ABS. She developed the syndrome before she was born. Melissa had several different surgeries throughout her life, and has overcome many obstacles and knows that she can take on anything. She commented, “I took a picture when it was early in the morning before I put my prosthesis on, in my element is when I am most vulnerable. I never liked people to take pictures of me let alone without my leg on and not seeming to have it all put together. As an amputee we are told we must be strong, be brave, put the happiest of happy faces on as well as our prostheses. I may not be normal as most, but I am abled.” Melissa is a wife, mother, grandmother, artist, and writer. She thanks God every day for the blessing of being able to not only survive but thrive. While at times, being an amputee has not been easy, she has been able to grow and live a life she never thought possible.

When Mike Moriarity first saw his leg after surgery, growth and change was the last thing on his mind. In fact, those first moments were filled with fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and loss, and other self-deprecating thoughts. But the one thing that kept him going was he knew he was going to survive, and if he could survive this, then he was going to grow from his experience. He knew he would one day be able to walk down the street with his head held high; he knew he was going to get back to the life he used to live. While not all those moments have come yet because of some roadblocks along the way, Mike is ready to face each challenge head on. One thing that has encouraged him through his journey is connecting with other amputees. He shared, “If they can do it, then I can do it too. We are all survivors and so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.”

Richard Slusher is a congenital amputee below the right elbow from Northeast Ohio. Growing up with an amputation is never easy, but through his journey, personal acceptance, and encouragement from others, Richard is now an amputee camp counselor for teens through the Salt Lake City hospital. His goals as a counselor are to empower and encourage other amputees through empathy and understanding. He also works as a tutor and college advisor.

His journey took a new direction when Richard began experiencing challenges with his powered myoelectric prosthesis in his adult years. Each device became hard for him to use, felt uncomfortable, and only featured flesh “tones.” He believed that a focus on flesh tone was to conform to how other people thought he should look. He embraced his differences and didn’t want his limb loss hidden. In parting ways with his old prosthesis, he found Open Bionics, a robotics company that produces the Hero Arm prosthetic device. Although medical insurance was unwilling to pay for the new device, Richard found a way through Go Fund Me and Presque Isle Medical Technologies to afford his new Hero Arm. In his own words, “The new arm was a significant confidence booster. Instead of people being shy or scared to approach me about my limb difference, they are excited to learn about an awesome looking robot arm from the future.” His goal in the future is to ensure devices like his are accessible to the public so that others can embrace their differences without having to pay a hefty cost.