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Saturday, 6 June 2020

CHARITY TODAY AWARDS

Virtual support groups still acting as a lifeline for amputees during COVID-19

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THERE are currently 13.9m people living with a disability in the UK, and with social interaction and physical care restricted due to the coronavirus outbreak, many people in the disabled community are having to adapt to new ways of life.

Despite physical movement and face-to-face meetings being restricted, help and support for people in need is still readily available.

The lockdown can be particularly trying for amputees, who need support both mentally and physically throughout rehabilitation.

But despite the current situation, online support groups are continuing to bring communities together and ensure they stay connected and stay on track with their progress.

Whilst NHS and private physiotherapy sessions are being postponed or even cancelled and physical interaction is currently prohibited, connecting virtually continues to give amputees much needed support, preventing complete isolation.

Following a course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in 2016, Gary Wilson lost his right leg due to an infection followings surgery.

He describes the aftermath as ‘devastating’. The father of four from Hull admits he struggled to face the gruelling journey of recovery ahead, and that he felt isolated and in denial for the first few months.

Gary said:

“For months I was just in my bedroom and hardly moved. You’re not prepared for your new life, and nor are your family and loved ones. You can easily become isolated and I certainly found those first few months particularly tough.”

In the initial months following his discharge, Gary didn’t proactively seek any help and support in the community but admits it was joining dedicated local groups that kick-started his progress, both mentally and physically.

For many, physical and social interaction with other amputees is vital for rehabilitation, but with patients now confined to their own home, this is not currently an option.

Various charities and support groups are however running online sessions to keep their community connected through this difficult time and for Gary, this has proved important.

Gary added:

“They have been really great for me. You get to meet so many people who have been going through similar experiences and it’s just really helpful to talk.”

Mr Wilson is being supported by Hudgell Solicitors throughout his recovery, with the personal injury and medical negligence specialists seeking to source him a new, improved prosthesis to give him greater mobility.

Gary Wilson leg

Amanda Stevens, Chief Executive of Hudgell Solicitors, said:

“The firm is dedicated to helping people through rehabilitation after serious injury, and that established partnerships with charities and support groups play a key part.

“At Hudgell Solicitors we take great pride in the close relationships we make with many community-based services as we know they can make a hugely positive impact on the people we support.

“Often when people return home from any serious injury it is difficult to adapt to that change

“Being able to access specialist, local support – which can often be as simple as listening, understanding and offering advice from experience – is always vital alongside all other support which can be secured through a legal claim.”

Before isolation, Gary attended drop-in sessions at the ‘Support and Connect Hub’ ran by The Limbless Association and intends to stay connected throughout the lockdown via remote consultations.

Gary concluded:

“You can learn and take inspiration from others, and help people who you know are where you were some weeks or months earlier. There are people at these sessions that I take so much inspiration and hope from.”

The Limbless Association continues to offer vital support to ensure ‘No Amputee Need Cope Alone’.

The charity’s helpline can be called on 0800 644 0185 and people can email enquiries@limbless-association.org.

Advisors are on hand to provide support and a range of advice, signposting and resources around limb loss and living life beyond.

The charity’s ‘Volunteer Visitors’ network of amputees who understand the challenges of limb loss also continue to provide support, via telephone rather than face to face visits during the lockdown, and can be contacted on 01245 216674.

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