Guest column: Raising awareness on limb loss

by Lora Belcher | Guest Column Published:

Did you know that each day, more than 500 Americans lose a limb? Did you know that about 185,000 amputations are performed each year? Even though April is Limb Loss awareness month, I figured better late than never in sharing some insight into a world I never, ever thought I would find myself.

My husband is a recent quadruple amputee.

As I prepare to sit in a waiting room yet again for another below-the-knee amputation, many thoughts go through my head. On Aug. 14, 2014, at University Hospitals in downtown Cleveland, my husband will be heading into the operating room for this surgery once again. There are no words to describe the loss of a limb, yet the loss of all four limbs. However, below is a recent article I wrote to Limb Loss magazine when they requested entries for, "Who is your Amputee Hero?" I am convinced that never giving up is a choice that each and every one of us makes each day.

"My amputee hero is a man I have known since the age of 15 when we first dated. We are now in our early 40s and have been happily married for 15 years. For over 20 years my husband, Jeff, and I have had the wonderful privilege of sharing our passion for the sport of tennis by coaching our clients together. All of those years our biggest concerns were what drills and lesson we would be teaching our students for the week. Unfortunately, last year Jeff was struck down within 24 hours with a life threatening thyroid storm that placed him in a medically induced coma for two months and on life support with a mere 10 percent survival. At which time he faced a significant amount of trauma. Defeating all odds and facing over 20 surgeries during his six-month hospital stay, he came home in a wheelchair a quad amputee in September of 2013.

"At that time, he didn't have prosthetics yet and didn't have the muscle strength to even stand using a walker without my assistance. For weeks his limbs were still healing, his skin still stretching, his wounds still closing and he found himself searching for his 'new normal.' His concerns now were nowhere what they once used to be. I found myself with a man that once had hands and feet and now wanted them back again. Each day my heart filled with sadness. As I stood next to him each step of the way, I had no idea how much his miracle spirit, courage, determination and strength would inspire not only myself but also our two children in just 10 months from arriving back home.

"During that short period of time, his creativity in finding ways to do the everyday things in life that most take for granted there are no words for. When you would think one would get upset he always approaches each day with a smile and says, 'It's OK. I will figure a way out to do that task.' And he did and still does. One week it was pushing himself up a flight of stairs, another week using a 'poof' cushion to get in bed. And then one step turned into two steps with a walker and prosthetics that he learned to do on his own. Another week it was 20 steps in the driveway with a walker. Another week it was laps in our unfinished basement during the winter and another week of laps around the house on softer ground in case he fell. I have watched him crawl when his limbs are tired and I watch him use tools to open doors that he is unable to unlock. The things that used to be simple for him are now an everyday challenge. And now, as I stand in my kitchen window I proudly watch my husband in the driveway wearing his super hero laminated prosthetics playing basketball with our kids and truly loving every moment.

"He never takes the gift of time for granted, he never quits, he faces each day navigating his plan/route before he does anything but with each step he continue to move forward despite his limb loss, despite the loss of his livelihood, despite the loss of independence and despite the fact that nearly everyone around him wherever we go has their limbs. As I have learned most are unaware of the depths of internal pain an amputee feels and faces each and everyday. I have learned so much from him, more than I have ever imagined, and I am beyond proud of my husband Jeff. He is truly my amputee hero now and I have no doubt for many years to come. Thank you Jeff for inspiring not only me but most importantly our two children who look up to you each and every day."

In an effort to continue to raise awareness on limb loss while Jeff is in the hospital and rehab, I invite you to help us support in paying it forward. We will be donating a portion of contributions made to the Jeff Belcher Benevolent Fund, First Merit Bank, 116 W. Streetsboro Road, Hudson, Ohio 44236 or to the Internet Go Fund Me page under Jeff Belcher from Aug. 14 to Aug. 21, 2014, to the Amputee Coalition. Thank you for your support and helping us support others with limb loss!

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