23:30 PM

My Unplanned Journey as an Amputee Advocate

A first-person story about the importance of local support


About two years ago my life was forever changed when I contracted a rare strain of the vibrio bacteria called Vibrio Vulnificus. The details surrounding the how and why will never be fully validated, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, it can be carried throughout raw shellfish and brackish waters— typically killing 1 in 5 people within the first two days of becoming ill. For me though, someone who had done neither was instead gifted with the amputation of both of my legs below-the-knee. Just like that life was suddenly taking me down a difficult path, one of which I never would have imagined.

A significant challenge in becoming an amputee is isolation. Therefore, having a strong network of individuals with similar struggles is crucial. One of the ways to help you adapt is through networks of social media, and while these provide value and help you need to feel connected—for me, there is no substitute for in-person networking and friendship.

That’s why I’m so excited to be part of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s new Amputee Support Group at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono. You often hear from fellow amputees that “this is a club no one chooses to be in, yet it is full of some of the most amazing people you will ever meet,” which is completely true. There is a specialness in our ability to lift one another up, and in a way, it gives you a whole second family you never knew you had, nor needed.

For example, at Pocono, each monthly meeting provides a variety of valuable information from surgeons and prosthetic companies to other services, which can help an amputee get back to work, drive a car, or take care of themselves and their family. There is also a peer visitation program where members visit patients who have recently experienced amputations. There are also annual events scheduled throughout the year such as Amputee Awareness Day.

Following my amputation, I’ve personally focused on recuperating in physical activity and independence. Re-learning how to walk, run and swim has truly become a turning point for me, and as difficult as my path may be, I now know that I am not alone thanks to this support group and the generous spirit of amputees everywhere.

Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono’s Amputee Support Group meets on the first Monday of every month from 5-6 p.m., in the Serenity Room -- 2nd floor of the Dale and Frances Hughes Cancer Center, 181 E. Brown Street, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301. This group complements the amputee support group held at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest for the past 16 years.

In order to plan accordingly, please RSVP one week prior to the date of the meeting at the number below. If you need assistance with transportation, the support group will cover this cost. The Monroe County Transit Authority (Pocono Pony) is available for transportation at (888) 955-6282. For additional questions and details, please call Kim Bartman, RN, BSN, CVN at (610)-402-7130.