Written by Guest Blogger, George Gondo – Project Director, Amputee Coalition
After working for the Amputee Coalition for over 10 years, I regularly find myself educating friends, family, and people I meet in my daily travels on the topic of limb loss. Many of these conversations begin in the same manner; rattling off facts. One that always comes to mind is “As a result of the conflicts in the Middle East, nearly 1,700 active duty military service members have lost a limb.”(1) Once engaged, the conversation moves towards the more prevalent causes of amputation, such as complications from diabetes and vascular disease. It is estimated that 82% of the 165,000–185,000 amputations performed annually in the U.S. are attributed to complications of diabetes and vascular disease. (2,3) With little exposure from the media, we are left with a lack of awareness and knowledge of limb loss across the general public, especially among individuals living with these conditions.
Limb Loss Awareness Month
To help raise awareness for the 2.1 million Americans that are living with limb loss, the Amputee Coalition has designated April as Limb Loss Awareness Month (LLAM). (4) The Amputee Coalition, along with limb loss support groups, hospitals, and the O&P community, have worked together to increase awareness of limb loss. By sharing stories and experiences of those who live with limb loss, as well as educating the public and policymakers, we hope to make an impact that will affect the current challenges and barriers patients face when accessing appropriate care and advocating for their rights.
Limb Loss Awareness Month Outreach and Events
In order to meet our ambitious goals, the Amputee Coalition conducts a number of outreach activities to help spread the word through both social media and community involvement throughout the United States. During the month of April, various organizations coordinate events in their communities such as Amputee Awareness Day in Cedar Crest, PA or the Ohio Amputee Celebration in Columbus, OH. These events help to strengthen the limb loss community at the local level, as well as raise awareness for limb loss. To see a full listing of events, and find one in your area, check out the Amputee Coalition’s event calendar!
Others have used the month of April to organize local fundraisers to support various limb loss programs, like the Amputee Coalition’s Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp and the Bridge to Ability Scholarship. With so many affected by lower extremity limb loss, many of these organization put on “Walk, Run or Roll” event to help patients regain mobility. Some examples of these events, are ABC & AOPA Limb Loss Awareness Charity Walk on Saturday, April 20th and the Adventist Healthcare Rehabilitation’s 3rd Annual Amputee Awareness 5K on Saturday, April 28th.
In addition to local events, the Amputee Coalition has created several virtual events that anyone can participate in on social media. By using the following hashtags: #WOW, #AmputeeCoalition, #LLAM, #AmplifyYourself, you too can join in supporting LLAM.
- Wear Orange on Wednesdays (#WOW) – Post a picture of yourself on social media wearing orange every Wednesday during the Month of April with #WOW
- Support Group Appreciation Day April 14th – Celebrate your local support group by giving them a shout-out on social media with the hashtag #LLAM
- Certified Peer Visitor Appreciation Day April 21st – Give a nod to all the wonderful people who are trained and certified to provide peer support to others who have just experienced an amputation. Post a picture of any amazing CPV and use the #LLAM to give them some much-needed recognition and appreciation
- Show Your Mettle April 28th – Limb Loss Awareness Month’s signature social media event! Show Your Mettle day is the limb loss community’s opportunity to flood social media channels with pictures of people with limb loss showing their metal (e.g., prosthesis) or mettle (e.g., how awesome they are)
Raising More than Awareness: Amplify and Advocacy
The overall goal of Limb Loss Awareness Month is to raise awareness of limb loss and the limb loss community for legislators and policymakers. Through education and awareness, they will have a better understanding of how to create policies that will help improve the lives of those affected. We encourage all members of the limb loss community to utilize the Amputee Coalition’s Amplify tool to share their stories. It is critical patients contact members of Congress and medical insurance companies in order to share how their policies effect them.
Our advocacy efforts will reach their peak with the Coalition’s Hill Days in Washington D.C. on April 16th and 17th. This event will bring limb loss advocates from around the country together to learn more about the issues facing their community. They will receive training to help them effectively educate policymakers regarding these issues, as well as visit with their Congressional representatives and their staff. To attend Hill Days, or for more information, visit the Amputee Coalition’s website.
Tools and Resources to Promote Limb Loss Awareness Month
As O&P providers, you can help spread the word about Limb Loss Awareness Month and the specific activities taking place in April. The Amputee Coalition has created a handy toolkit of resources to help you get the word out there! The “toolkit” contains the following resources:
- An infographic with current statistics about limb loss in the United States
- Posters and graphics you can use on your website, social media profiles, and office
- Information about the Coalition’s Amplify Yourself campaign
The time is now. Let’s raise the voice of the limb loss community and be heard!
About the Author: George Gondo, MA; has worked for the Amputee Coalition since 2007. During his time with the company, he has held numerous roles and responsibilities, including program development and evaluation. George currently serves as the Project Director for the Amputee Coalition’s National Limb Loss Resource, managing the Coalition’s cooperative agreement with the Administration for Community Living. Community Living collaborates with researchers to generate evidence to improve access to appropriate post-amputation care and continues to enforce limb loss within the research community.