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April 27th 2020

Serious Injury

How support can help make an amputation the start – and not the end – of your journey

How support can help make an amputation the start – and not the end – of your journey

An experienced rehabilitation specialist says the ever-improving support available to amputees means the loss of a limb is best not considered the end of a journey – but often the beginning of a new start.

An experienced rehabilitation specialist says the ever-improving support available to amputees means the loss of a limb is best not considered the end of a journey – but often the beginning of a new start.

Matthew Bushell is a clinical case manager with Bush & Co, a UK-leading specialist national rehabilitation coordinator for those who suffer catastrophic and life-changing injuries.

Its specialists often work with Hudgell Solicitors’ personal injury team and insurers to ensure a complete package of physical, psychological and emotional support is provided to those who suffer the loss of a limb.

Teams of qualified professionals, usually including prosthetic experts, psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists are bought together by Bush & Co to provide tailored packages of support, all aimed at helping amputees rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.

When instructed as part of a legal claim, Mr Bushell, an expert in high-specification prosthetic and orthotic needs, carries out detailed assessments of amputees to ensure relevant care and rehabilitation plans are developed and delivered.

He has supported many people, both young and old, and says each and every amputee is different in how they deal emotionally with limb loss, and also how they are motivated with regards to their long-term recovery.

However, he has a very simple message to those who believe an amputation will also mark the end of their life fulfilment.

“Amputation can be just the start of a new journey, and not the end of one. That is the biggest message I can give to anybody who loses a limb,” he said.

“Obviously, each and every person deals with limb loss in a different way, but there is a great world of support out there.

“Losing a limb has a different impact on everyone, but if the right support team is quickly established and put in place, there is most often no reason why people can’t get back to enjoying many things they did before, and that includes returning to work.”

Legal cases cover costs of dedicated rehabilitation teams

Bush & Co are often instructed by our catastrophic injury claims specialists at Hudgell Solicitors to act in the best interests of clients as part of legal cases, with the costs of their expertise, and the latest prosthetics, covered as part of the claim through insurers.

Securing the instruction of such specialists as soon as possible is key to ensure the required rehabilitation support can quickly be established, agreed and started.

Mr Bushell says this is extremely important in cases where people have suffered a traumatic injury, where they have been given no time to come to terms with the loss of a limb.

This, he says, usually has an understandably significant psychological impact.

“There are two different scenarios in which people have amputations and that is either through elective and planned surgery, or through traumatic injury where there is no choice and a limb has to be removed as an emergency,” he explained.

“These are obviously very different circumstances and have very differing impacts on people. Those who have the time to discuss their situation with doctors and make a decision to have a limb removed usually replace it with a prosthetic and have time to prepare themselves to adjust to the change.

“They have time to consider the impact on their lives and speak to professionals in advance.

“However, when it is a traumatic injury, requiring almost immediate amputation to stop bleeding and prevent other complications, there is obviously not that luxury of planning.

“Very suddenly a limb is lost and in these situations people usually need psychological support ahead of any other input. That would be something established by us very quickly and made a priority as it is a huge life change to have to come to terms with.”

Worries over future, impact on lifestyle and work are common

Mr Bushell says many of his clients have the same worries following amputation, usually around the things they won’t be able to do any more, and of course whether they will be able to return to work.

“People understandably have a huge fear about the future, and it’s mainly about what they fear they won’t be able to do,” he said.

“With the prosthetics available now, especially to people who have lower limb amputations, there is no reason why many amputees cannot have the same life aspirations that they had before their injury. It is so important to impress upon people that it is the start of a journey and most definitely not the end of one.

“People worry about becoming isolated and their social life ending also, but again, I’d say that most people we support become more social over time.

“There is a full team of people who they see regularly, they go to physio sessions and we certainly encourage people to join community support groups and to speak to other amputees, of which the Limbless Association is the most notable.

“Peer support is a huge factor and there is a really nice community feel amongst amputees. People gain a lot from talking to one another and sharing their experiences. Each region has support groups and they are hugely beneficial.

“Work is always a concern and obviously for people who had really physically demanding jobs it is highly unlikely they will be able to return to that. However, for many there are other options and vocational case managers can help people identify new careers in many cases.

“Vocational case managers (VCM) are experts in the job market, and I remember one client who was unable to return to his previous job in a self-employed role as a builder.

“In this particular case he didn’t feel able to re-visit the traumatic events that led to his injury and therefore felt disinclined to talk things through with a psychologist.

“It was the introduction of a VCM that turned things around. Once he was able to see that there was potential for him to retrain in property management and use the damages from his claim to invest in property, his mood changed significantly. Property management was something he’d always wanted to do, but had never previously had the opportunity.

“One of my physiotherapy colleagues has this written on her clinic wall ‘Opportunity through adversity.’ I think that’s exactly right.

“It again goes back to making sure you don’t see it as the end of a journey. There are always new doors to be opened.”

Support still available through lockdown

Mr Bushell was speaking as part of Limb Loss Awareness Month, an event which helps promote the support available across the UK to amputees.

However, this year it falls during a country-wide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19, something he admits will have temporarily delayed the recovery support for some people who will have been left unable to attend physiotherapy sessions, or perhaps scheduled fittings for prostheses.

However, he says the majority of support services remain in place both for emergency situations and in terms of psychological support.

“If people have emergency situations with prosthetics then the specialist centres remain open, as of course people may need treatment for issues such as infections, of if they have issues with prosthetic fittings which prevent them from being mobile,” he said.

“Most importantly people still have a team of support professionals who are able to video call and speak to one another face to face. People are getting quality time to talk still and in times like this, that is the most important thing of all.”

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