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April 30th 2020

Serious Injury

‘Life was a struggle for me after amputation – now I’m ensuring others have complete support through The Limbless Association’

‘Life was a struggle for me after amputation – now I’m ensuring others have complete support through The Limbless Association’

Clifton Henry says returning home from hospital after having his leg amputated was the moment he truly realised how much his life had been forever changed.

Clifton Henry says returning home from hospital after having his leg amputated was the moment he truly realised how much his life had been forever changed.

Describing himself as ‘hugely positive’ and someone who’d told himself to ‘battle on’, his confidence and belief was shattered when he couldn’t even get into his own home alone.

“When I came out of hospital and returned home on the patient transport bus all my neighbours and friends were waiting for me and they all cheered,” he recalled.

“They were there to welcome me home and lift my spirits and it made me feel great, but then when I got to my doorstep I couldn’t get up it and into my house.

“That was the reality check. In hospital I’d told myself ‘this is me now’ and ‘it is what it is’, but before I’d even got into my house I’d faced my first hurdle and I couldn’t do it alone.

“A few of my neighbours had to help me up the step, into the house and onto my sofa. That was tough to take.”

Aged 49 at the time and with a busy work and family life, Clifton’s world had been turned upside down.

He says all the talk in hospital after his amputation had been positive. Doctors and nurses had encouraged him that he’d soon be back enjoying life and up and about in the community once he’d had time to recover and get used to a prosthetic leg,  but in reality it was very different.

In fact, he says he faced two years of struggle.

“I understand why the people in hospital were so positive and upbeat, encouraging me about life at home and the future, but initially it was very different,” he says.

“The reality was I returned home and for five months I was stuck in my house, not knowing where to turn, who to talk to and where I could get support. It was a real struggle for the first two years and I’d spend weeks either upstairs in bed or downstairs on the sofa alone because I just couldn’t move.

“When you have an accident like I did, your first thought in hospital isn’t about your recovery and rehabilitation. It is ‘how do I pay my bills and support my family?’

“Nobody gave me those answers. I had nobody to talk to who’d been through it themselves, so it was not only a devastating time personally, but also a hugely worrying one for me and my family.”

Support of Limbless Association was inspiration to help others

Seven years on from his own accident and amputation, 55-year-old Clifton now commits his time to ensuring others don’t experience the same struggles he did, in his role as a Trustee and Volunteer Visitor of the Limbless Association.

It was a national charity he became involved as he made his own recovery, providing support to the limb loss community with a commitment to ensuring ‘No amputee need cope alone’.

The Limbless Association provides wide-ranging and vital support, from speaking to key decision makers on behalf of those needing support to providing information and advice on benefits entitlements, legal support, and where regional limb user groups, prosthetic centres and amputee friendly sports clubs can be found.

Perhaps its most valued service is its Volunteer Visitor Network, which sees members sharing their experience and knowledge of limb loss with anyone who has had, or is about to have an amputation.

Face to face meetings are arranged with the most suitable visitors, selected with regard to their level of limb-loss, geographical area, gender, age, the circumstances of how limb loss occurred or even if they share a hobby with those looking for support and guidance.

In his role, Clifton personally offers support and advice to amputees, visiting people in hospitals both prior to and after their operations. He is also a contact with those who provide crucial support, such as rehabilitation centres, clinicians and external stakeholders.

He has helped the Limbless Association develop a number of regional drop-in ‘Support & Connect Hub’ groups across the country, where amputees, friends and family can come together to discuss their experience and recovery, benefit from knowledgeable advice, and crucially reduce isolation.

Even through the current Covid-19 lockdown, the charity continues to offer support through triage calls, virtual speaking hubs, web sessions including Yoga classes and helping arrange video conference calls between amputees.

“I wish there had been a service when I was in hospital where an amputee like myself, who has been through the same experience, came to see me,” he said.

“When I went home from hospital I had no information about where to turn to for help and advice. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a world of conflicting information.

“I went months before I was aware that I could get vital financial support, and then it took months to go through the process. It was a year before I had any financial help.

“I would have appreciated and benefitted from speaking to someone about not only the physical impact of limb loss, but also the emotional side. I told myself I’d do all my crying in hospital and then just dust myself down and get on with it, but it’s not that simple.

“You do struggle emotionally, and we all tend to concentrate on the amputee, but who offers the support to the families?

“When I see amputees for the first time now, I ask them simply how they are getting on, allowing them to offload whatever they are struggling with. I then try to help deal with those issues.

 

“I don’t say everything will be fine. I don’t tell people they can do what that have always done, but I do say that they can still do many of the same things, just in a different way.

“I am honest and I do warn people that the first year or two years are likely to be tough, but I know the importance of talking to others, and groups such as the Limbless Association, which can point you in the right direction towards such vital support from the start.

“We don’t talk longer term than that. It is all about overcoming hurdles one at a time. I think back to me on my doorstep. You have to target milestones – no matter how small – and keep progressing.

“The advice I give is to concentrate on today, and tomorrow will take care of itself. If you try to deal with the future you can lose sight of the present.”

The Limbless Association and Limb Loss Awareness Month
Clifton was speaking to mark Limb Loss Awareness Month, which runs throughout April and seeks to promote the support available to people who suffer limb loss.

Hudgell Solicitors is proud to support The Limbless Association, which supports people nationally and also holds monthly informal information and Support & Connect Hubs drop-in sessions in Hull, Manchester and Bristol and Romford

The charity is continuing to offer support through the current Covid-19 lockdown and can be contacted at it office on 01245 216 671, or via the helpline on 0800 644 0185.

It is continuing to conduct triage calls, host virtual speaking Hubs, web sessions including Yoga classes and arrange video conference calls between amputees looking to speak to one another.
Visit www.limbless-association.org for more information.

 

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