Port Augusta amputee Peter Allen: Limbs 4 Life support network 'vital' in regional SA

ONE STEP AT A TIME: Amputee Peter Allan walking his Westie Jock with grandchildren Nat and Ollie. The 73-year-old Port Augusta retiree said the Limbs 4 Life support network is vital for amputees in regional and country areas.
ONE STEP AT A TIME: Amputee Peter Allan walking his Westie Jock with grandchildren Nat and Ollie. The 73-year-old Port Augusta retiree said the Limbs 4 Life support network is vital for amputees in regional and country areas.

FOR former TAFE lecturer and amputee Peter Allen, it is the small things that matter after losing a limb.

The 73-year-old widower from Port Augusta was flown to Adelaide in January 2018 for an emergency lower-limb amputation on his right leg after an infected foot ulcer turned deadly.

"I was told I only had five days to live unless I had the operation," said Peter, a diabetic.

When the time came to make the 300km trip home, doctors asked Peter what his goal was. "It was just to be able to take my West Highland terrier Jock on a walk," he told The Senior.

SUPPORT: Peter (second from right) at the Limbs 4 Life group in Whyalla.

SUPPORT: Peter (second from right) at the Limbs 4 Life group in Whyalla.

For Peter, this was the key to coping with life after losing a limb: taking things one step at a time.

"It's no good saying life will carry on as normal. It doesn't. It's a bit like climbing Everest. You take a few steps forward and then a few steps back. Then you find yourself at Base Camp and realise you still have a huge challenge ahead," he said.

So when Peter heard about the Limbs 4 Life support groups bringing amputees together to help one another, he made the two-hour round trip with his son to Whyalla.

"As well as the physical challenge, losing a limb is a huge mental challenge," said Peter, admitting he was apprehensive at first.

I didn't know what to expect. I'd never spoken to other amputees, and this was the first time I had sat down with similar people.

But it wasn't long before Peter felt right at home. He said the meetings are not "all moaning and groaning"; they're also about having a laugh.

"At the first meeting, a man sat down and said the hardest thing he found after his amputation was getting up off the toilet seat. I really found that difficult too! It was such a relief."

Peter said the support groups are vital for amputees, especially in regional and country areas and for people who live on their own. "Nobody should ever go through this alone," he said.

As well as the Limbs 4 Life network, Peter has the help of his son and of course, his loyal four-legged friend Jock.

"When I came home I was in a wheelchair for two months so couldn't walk him. The day I got my prosthetic leg, Jock watched very carefully as a I put it on then ran down the hall and got his lead."

Out on a limb? Support is there

There are around 8,000 lower-limb amputations performed in Australia every year - that's just over 150 a week.

Many are a result of diabetes, with cancer, vascular disease, accidents, infection and birth deficiencies also causes.

Limbs 4 Life SA program manager Kylie Fransom.

Limbs 4 Life SA program manager Kylie Fransom.

Kylie Fransom is the SA program manager for Limbs 4 Life - a national organisation supporting people with limb loss - and is overseeing the rollout of a social support network for amputees in the state "who may otherwise fall through the cracks".

"Many amputees are over 60," she said.

"The support groups are so people don't feel isolated, especially the older people in the community.

"Once an amputation has been done they go home and have to try and get on with their normal life. That's often when people find it gets a bit scary."

She said the sessions are also for carers, family and friends. "A lot of time the support groups are just as helpful for them"

So far support groups have been held in Whyalla, Port Pirie, Port Lincoln, Wallaroo, Barossa, Mount Gambier, Riverland, Adelaide with a Port Augusta meeting scheduled for July 18.

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This story Amputee Peter: 'I had five days to live' first appeared on The Senior.