Support network invaluable for amputees in Port Augusta

The Limbs 4 Life support group was held in Port Augusta today at Ians Western.
The Limbs 4 Life support group was held in Port Augusta today at Ians Western.

For 73-year-old amputee Peter Allen, and like many in his situation, life after losing a limb was drastically different.

And while he could talk about it to family and friends, nobody quite understood what he was going through.

"It's very hard to talk about. It's hard to fully understand what it's like to be an amputee, until you actually are one. Life is different," he said.

"I came out from hospital thinking I don't know a single other amputee I could speak to."

Mr Allen, a diabetic, fought an infection in his foot for about three years until it became a losing battle.

In January 2018 he was flown from his home in Port Augusta to Adelaide where he was forced to make the life altering decision - emergency lower-limb amputation on his right leg, or face just five days to live.

"The surgeon said to me 'Hello. I'm going to amputate your leg', those were her first words," Mr Allen said.

While Mr Allen has come to accept his circumstances, the transition from rehab to home was confronting.

Despite support from allied health professionals and his son, he still felt isolated.

In April this year Mr Allen was asked to share his experience with other amputees at a support meeting for Limbs 4 Life in Whyalla.

The meeting was a first of its kind in the region and today, the initiative spread to Port Augusta.

Around eight local amputees met for lunch to share information and provide peer support.

"It's not just the physical things when you lose a limb, it's the mental and emotional side," Mr Allen said.

"I just met a lady in a wheelchair today for the first time. She was telling me a bit about her story and it's just important to not feel isolated.

"It's a great encouragement to see other people doing things."

Limbs 4 Life Peer Support Program Coordinator Kylie Franson facilitated the meeting.

With around 8,000 lower-limb amputations performed in Australia every year, Ms Franson hopes the meetings form a support network for regional Australians who may otherwise fall through the cracks.

"Whyalla is the only rehab and prosthetic facility. Few of these guys might have passed each other on the street or seen each other in Whyalla, but otherwise there's nothing really," she said.

"They would have all had their amputations in Adelaide and then either rehabbed there, or sent back to Whyalla, then you go home and that's it. Everything stops.

"It helps prevent social isolation and also just to empower amputees and get them together so they can share advice because knowledge is power.

"They get together and they teach each other different tips and tricks and just to be able to chat to someone who can say they have actually been through it."

After the success of today, the Port Augusta group will continue to meet once a month into the future.

More information regarding future meetings can be found through Limbs 4 Life.