May 9, 2006
Amputees enjoy benefit of group support
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—After doctors amputated her right leg below the knee, Catherine Milburn arrived at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson feeling pretty sorry for herself.
So when a nurse at Methodist suggested her life was hardly over, the Brandon retiree remembers snarling: How would you know?
“Then the nurse walked around the bed, sat down in a chair and dropped her leg off,” Milburn said. “My mouth just dropped open. After that I said: When do I go to therapy?”
Milburn tells her story to illustrate an important point: The most credible advice comes from someone who truly knows your pain. That’s why she’s excited to be a member of the recently formed Central Mississippi Amputee Support Group. “It gives us someplace where we can talk to people with the same problems,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful idea.”
“It helps a lot,” agrees Michael Savage of Poplar Grove, Ark., who drove more than 200 miles to attend the support group meeting.
“I mainly came to get with others and learn how they cope and do different things,” he said. And he brought along his wife and granddaughter because he believes family members need support, as well.
The group meets at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at Methodist Specialty Care Center in Flowood. And there’s no doubt it fulfills a need, says group organizer Joe Jacobson of Madison, director of outpatient services for Methodist Rehabilitation Center.
“A majority of amputations are caused by diabetes and poor circulation, which are both big problems in Mississippi. A growing number of people in the state are having to adjust to the loss of a limb, and it’s high time they had a group that can provide support and education. The Amputation Coalition of America lists only one amputee support group in Mississippi, and it’s in the Delta.”
Jacobson said each support group meeting will begin with a time for socializing, and every other session will be devoted to group interaction. On alternate months, a speaker will address amputation-related health concerns.
Dr. Leslie V. Rush, a Meridian physical medicine physician who staffs Methodist’s monthly amputee clinic, spent the first meeting focusing on the underlying causes of amputations and common problems such as pain control.
He also addressed an issue he says is often overlooked – depression. “An amputation is a traumatic, life-changing event and that’s why it’s good to have support,” he said.
“I think this group will help people heal emotionally and move forward. They can look at group members who are back in the community and realize there’s more to this than sitting in the bed and staring at the ceiling. With the proper therapy and the new technology and components we have today, there are few limitations.”
Take it from Rhonda Burns of Rankin County, that registered nurse that gave Milburn her wake-up call. Burns now works at Methodist Specialty Care, and she says few people ever notice she has an artificial leg—unless she believes the revelation might get them off their duffs.
“I have dropped my leg for several patients,” she admits. “Actually walking around in the room and then showing them has a lot of impact. They all tell me: ‘I would have never known because you walk so well.’ ”
The Central Mississippi Amputee Support Group meets at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month in the dining hall of Methodist Specialty Care Center, One Layfair Drive in Flowood. Family members and caregivers are welcome. If you plan to attend, call Susan Geiger at 601-936-8888.
Brad Kennedy talks with Catherine Milburn of Brandon at a Central Mississippi Amputee Support Group meeting at Methodist Specialty Care Center in Flowood. Kennedy is a prosthetist at Methodist Orthotics and Prosthetics in Flowood.
Michael Savage of Poplar Grove, Ark. speaks to Dr. Leslie V. Rush, a Meridian physical medicine physician who staffs a monthly amputee clinic at Methodist Specialty Care Center in Flowood. During the group's first meeting, Dr. Rush spoke about the underlying causes of amputations and common problems such as pain control.