RALEIGH — For three years after Stella Sieber had both legs amputated above the knee, she never came across anyone who’d been through the same operations. Then she saw three at the same event.
Sieber, 59, of Raleigh, was attending her first limb-loss conference, in 2004 in Nashville, when she saw three men of various ages with amputations of both legs, using prosthetic limbs to get around.
“When we see someone like ourselves, it resonates,” she said. “Seeing all of them walk around, it indirectly reached out to me.”
Sieber is a peer visitor trainer for the Amputee Coalition, a nonprofit that aims to reach out to and empower people with limb loss. She will be at Limb Loss Education Day Saturday to educate and provide recreation for amputees in the area. Raleigh is one of six cities across the country holding the event for the nearly 2 million people living with limb loss in the United States.
Dan Ignaszewski, director of government relations at Amputee Coalition, said the event aims to reach people who normally wouldn’t have access to the resources at the national conference, which is held every other year.
“We have education and informational sessions about living with limb loss, conversations about emotional and physical issues, technology discussions, and recreational components,” he said.
The keynote speaker at the event will be Durham-born Kelly Bruno, a world-record holding amputee runner and a former contestant on “Survivor: Nicaragua.”
The session is sponsored by the Virginia-based Amputee Coalition, a nonprofit that aims to enhance the quality of life, improve patient care and prevent further limb loss for amputees. This year, it is partnering with the Orthotic & Prosthetic Activities Foundation to present Fresh Fit, which helps amputees use gym equipment and addresses their concerns about how they are viewed when exercising.
Maintaining a workout regime and staying active can prevent further limb loss for those with diabetes. Vascular diseases, including diabetes, account for 54 percent of amputations.
“I use five times more energy to walk than a normal person,” said Sieber, who underwent amputation after a 2001 car accident. “We have to have the cardiovascular capacity and good strength so that we can do what you do every day and don’t even think about it.”
After attending her first conference, Sieber founded the Triangle Amputee Group with her friend Nancy Pain. The group aims to provide education, support and advocacy, as well as working to prevent further limb loss.
“Talking to someone else in a similar situation will give you some insight and can help you move up to the next level of being active and socially included,” Sieber said.
One of the goals of Limb Loss Education Day is to tell attendees about resources such as the Triangle Amputee Group – one of the Amputee’s Coalition’s 260 support groups in the country – that are available in their local communities.
“The conference helps teach about the different thing available to amputees in their communities that will support and help them live a balanced and active life,” Ignaszewski said. “It’s all about networking and learning about how individuals can live well with limb loss.”
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