Boston bombings raise awareness of amputee groups

Corey Perrine/Staff
Lee Norton makes his way upstairs to pick up his grandchildren Jan 30, 2013 in Naples.

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Corey Perrine/Staff Lee Norton makes his way upstairs to pick up his grandchildren Jan 30, 2013 in Naples.

Phones have been ringing off their hooks at the Virginia-based Amputee Coalition of America the past three weeks after at least 13 people lost limbs in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Some are calling to ask about the cost of prostheses and how to pay.

Others want to know whether local support groups are available.

And some people who have lost their own arms and legs in other situations want to help new amputees cope.

“You can have a bed lined with people in white coats with degrees but it’s the person who has actually lost their limb, been through recovery and continued with their life who is most inspiring in the recovery process,” said Terrence Sheehan, medical director at the nonprofit coalition who works with a team of doctors in helping amputees recover.

Peer support is critical, Sheehan said, and finding resources quickly after an injury can make a world of difference in a patient's recovery.

Many of the phone calls Matt Brunger takes at the coalition's resource center are from amputees who leave the hospital with little knowledge of what the coming months will bring.

"They get basic discharge instructions: keep your wounds clean and good luck," Brunger said. "Those are the most gratifying to me because there are resources available, a support group nearby, and people haven't seen that information."

Sheehan and Brunger said the tragedy in Boston has brought more awareness to the coalition, which they hope will remind amputees past and future to connect with them for help when in need.

"We're very glad to do it," Sheehan said.

The Amputee Coalition of America can be reached by phone at (888) 267-5669.

Help is available locally, too.

Miracle Limbs Courage in Motion is a local nonprofit providing a range of support to amputees. Founder Robert Ayres can be reached at (239) 591-8393 or by email at robert@miraclelimbs.org.

NCH Healthcare System has an Amputee Support Group. For information, contact Patti Governile at (239) 552-8919.

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Related story: Life after limb: Local amputees learn to thrive with missing arms, legs

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