Dear Barb—The Missing Piece

Dear Barb:

Hi, my cousin was in a terrible accident on Christmas Eve.  The person driving the other vehicle was drunk and ran into my cousin’s car.  He had to be cut out of it and received numerous injuries; including having to have his foot amputated because it was so damaged and could not be saved.  Harry is only 28 and totally devastated by losing his foot.  None of our family members know how to deal with this and help him.  He’s very angry that this happened to him and to be honest with you, I am too.  I can’t really find any good in this, how can I help him to deal with it, when I’m not even dealing with it.  Thanks for your help, Kevin.

Hi Kevin:

So sorry that your cousin and your family has to go through such a traumatic event.  Loss of a limb is devastating for the person and all their family members.  It is comparable to losing a close friend or family member.  There is an abundance of information on the web about dealing with this loss, but I will condense it for you and give you some websites to check out when you are feeling up to it.  Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist has done extensive research on grief and her famous book “On Death and Dying” describes the five stages of grief.  Grief applies to any loss, not just the loss of a person.  Your cousin has lost his foot and he will experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  These five stages do not have to occur in this order, and a person could spend years in one stage.

For example, after an amputation, depression and anxiety occurs in 41% of patients.  So it is important that your cousin receive the necessary professional support.  Your cousin’s physician, surgeon, and therapy team should be able to recommend a social worker who is familiar with the difficulties faced by amputees and their families.  A support group, where your cousin can spend time with other amputees and discover how they have managed to carry on under similar circumstances, will offer invaluable hope for a fulfilling future.  As well, setting attainable goals is important in anyone’s life, particularly for an amputee.  It’s very easy to lose hope and just give up; therefore, setting goals provides meaning and structure to a person’s life.  Also having a daily routine will prevent the amputee from focusing on their loss.  Being a part of a social group will help with the adjustment to the new normal.  Another adjustment phase will occur with the addition of a prosthetic.  A prosthetic will provide the amputee with the ability to do many activities and live a more active lifestyle.  Again, this is a further adjustment and your cousin will need a lot of support from family and friends.  Thank you for writing, and for your concern, you will obviously be an important part of your cousin’s recovery process.  Following are some websites where you can find additional information on this life changing event.

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