April was #limblossawarenessmonth and Julie Marsh, Partner in the Boyes Turner Medical Negligence Team, caught up with Debbie Bent and Lana Meade of the Limbless Association to reflect on the month, to talk about how they coped during the covid pandemic, the volunteer visitor programme, young peer mentors and what’s next for the charity.The value of peer supportThe loss of a limb is traumatic and lifechanging. The Limbless Association’s primary aim is to ensure that no amputee need cope alone. Clients who have recently experienced limb loss through either through medical negligence or a traumatic injury often tell us it is the early days of recovery and early rehabilitation that can be the darkest of times. The Limbless Association has been running their volunteer visitor programme for nearly 20 years, and all of those that are part of the programme have a lived experience of amputation. They can offer invaluable support to new amputees. When the covid pandemic hit, the need for peer support became even more important to those who had experienced a recent amputation and were struggling with a lack of rehabilitation services. Debbie Bent, CEO of the Limbless Association, told Julie:“In the early days of covid, rehabilitation services all but stopped, especially during the first lockdown. Amputees, just like everybody else, suddenly felt isolated but more importantly, their rehabilitation pathway was limited, which in turn affected their mental wellbeing, their ability to look forward to the future and to come to terms with their injury.In normal circumstances, those who experience an amputation will, within four to six weeks, get a rehabilitation appointment and attend a limb fitting assessment, as well as access a multidisciplinary team assessment to consider what additional occupational therapy and other support might be required. As a result of the pandemic, this was not happening. We also had some distressing calls from those who had recently experienced amputation, being sent home somewhat prematurely from hospital because of the risk of covid, but without giving them time to line up appropriate support for those people at home and in the community. Although some virtual appointments were taking place, a lot of the medical teams were redeployed to the front line, and people had no idea when follow up appointments and rehab sessions would be reinstated”. In 2018, the charity piloted a support and connect outreach programme which then became a fully-fledged initiative in Autumn 2019. Unfortunately in 2020, this had to be put on hold as a result of the pandemic. Despite fundraising challenges, the charity adapted quickly, offering online support meetings and virtual interaction for those who had experienced limb loss.Supporting life beyond limb lossThe second key aim of the Limbless Association is to empower people in their lives beyond amputation. A lot of this support is offered by the peer support programme, which gives hope to people who have experienced amputation, and who can meet somebody who’s further down the line in their rehabilitation journey. As specialist amputation solicitors we know from clients who have experienced amputation that the rehabilitation journey can be challenging. It ebbs and flows in terms of progress, and at points can become overwhelming. The Limbless Association’s peer support programme allows people to be signposted to a Volunteer Visitor, who can support them at any stage of the rehabilitation programme, and help them navigate a variety of post amputation challenges.The aim is to allow the individual to live their best life, and the Volunteer Visitor programme has been expanding at an exponential rate. By the end of the first year of training, the charity hopes to have 75 volunteers in place to offer to support to those who have experienced amputation. Lana Meade, the newly appointed Fundraising and Partnership manager, told Julie:“The one good thing to come out of the pandemic is that almost everyone now has become technologically savvy with online meetings and chat rooms, and this has allowed the Limbless Association to continue to provide effective support to those who’ve experienced limb loss. We know how important these conversations are for amputees emotional wellbeing, and how they can have a positive impact on their mental wellbeing. It has been great to see people who have come to our service in desperation, obtain support that they have needed to come out the other side. One lady who experienced an amputation after an incident in Oxford Circus in 2020, was so touched by the support that she had from the Limbless Association she challenged herself to climb the 02 Arena last December on her prosthetic limb to raise funds for the charity. It is amazing that the people who have benefited from the services of the Limbless Association can offer, feel able to undertake such amazing feats to raise funds so that we can continue to help those who’ve experienced limb loss”. The importance of early supportWe know that early support and rehabilitation can result in an improved outcome for an amputee, but we are also acutely aware of the need for an amputee to come to terms with limb loss in order to move forward with their rehabilitation journey. We are pleased to support the Limbless Association in the work that they do, and look to signpost our clients to the charity so that they can access immediate effective support whilst investigation into a potential medical negligence or personal injury claim takes place. If you have suffered severe injury as a result of medical negligence and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.