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Written on 1st July 2017 by Julie Marsh

My name is Julie Marsh and I am a medical negligence solicitor. I have been with Boyes Turner for eight years, and I regularly represent clients who have undergone a traumatic amputation as a result of poor medical care.

It is part of my role to consider what aids and equipment, assistance and therapy an individual might need in order to adjust to life following an amputation, and which should be included in any claim for compensation.

This week I attended the Pace Rehabilitation 2016 #FitforLife conference in Milton Keynes. Pace Rehabilitation provides a complete rehabilitation service to amputees, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and the fitting of different types of prostheses.

This year the focus of the conference was about bringing an amputee back to a position where they were #fitforlife. So they can achieve all they want to, and fulfil their potential.

The conference highlighted to me the importance of weight control and a focused exercise program for an amputee. This is especially important for a new amputee.

If you are a new amputee, no matter how fit and healthy you were before your amputation, after undergoing surgery, there is bound to be a period of de-conditioning. It is important that work is undertaken at the earliest opportunity to get a focused exercise program under way, to work on developing the muscles that are now going to need to support you as you begin work with a new prosthesis.

It is important to work on balance and agility skills and with below knee amputees, to work on lower limb strength to avoid falls and strengthen the remaining limb. For those who had an active sporting life prior to their amputation, it is important for me to consider what necessary additional prosthesis might be required to allow them to return to competitive or social sport. Were you a regular swimmer before the amputation?  If so you might need a waterproof prosthesis as well as a regular one.

From an occupational therapy point of view, it is incredibly important to think about enabling an amputee to return to work. Being #fitforlife usually means also being fit for work.

Statistics suggest that if an individual is off for six weeks or longer, they stand an 80% chance of being off for a five year period. Is it realistic to expect an amputee to be able to return to work six weeks after surgery? This is yet another hill for a new amputee to climb.

We are all acutely aware of the difficulties of returning to work following health issues. Imagine if you can being off for a period of six months and then having to face returning to work, but with different physical limitations. How do you carry out everyday tasks like getting out of your office chair, or climbing the stairs to the office on a prosthesis, or worse, without one?  And that is before you have even done any work!

Work can have an important on health. You have a better mental health picture, if you can work which can mean less hospital admissions. Those amputees able to return to some form of work also often have improved self-esteem, and are able to return to a degree of social interaction.

So who else needs to be on your team post amputation? This list is far from exhaustive, but it is important that you consider the need for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, prosthetic input and counselling. Any lawyer taking on cases of this nature needs to be acutely aware of the need of the amputee, but also needs to learn about the individual pre-amputation. It is important that evidence is gained about what your interests were before the amputation, and what you might like to try to achieve after the amputation.

It is important to look at what the newly formed future holds for an amputee.