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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active eight year old (Robby) and an infant (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What Should You Say to an Amputee? Or not say...

There is an etiquette, many times left unspoken, when dealing with an amputee. Many of the "rules" are driven by common sense and basic manners. Unfortunately, I frequently encounter individuals who unknowingly commit a manner faux pas. In most instances, the offender is unaware of the breach. Although it varies according to the tolerances of the individual amputee, I wanted to share my personal list of etiquette "rules."

1. Yes, my name is Peggy. Please refrain from calling me Peg Leg Peg. I may use this nickname for myself, but I don't find it humorous when called out by others. Along this line, don't refer to me as "Hop Along," "Gimpy" or any other term considered endearing for an amputee.


2. I may, at times, make fun of my amputation. A tight knit circle of friends and family have earned the right to joke about my disability. As a general rule, if you question whether or not you have a relationship appropriate for such jokes with an amputee, err on the side of caution and refrain.


3. If my prosthetic should fall off, it is okay to laugh with me. I do not think it is okay to laugh at me. I know that it can be humorous, but please remember that it is also embarrassing for the amputee.


4. Many people do not understand that a residual limb becomes a private, personal part of an amputee's body. In many ways, it becomes as personal as the genitals. I don't mind showing somebody my stump covered with my liner, but I shy away from displaying my uncovered limb.


Do not ask to see somebody's stump. Do not try to "catch a glimps" when the amputee is not looking. Do not take a picture of an amputee without his or her knowledge, especially if the individual usually wears a prosthetic and is not using the device at the moment.


5. It is okay to inquire about the circumstances surrounding the amputation. Rely upon both verbal and non-verbal cues before soliciting more details. Sometimes I feel comfortable sharing specifics of my story, and sometimes I do not. Please try to be respectful because the amputee may not be ready or comfortable sharing all of the details.


6. I am never offended when a child asks about my prosthetic. I am happy explain my amputation and my prosthetic to any youngster who asks. I would rather a child simply ask and learn versus whisper and hide from me.


Along this line, sometimes children ask inappropriate questions. I do my best to respond to their inquiries, but parental guidance is always appreciated. Sometimes children will want to discuss all of the gory details at a time when I need to focus on something else.


7. My amputation has not made me oblivious to the medical struggles and the pain of others. I know that sometimes people don't want to complain to me because they view their pain "trivial" compared to my amputation. Pain is not a competition. I don't minimize somebody else's pain through comparison. I can relate, and I am happy to be a sounding board.


8. I know that I have a limp. Its severity varies depending upon a variety of factors, including but not limited to shoes, socket fit and pain. Unless asked, don't comment on my limp. It makes the amputee feel self-conscious and insecure.


9. I am continually astounded by the number of individuals who feel comfortable approaching me to voice their opinions concerning my disability. I had a woman at the grocery store tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I was not going to go to heaven because I was an amputee. I have been approached by salespeople hawking magnets and oils. I have been told that I was a sinner who was being punished by God. All of these encounters have left me unsettled and upset.


10. Yes, I have a handicapped parking placard. Yes, it is convenient, especially at malls and amusement parks. No, I am not "lucky." I would gladly give up my priority parking tag for my leg. It was not a fair trade.


Every amputee has a different set of etiquette standards. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and simply ask. I am never offended by questions brought about out of concern and with sincerity.

3 comments:

  1. oh boy... you are going to be so offended at this: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leggett-CA/Stump-Town/112744368803535

    Some of us really do not care if people see our stump... and we actually like the jokes we hear... collect them even.

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  2. Peggy, thank you very much for the insight. Today I am going to visit a friend in the hospital that recently lost her leg below the knee. I have been searching the internet, looking for tips on how to not make the visit awkward for either of us, and your posting was very helpful. Thanks again!

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  3. My husband has recently become a 'hind-quarter' amputee (the entire leg & part of the pelvis) due to cancer. We have had a very difficult year with diagnosis, previous surgeries, chemo and the resurgence of the cancer leading to the amputation. Just out of hospital I can happily say that he is less disabled without his leg than he was with it due to the constant pain and the inability to bend at the waiste & knee.

    This is a new start for us and we can't wait to start a new family life. We are aware already of the differant prejudices out there and the often hurtful comments usually said by people who don't actually mean to offend, but to be honest they go over our heads. we're not worried about other peoples opinions. What you see is what you get & if you want to ask questions about his appearance just ask!

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