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Utah declares Limb Loss Awareness Month

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Dayna Nichols proudly holds her 11-month-old granddaughter, something she considers a miracle. Nichols has dealt with cancer and losing one of her legs.

Dayna Nichols proudly holds her 11-month-old granddaughter, something she considers a miracle. Nichols has dealt with cancer and losing one of her legs.

Photo Courtesy of Dayna Nichols

Salt Lake City resident Dayna Nichols can sometimes be found placidly enjoying a day of fishing. Streams flow past her feet, the bobber goes under and her experienced hands reel the catch of the day in or she can be seen speeding down the side of a snow-capped mountain her hair whipping in the wind.

What may be ordinary activities for some are not ordinary for her — she lost a leg to amputation, but she hasn’t let that stand in her way of living life to the fullest.

Each day over 500 people lose a limb, says the Amputee-Coalition, and over 60 percent of the losses are preventable.

The need for education and awareness on the subject is so great Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert recently signed a proclamation declaring April as Limb Loss Awareness Month.

The proclamation states, “Whereas, the Amputee Coalition provided education, outreach, advocacy, and a National Limb Loss Information Center for the benefit of persons with limb loss or limb difference, members of their families and health care providers.”

“About eight years ago I was diagnosed with cancer,” Nichols said. “I was 45 at the time. I had surgery and it appeared to everyone that it was all clear, that all the cancer was gone.”

About two years later, Nichols recounts, cancer was detected her leg. She underwent what is called isolated limb fusion which is a chemotherapy procedure.

“A tourniquet was placed on my leg above the knee,” explained Nichols,” a catheter was inserted in my groin in an artery and it came out at my ankle with another catheter. This contained the treatments to my leg. I experienced side effects and the chemo caused blood cuts in my leg, which basically killed my leg. It was then amputated.”

Nichols is not alone in her challenges and according to the Amputee-Coalition board member and Orem, Utah, resident Tami Stanley, “Limb loss is not uncommon and is becoming more common every day. More than two million Americans live with limb loss and that number grows by 185,000 each year.”

According to statistics, limb loss causes are 54 percent disease, 45 percent trauma and around two percent cancer. Each year over 600 children lose a limb to lawn mower accidents. African-Americans are four times more likely to lose a limb than non-Hispanic Caucasians.

It is also very costly — both financially and emotionally.

In 2008, limb amputations totaled more than $7.2 billion in health care costs. The percentage of amputations performed in 2008 that were paid for by Medicaid and Medicare totaled more than $5.2 billion.

“After I lost my leg and finally left the hospital I started calling around to see if there was a support group to help me cope,” Nichols said. “There wasn’t any at the time. I then decided to form one.”

Today “Amputees on the Move” meets the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Intermountain Medical Center specifically the Doty Family Education Center.

Nichols says that it really helps to be around other people who understand or have your same challenges.

“I grew up as an outdoors person — hunting, fishing, skiing, I love the outdoors,” she said. “I have been determined to keep up my activities. And also to teach others that they can live life also not just watch it pass by.”

All are at risk.

“Many people are unaware of the causes of amputation and often see limb loss in just a few categories: the wounded warrior or the accomplished athlete,” added Stanley. “The fact is, limb loss affects every generation, from young to old and people from all walks of life.”

There are resources available at the Amputee Coalition found at Amputee-Coalition.com or by calling 1-888-267-5669 ext. 8137,or Amputees on the Move (Salt Lake City) at 801-466-8722.

Becky Robinette Wright is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Virginia.