The Herald Bulletin

April 24, 2013

Show Your Mettle Day empowers amputees

By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. —  A movement to celebrate and empower amputees will be marked Friday in Anderson’s first “Show Your Mettle Day.”

It’s part of a larger effort to draw persons with limb loss together for positive change.  It marks the local observance of the first-ever nationwide “Show Your Mettle Day” set for Saturday and observed during Limb Loss Awareness month.

Frazier’s Dairy Maid, 3311 Main St. in Anderson, will host the local event designed to raise awareness about living well with limb loss. That day, amputees of any level and age are invited to meet up at noon to show not only their mettle, but their metal — whether that’s a wheelchair or a prosthetic — while enjoying an ice cream treat together.

“We’re trying to start an amputee group,” said organizer Kim Ousley. She said that the event is designed to encourage local amputees to get out and meet other amputees. “I’d like people to come out and see that they’re not alone.”

Ousley has a prosthetic leg due to cancer. She said that at first she was uncomfortable being out in public, and coping with reactions from some people.

“I’m not a poor thing. I’m fine,” said Ousley. As a member of the amputee population, she said, “We have a new life and we’re different — we’re people…. We’re not weird. We’re just normal like everybody else.”

Ousley has embraced the idea of living well with limb loss.

“I go to the Y. I volunteer at Mounds. I just don’t let my leg stop me.” Looming on Ousley’s positive agenda is learning to ride a bike with her prosthetic.

Katherine Ewers shares Ousley’s can-do attitude. Ewers lost her right leg below the knee four years ago after a car ran a stop sign and hit the motorcycle she was riding with her husband, Keith.

“I do whatever I want to do. I have a family. I work. I enjoy life,” said Ewers. “I don’t let it hold me back.” The mother of three teaches 10th grade English at Shenandoah High School.

“I do a lot more than a lot of people with two full legs. ... I’ve done a lot of hiking trails in the Rockies and the Caribbean. I do Zumba. I go to the gym.”

Ewers went camping the first weekend after a two- month hospital stay following the accident. Support from her husband, the rest of her family and friends, as well as contacts from the national limb loss organization, Amputee Coalition, gave her inspiration. Now, Ewers is happy to encourage others.

“You can live whatever kind of life you want to,” said Ewers.

Of her prosthetic, Ewers said,“I proudly show mine. It’s part of who I am now. I wear shorts, capris.” She said the proposed group would provide the opportunity for fellow amputees to meet people in similar situations who would love to talk and share stories.”

Ousley said that in starting a group for amputees she hopes to provide encouragement for others to live well, too. She also wants to establish efforts to help new or soon-to-be amputees at local hospitals by training peer supporters. Ousley intends to seek her own certification this year from the Amputee Coalition.

Amputees who participate in “Show Your Mettle” Day will get an ice cream treat courtesy of Prevail Prosthetics and Orthotics, 3320 Main St., Anderson. Prevail professionals meet with amputation patients, evaluate their needs, fabricate prosthetics and guide them on their new path.

“We want to show our support to amputees and let them know it’s alright to not be ashamed of their legs,” said Kris Kail, orthotist/prosthetist at Prevail.

“You’d be amazed by the number of people that have artificial legs. There’s more than you think out there,” said Kail. And yet, said Kail, “People think they’re alone.”

According to the Amputee Coalition, there are 21 amputations every hour in this country, making for more than 500 a day and approximately 185,000 every year. The leading cause of amputation in the United States is diabetes, followed by traumatic injury and cancer.

“Diabetes is a big one,” agreed Kail.