Resilience, Peer-to-Peer Support, and the Journey of an Amputee
Updated: Jun 21
The road to recovery and rehabilitation for amputees is filled with physical and emotional challenges. Losing a limb is a profoundly traumatic experience, which is why resilience and peer-to-peer support play vital roles in their journey towards healing. In this blog post, we interview Mike Wildeman and delve into the significance of resilience, explore the power of peer-to-peer and social support, and discuss how these elements can help those wounded in the war in Ukraine lead fulfilling lives, as well as the unique challenges faced by veterans.
What is the most important single factor in coping with that journey?
Having walked the path of an ex-military amputee in the UK support system, I understand first-hand the importance of resilience in achieving successful rehabilitation outcomes.
Resilience encompasses a range of personal characteristics that enable individuals to adapt to adverse life events.
Evidence suggests that individuals with higher levels of resilience experience greater life satisfaction and quality of life, even in the face of physical disabilities. Moreover, resilience acts as a protective shield against future depression, suicide, and aids in social integration during the process of adapting to "normal life."
What do you mean my ‘Resilience’?
It embodies many things. Optimism, strong coping skills, and cognitive flexibility are all crucial attributes that foster resilience in amputees. These traits promote acceptance of extreme adversity and encourage active problem-solving to manage the immense stress following limb loss.
Altruism, a strong moral compass, and positive role models are other characteristics that contribute to resilience. They provide inspiration and guidance, demonstrating how to face fears and navigate the challenges of recovery. Social support and physical exercise are also instrumental in fostering resilience, as they offer a sense of community and facilitate both physical and mental well-being.
What are the special challenges faced by war veterans?
When military amputees are separated from their units and find themselves in hospital wards, they become vulnerable to depression and survivor's guilt. In their hearts, they still harbour ambitions to return to the fight while fearing for their futures.
To address these concerns, we need to provide them with strong role models and social support to help them face these challenges. This could be done by facilitating interactions with such role models, ideally face to face, but it is also possible online, using private exchanges in social media which can overcome the barriers of distance and even language.
How do you hope to build this support and such connections in Ukraine?
Our plan involves facilitating conversations between ex-military amputees from the UK and Ukrainian amputees. Language barriers will be overcome with the help of interpreters, enabling these individuals to share experiences, discuss their futures, and serve as role models during clinic visits. Additionally, we aspire to establish an online social network, leveraging social media technology and translation tools to connect Ukrainian military amputees with their UK counterparts. This peer-to-peer support system will offer a valuable source of connection and understanding, ensuring that no Ukrainian amputee feels alone in their journey.
What experience do you have in doing this?
We may be able to work with organizations like BLESMA in the UK, of which I am a member. The Wounded Warrior Project, and the Amputee Coalition in the US offer extensive peer-to-peer and social support, we acknowledge that replicating such initiatives on the same scale may be challenging for Ukrainian military amputees. However, we have already made a start.
I am working with a team that has enabled three missions with disabled veterans or amputees to meet with patients in Ukraine and at the same time, in a very practical way run workshops with medical staff and deliver an innovative soft prosthetic which could dramatically improve the rehabilitation journey. I would explain more, but if this is of interest, you can read about it in this blog https://www.lsngroup.org/post/rehabilitation-starts-at-time-zero
How would you summarise what how you hope to make a difference?
By sharing our experiences, offering support, and fostering resilience, we hope to make a difference in their lives. But if I had one single message it would be that building resilience and ensuring there is peer-to-peer support are pivotal in the recovery and rehabilitation of war wounded and particularly amputees. Through personal interactions, role modelling, and the creation of an online social network, we think we can contribute to that much-needed support system for those who have sacrificed so much. Together, we can empower Ukrainian amputees to embrace their new realities, overcome challenges, and forge a path towards leading fulfilling lives.