For Andrew Fairbairn, February 25, 2015 will always be an important day that he will not forget.
- About 4.4 million Australians live with a disability, according to ABS
- More than 93 percent of people contracted the disability after birth
- It can take several years for amputees to fully accept their body
It was the day he had his leg amputated after 10 years of pain and infection in his foot.
No matter how many antibiotics she was prescribed, the pain just didn’t go away.
Mr Fairbairn explained that the decision to have his leg amputated was a decision he had not taken lightly.
“I have done a lot of research and have spoken with many amputees, including Limbs 4 Life CEO Melissa Noonan AM,” he said.
“I had to make sure I was educated and, perhaps more importantly, that my wife and kids understood what I was going to do. “
“I was in the hospital and on discharge, had three surgeries and many outpatient visits before meeting Dale, my therapist, who guided me through the journey to becoming an amputee. “
Mr Fairbairn said he worked with a psychotherapist, also an amputee, to deal with his disability.
The physio told him that it would take about five years to fully accept being an amputee and be able to see his whole body again.
“Come to think of his words, he was pretty much spot on,” he said.
“In 2020, I had accepted to be an amputee and to have a physical handicap.”
Adaptation to amputation can take years
Clinical exercise physiologist Jake Nimmo said that very often amputees develop poor gait due to hypersensitivity to pain, and the body adjusts and compensates for its new center of gravity.
“From there, we’ll see bad habits arise, leading to joint conflict and poor activation sequencing leading to tension and pain,” he said.
“It is very important to address these issues early on and to have a pain management plan that is easy for the client to implement.
“This process can be time consuming and varies from person to person. “
Mr Nimmo said it could take anywhere from six months to two to three years for a person to get used to moving without a limb.
“This will be due to the swelling surrounding the attachment point of the prosthesis changing regularly, altering the feel of the prosthesis and the way it feels the movement of the prosthesis,” he said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Disability, Aging and Care (SDAC) 2018 Survey, there are an estimated 4.4 million Australians with disabilities, many of whom acquired at a later stage. .
“Of those 4.4 million people, the majority – 93.1% or 4.1 million people – reported the age of onset of the main disease sometime after birth,” a spokesperson said. .
“Only 6.9% – 302,700 – said their main disease was present at birth. “
Find a new way of life
As a below-knee amputee, Mr Fairbairn said he had to find ways to do things he took for granted.
One thing Mr. Fairbairn needs to do on a daily basis is to get up earlier than before, as he needs to be fully awake before putting on his prosthesis in the morning.
“I had a few times where I wasn’t fully awake and I went for a step and I found myself on the ground. “
As a performing musician, he must explore a place before playing there.
He should look at the physical disposition, especially if there are stairs, as he uses a wheelchair when he is tired.
Mr Fairbairn said he has discovered that many places are not wheelchair friendly at all.
“As a saxophonist, I have often been asked ‘How do you play the saxophone without a leg?’ and I attribute that to the perceptions of people around amputees, ”he said, adding that he had not done any major damage other than a broken hip bone.
Negotiations in progress with the disability insurer
Mr Fairbairn said he has a National Disability Insurance Plan (NDIS) funding program that covers most of his daily needs.
But he is in ardent negotiations with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on the need to modify his home for this purpose.
“In my original plan, I was given funding for my wheelchair, but the delegate decided that my need for ramps over the front and back stairs to access my house was neither reasonable nor necessary,” did he declare.
“It’s still ongoing, but we’ve made some progress. “
Relearn to be in public
Mr. Fairbairn said he needs to relearn how to be in public, with people in malls and public places regularly approaching him and asking him what had happened to his leg.
“This is usually accompanied by a story that they know someone who was an amputee,” he said.
“Most of the time I’m good with it, but sometimes I just don’t want to share anything.
“My biggest disappointment is when parents train their children after asking what happened, and before I can speak with them, because the children are very open and curious. “
Mr Fairbairn said he was also usually asked if he had ‘any of those bladed things’.
“People’s perception seems to be that all lower limb amputees should be athletes,” he said.
“I think they get that idea from some media, saying ‘You are now an amputee, you can go to the Paralympics as a runner’, and if you are not, then somehow. another, you are not so worthy. “
However, Mr Fairbairn said identifying himself as disabled allowed him to immerse himself in the disability business.
He is currently the WA representative on the Limbs 4 Life National Advisory Board, is the elected Director of People with Disabilities Australia, the WA State Director and Vice Chairman of Physical Disability Australia, and is also on the Western Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO) Council.