All you need to know about workplace amputation injuries

Just how common are amputations in Australia? They’re actually more common than you might think. Amputees represent 1 in every 1,000 individuals in Australia, and about 1 lower limb amputation is performed somewhere in the country every hour.

According to Safe Work Australia, during 2021 there were over 18,000 serious injury claims for wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage. The number of amputations due to workplace accidents has decreased over time due to better workplace health and safety guidelines and rules – but from time to time they still do occur.

Regardless of the reason or means by which you may become an amputee, losing a limb is a major adjustment to take on board – whether you lose fingers or your leg from the knee down, your life may never quite be the same again.

The obvious physical affects can be seen, but mentally losing a limb can negatively affect you and your loved ones.

An amputation due to a workplace injury may result out of an emergency situation, meaning you may not have the time to process your lost limb in the way someone who is diagnosed with a medical reason and are then booked in to have an amputation.

At the more serious end, you may not even be conscious at the time when a decision needs to be made to amputate a limb in order to save your life. In either situation you will still go through the following processes.

The healing process
Everyone processes loss differently and the healing process you undertake when you have lost a limb can be similar to the grief process people may feel when they lose a loved one.

When you have a limb amputated, especially in an emergency situation after workplace accidents, you may go through the following stages of loss, which are all part of the healing process. You should remember that the healing process does not occur in a particular order, nor can it be rushed. The different stages of grief are outlined here and how they may relate to limb loss:

Denial: Avoiding what has happened to you and the events that surrounded your limb loss is a stage of grief, particularly you may be in a state of disbelief that the loss occurred to you in the first place.

Anger: The feeling of anger is a way in which people can release emotions related to their lost limb. You may feel frustrated, resentful and irritable at your new situation. Feeling anger towards your healthcare providers or those that may have made the decision on your behalf to amputate to save your life, is very normal also.

Bargaining: The feeling of bargaining can at times feel like a mixtureof guilt, fear and anxiety. If you are in the bargaining phase you might transfix on the past and play out different ways your accident could have been avoided so you wouldn’t have lost a limb.

Depression: At different points during the grieving process, you may realise that bargaining is not an option. You may come out of that stage with a clearer perspective of the hand you have been dealt and you start to view your situation in a different way. You may start to have a deep seeded feeling of loss and you may slip into a depressive state characterised by sadness, despair, hopelessness and disappointment.

Acceptance: When you reach the acceptance stage you no longer dwell on the past, you basically give up on bargaining for a different reality. You may still experience sadness, but you are less likely to feel anger or come to the realisation that losing your limb was in your best interests.

In the acceptance stage, you are more likely to be able to make more rational decisions for your future and actually see a future ahead of you with a lost limb. After your amputation, you may not reach the acceptance stage until you have a rehabilitation program in place.

What is the recovery after amputation like? Well, the short answer is that it’s long and can last years. The long answer is that amputation is not just the physical loss of a limb – it is also the readjustment of a person’s very way of living and requires relearning how to do many things that were once second nature.

Along with the emotional rollercoaster, you may ride, there are physical processes that you will go through after amputation surgery. You will be guided through the rehabilitation process and any ongoing rehabilitation that is needed. Your rehabilitation team will be a pivotal part of your recovery, your team may include doctors, therapists, physiotherapists, and prosthetists.

The process of life after amputation
Amputation can affect every area of your life, including your home and work. It is a lot to adapt to, and you may need extra support through this journey.

It is important to remember that your ability to adapt and live with your amputation will become easier over time. Some difficulties that you may experience include:

  • A change to your level of independence
  • A difference in your mobility/functionality
  • Concerns with your body image and sexuality
  • The ability to complete everyday tasks
  • General everyday changes to your lifestyle.

There are other steps that you can take to assist with your transition to life as an amputee. Some people benefit by connecting with others, this connection maybe with a close friend or family member that is good at listening and offering advice and guidance.

You may want to seek out support groups to connect with people who have gone through what you are going through. You can learn coping strategies and better understand your feelings in these support group settings.

Finding purpose and setting goals at first may be hard and totally unattainable. But over time, you may set yourself some goals and find a new purpose. If your amputation affects your ability to do your pre-injury job you may need to think about making a career change, you may want to pick up a new hobby or try something you just never thought you had the time for before your injury. Setting realistic and meaningful goals can add purpose and structure to your life.

Your new normal will require some adjustments, and a great way to take back control of your life is by creating a daily routine – this may help you feel a sense of purpose and give you the boost you need after your injury.

Having a daily routine is comforting and can help you focus on goals rather than dwell on the past or negative emotions. A routine can also help keep you motivated.

You may even get to a point in your amputation journey where you have a newfound love of optimism. Growing and learning to change your mindset and have a positive attitude can help people cope with limb loss.

Over time you may experience more motivation to pursue your goals, greater resilience and improved coping skills. Staying positive does not mean you need to ignore your feelings. Instead, it is a way to focus on your strengths and move forward in life.

Support processes
Support can come in many forms, and support can take time to need or want in your amputation journey. In this part of the process it is important to remember that you are not alone and there is support available when you are ready to engage with it.

There are support organisations in and around Australia for you to explore. Find out more

Just as every amputation is different, each person living with an amputation is different also. There is no wrong or right way to process life after amputation.

It is important to remember you are not alone in your journey, the time needed to recover is different for everyone also.

No amount of compensation will bring back your limb or take away the trauma of your workplace accident, but compensation will help financially with your journey of living with an amputation.

Source: The Naracoort Herald

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