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Writing characters: Amputees

Updated on March 21, 2014

There are many reasons why your character may have needed an amputation. It is highly advisable to consider what caused it, and the physcological impacts it may have had.

I know from personal experience that it can be a rather difficult topic to broach with others, and even trickier to find the information online.

Cancer

Of course, Cancer's such as Osteosarcoma are known to effect limbs and can often result in patients needing an amputation to prevent the spread of the disease. Other types of bone cancer may also be something to consider when you start writing, especially if you are looking to avoid typical or overused illness.

You may need a little knowledge of Cancer treatments and the effects Cancer can have on both the individual and their health.

Osteosarcoma is a type of primary bone Cancer. It's the most common, though still an icredibly rare illness, with only around about 400 cases a year reported in the UK. Here's a little information about Osteosarcoma.

  • Mainly affects children and young adults
  • More prevalent in boys
  • Can affect any bone, though it is more commonly found in limbs
  • Causes are generally unknown, but many people suspect it to be the result of the bones growing quickly in a short space of time.


Bone cancers such as Osteosarcoma can be difficult to diagnose. The most common indicator is pain or swelling, though they may be discovered when a bone has been broken after an accident.


Neuroma

Neuroma is a painful condition which effects nerves and muscle tissue. It usually refers to the growth of a tumour in the nerve tissue, which often grows over a period of several years.

It usually effects people in the 40- 50 age bracket, and is rarely found in younger people. Tumours that grow due to neuroma are usually malignant, and don't cause much in the way of problems. The word can also be used to refer to swelling or nerve trauma.


Severe injuries

As you may know, things such as burns and car accidents can lead to patients needing an amputation. There isn't really much to say on this particular subheading, as it's all fairly obvious. (I may write a separate hub in the future relating to injuries and conditions caused by conflict/warzones)


Of course, there are many other causes and variations of illnessess that may lead to amputation, and I would suggest looking further into specific categories that interest you.



A quick picture guide to the evolution of prothestic legs
A quick picture guide to the evolution of prothestic legs

Prosthetics

  • A prosthetic is an umbrella term referring to an artificial body part. This can be an ear, eye, or a replacement for any type of bodypart.
  • Most modern prosthetics are made from plastics and metal composites.
  • Limbs in the past were made from a range of different materials such as wood and aluminium.
  • Amputation above the knee will require special limbs that incorporate a joint in order for the patient to be able to weight bear on their new limb.
  • Limbs must be fitted correctly in order to avoid soft tissue damage to what remains of the limb.
  • The estimated recovery time for an amputee is 12-18 months. Prothestics will not be issued until after this time
  • Even in countries with free health care, paying for a prothesis can be difficult and expensive. Many families and individuals cannot afford it.

Amputees
Amputees

Psychological effects of amputation

Different people react to the trauma of losing a limb in different ways. The most important thing to remember, however, is the stages of grief a person goes through. It is the same idea as a person suffering the loss of a loved one or mourning for something they could have had. Amputees may experience many of the symptoms of a person going through bereavement or loss.

  • Postoperative grief is a general reaction to the loss of a limb, as many need time to adjust to the change.
  • This can sometimes lead to increased anxiety or depression
  • Guilt, fear and anger are common cycles of emotion for an amputee to experience
  • Amputees can often feel an icreased sense of vulnerability or social exclusion


The five stages of grief

  • Denial/isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

There are many effects, namely on younger people, such as lack of confidence and a change in body image.

Just a nice video about the technicalities of a prosthetic limb

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