Tag Archives: Support Group

The ROMEO’s …

RomeosThe last three years of my sisters life were spent in a nursing home.  Her husband was very attentive and, unless he was sick, he was by her side every day.  It was there that he met three other men who were experiencing the same thing.

When I visited Peg my brother-in-law introduced me to his friends and told me that they were the ROMEOs.  I thought it was a cute name for a bunch of elderly men but I learned that it was much more than that.  This was his support group …Retired Old Men Eating Out ! They had been meeting once a week for a long time and had developed a trusting and convivial rapport with each other.  They could compare notes, share stories for managing all sorts of difficulties and, best of all, they never had to feel alone.

Nowadays you can find a support group for just about everything but, as in the case of my brother-in-law, many men are reluctant to join them.  I think this is especially true of senior men.  They don’t feel comfortable talking in groups and often have the stoical attitude of, “I’m doing fine.  I don’t need support”.

Then, of course, you have the men who claim they have no time for a support group since they are so busy caring for their loved ones.  This was the original attitude of the men who formed the ROMEOs.  Their days were full of care giving but they figured that a good meal out once a week might be OK.   Little did they think of this as a “support group” but that’s exactly what it was.

I knew that Peg was being cared for in a loving way by her husband of almost 60 years but it was a relief to know that he was being cared for too …thanks to a little group knows as the ROMEOs.

Amputee Vs. Individual with Amputation

I thoroughly enjoy meeting and talking with other amputees. There is an instant camaraderie among individuals who have experienced and are living with limb loss. It is a reality that one can truly relate to only if it has been experienced first hand.

It is difficult to explain how miserable an ill fitting socket can feel and how it can negatively impact an entire day. There is something comforting in knowing that I don’t have to explain these issues to another amputee. It is something which we all understand. Phantom pains, liner woes, socket adjustments and emotions are all common topics among amputees.

I have a theory. I have concluded that there is a difference between the “amputee” and the “individual with an amputation.” I often interchange these terms, but I believe that they have two separate connotations. The same holds true for all disabilities.  An individual can be “disabled” or they can have a “disability.”  Some probably think it is a matter of semantics, but for me they hold very different meanings.

The “amputee” is somebody who identifies him or herself through the limb loss. The amputation or their “status” as amputee is the sole source of conversation. It has become the individual’s defining feature. In a sense, the individual has been lost, or at least masked, by the loss.

I think that most individuals who have experienced limb loss go through the “amputee” phase. After all, the loss of a body part is traumatic, regardless of the circumstances. Speaking from experience, I know emotional struggles and the ensuing identity crisis make it difficult, if not impossible, to see beyond the loss.

Eventually, I evolved from being an “amputee” into the “individual with an amputation.” I cannot deny that I have an amputation. It is physically obvious. The changes affected by my amputation have been global, not just physical. I am MORE than my limb loss.

I am a mommy. I am a wife. I am a friend. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an intelligent woman with a lot of opinions (too many if you ask my husband). I am a cancer survivor. I am also living a full life after an amputation. All of these roles contribute to who I am.

In retrospect, I probably would have benefited from a support group in the early stages of my adjustment. I tried a few, but was disappointed in the groups that I attended because there was no emphasis on moving beyond the loss. Perhaps had I sought and found an appropriate group for me, my recovery would have been easier.

Thankfully, the internet has helped to bridge the support gap, allowing individuals with disabilities to communicate and connect with each other. Support groups are becoming virtual meeting places, a change which I find to be wonderful. It is empowering to know that one only needs to log onto their computer to find support, answers or friendship.

I love the virtual freedom that my Kindle Fire affords me. I can log onto the internet from any hotspot, and instantly be connected with friends and family. If I have a question, or need to vent, I don’t need to sit quietly by myself and stew. I just need to log onto my Kindle and I can connect with my peers.

I also appreciate the fact that my Kindle Fire is light-weight, eliminating the need to carry heavy and cumbersome books when I’m traveling. Anytime I can lighten the load I appreciate it! If you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend giving the Fire a chance.  It is a great way vehicle to help you connect with others with disabilities, allows you to share experiences and you can even play Angry Birds!

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