OPINION: Amputees Helping Amputees Is Inspiring Program

By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

I was pleased and proud to be invited to one of the most inspiring events I have ever attended September 15 at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.

There, I learned about courage, tenacity, bravery and sacrifice. The event, Amputees Helping Amputees Extravaganza 2007 "Celebrating 6 Years of Mobility," was simply extraordinary.

When a child is born, it is a magnificent occasion. The first questions we often ask when a baby is born are "Is it a boy or a girl?" almost always followed "Is your baby healthy?" and "Does your baby have 10 fingers and 10 toes?" We breathe a sigh of relief if the answers to those questions are "yes."

Unfortunately, this does not always last. Due to accidents, illnesses such as diabetes and pneumonia, people often lose their limbs. It is no doubt tragic, but as I learned at the Amputees Helping Amputees event, many amputees overcome tremendous odds to leave normal, productive lives. They don't want people feeling sorry for them. The amputees I met, many of them children, were happy young men and women who have accepted their fate in life and have decided to live life to its fullest.

I was very impressed by the passion exhibited by the people who put on the event to showcase this program and those who volunteered not only at the event, but others who spearhead a support group at Calvert Memorial Hospital for amputees, their families and those who - because of disease such as diabetes may become amputees. Scarlett M. Schall, RN, is a case manager at Calvert Memorial Hospital.

Amputee and paralympian Wardell Swann was also at the event. He is a motivational speaker, is a great presence at the support groups and also provides moral support to our wounded warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington.

Gwen Bankins, St. Mary's County's Most Beautiful person in 2006 for all of her voluntary activities such as working with victims, troubled teens and now amputees, also did a great job at the Extravaganza. I was pleased to be invited by Gwen as well as Calvert Memorial Hospital President and CEO Jim Xinis who fully supports the Amputees Helping Amputees Program.

Some of the Walter Reed soldiers were at the Extravaganza.

Ms. Schall is passionate and committed to this cause as are Wardell and many others. Scarlett's motto is "Life after Limb Loss." She advises that it is essential to ward off depression that sets in when someone receives an amputation. It is imperative that amputees realize through examples provided by Wardell and so many others such as the young amputees on hand at the Extravaganza who were full of life and joy that just because they have suffered a limb loss they are a lesser person. ABSOLUTELY NOT!

If you are interested in joining this support group or know someone who may, you may contact Scarlett at (410) 610-5085 or Wardell at (301) 643-1724.

Support group meetings are held at Calvert Memorial Hospital on the fourth floor activity room the second Tuesday of every month. While these meetings are held at CMH, they are open to all residents of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.

There is no charge to attend and there are always plenty of snacks available. While the group sessions can sometimes be intense, they are also fun. They have an annual Christmas party at Calvert Pines Senior Center in Prince Frederick and go bowling at Lord Calvert Bowl, also in Prince Frederick among other activities such as the Extravaganza at the handicap accessible Jefferson Patterson Park where all types of activities were offered.

If you want to help support this incredible program, please make your tax-deductible check payable to Amputees Helping Amputees (Tax ID# 52-1680647).

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