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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Develops Guide to Help Amputees Nationwide

February 17, 2010

HOUSTON – The Prosthetics Section at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) has developed the first amputee guide for nationwide use by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  It will be available soon on the VA Web site for use by all clinicians.

Recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated the nature of modern warfare has changed. There are new causes of injury, improvements in body armor, and surgical stabilization at the front-line of combat. As of January 31, 2010, the Department of Defense reported approximately 960 individuals had suffered major limb amputations while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“Working every day with Veterans anticipating an amputation, new amputees, and family members, we saw a need for a resource and reference manual, “said Mark Benveniste, R.N., B.S., C.P., MEDVAMC certified prosthetist. “We wanted to help them meet the challenges ahead, let them know what to expect, and how to find the support they will need.”

In addition to recently returned combat veterans, there are approximately 45,000 veterans with amputations caused by medical conditions such peripheral arterial disease, diabetic neuropathy, cancer, or infection.

The book covers a wide range of issues related to amputation surgery; managing pain; instructions for taking care of the residual limb; living with an amputation, with and without an artificial limb; getting a prosthesis (artificial limb); and sports and recreation resources. The information could be useful to all amputees; however, this version was written specifically for Veterans receiving care through the VA health care system. Health care professionals working with amputees may also gain additional understanding from this guide.

“I went through self-pity, anger, and bitterness. I thought my whole world had come to an end, but I learned you can do everything you did before if you put your mind to it,” said Vietnam Veteran Leonard Scott, wounded in combat on July 10, 1968 with his right leg amputated above the knee. “I believe this guide will be helpful for new amputees to learn to never say ‘I can’t.’”

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