‘Ampuversary’ Event Celebrates Support Group for People with Amputation at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute

March 7, 2019

At the event, from left, is Clinical Specialist, Prosthetics & Orthotics, Outpatient PT/OT Sue Callaghan, P.T.; Walter Bowden, member of JFK Amputee Ability Group, and Medical Director, Prosthetic & Orthotic Team, JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute Heikki Uustal, M.D.

More than 30 New Jerseyans living with amputations gathered February 26 to share the challenges and joys of life with an artificial limb.

They shared their common experiences at the “Ampuversary” to celebrate another year of the Amputee Support Group at Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

Some of those at the “Ampuversary” lost limbs to trauma, and others to medical issues such as cancer, vascular disease or infection.

“We all have a different story, but it’s great that we come together and share our challenges and realize we are not alone,” said Chris Sickels of Edison, who had one leg amputated as a child and another later in life because of illness. “It’s such a happy group of people. We learn from each other and we also teach each other what we’ve learned about living with amputation.”

JFK Johnson offers a continuum of care that ranges from surgery to acute care to inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. Artificial limbs created for each person’s individual needs are made at the JFK Johnson Prosthetics and Orthotics Laboratory, also in Edison.

Leaders of the JFK Johnson Prosthetics and Orthotics Team recognized that patients would benefit from a community of support from people with shared experiences. Heikki Uustal, M.D., medical director of the team, said people with artificial limbs learn from each other and provide insight that even professionals cannot offer.

“When my patients see me they see someone with two arms and legs,” said Dr. Uustal. “They may wonder, ‘Could he really relate to what I go through?’ That’s why we thought it was so important to create this community of education and support.” The Amputee Support Groups meets monthly.

More than 4000 people in New Jersey experience amputations each year, according to the latest data reported by the Amputee Coalition. The JFK Johnson Prosthetic and Orthotic Team schedules 3,000 to 4,000 patient visits each year, including hundreds of new referrals from around the tri-state area.

Nearly two million people live with an amputation in the United States, and approximately 185,0000 amputations occur in the United States each year.

Members of the support group said they share laughter and joy — and even jokes about their artificial limbs. One wore a T-shirt that said: It’s taking longer than I thought for my leg to grow back.

Jan Stubbs of Manchester — “Yes, I get jokes about my name from people who pay attention” — said the group also shows how many different ways people can lose a limb. For instance, she needed an amputation following an infection.

“Everybody in this group is so joyful,” she said. “There is no time to sit around and say, ‘Why me?’ The Prosthetic program is wonderful here, and this group makes us all see that there is life after amputation. We’re not in this alone.”

About Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute

Offering New Jersey’s most comprehensive rehabilitation services, the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute is a 94-bed facility located in Edison, N.J. serving residents of the tri-state area for more than 40 years. Its mission is simple: provide quality rehabilitation for adults and children living with disabilities to obtain optimal function and independence within an accepting community. JFK Johnson Rehabilitation has developed programs in specialties that include brain injury, stroke rehabilitation, orthopedics/musculoskeletal and sports injuries, fitness, cardiac rehabilitation, women’s health, pediatrics and a prosthetics and orthotics lab. It is the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department of the Hackensack Meridian Medical School at Seton Hall University and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. To learn more, visit JFKJohnson.org.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals – JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 34,100 team members, and 6,500 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having four hospitals among the top 10 in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker’s Healthcare’s “150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2018” list.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

For additional information, please visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org.