Coping with limb loss or living with limb differences can be challenging, especially when people's reactions in the community can easily make one feel uneasy.
For Ashley Gray, a mother of four from Bismarck, North Dakota, coping with losing her right leg above the knee has been challenging. Although it's been three years since her amputation surgery, living without her leg still doesn't feel normal. And it doesn't help that people's stares can easily make her feel uncomfortable.
In an interview with KX News, Gray admitted that the first year after amputation was hell. She shared "feeling like a freak" whenever anyone stared at her the wrong way. All that staring made her feel uncomfortable that she resorted to cussing at little kids. This is where community awareness would have helped.
According to the American Journal of Managed Care, an individual is diagnosed with diabetes every 17 seconds across the US. And every day, 230 Americans with diabetes will undergo an amputation.
Despite the number of amputees in the US, community awareness isn't widespread, and some areas still don't have support groups, like North Dakota. This is the reason why Un-Limb-Ited's Mike Dresser came up with the idea to organize their own amputee support groups.
Dresser was inspired by the people he meets at prosthetic fittings. He also helps make prosthetics and sees many patients struggling with depression. Through Un-Limb-Ited, Dresser hopes to give amputees in North Dakota a refuge and an outlet where they could discuss questions about the amputee life.
Gray recently joined Un-Limb-Ited's support group and looks forward to meeting regularly with some of her peers. She's also been active in community Facebook groups as she tries to find ways to get back out in the community.
As of this publication, Gray has her sights set on learning horseback riding. She was inspired by a movie character paralyzed from the waist down due to a horseback riding accident. By the end of the film, that character was back to riding horses again. That movie moved Gray so much. It helped her feel like a human again, although some days can be challenging.However, Gray tries to stay positive. While she misses walking around and playing with her son, she's grateful to be still alive. She's thankful for her fiancé, who also provides her with the support she needs. Despite the challenges she meets in her daily life, Gray gets by with the help she gets from her Un-Limb-Ited community. She encourages other people coping with limb loss or living with limb differences to join the Un-Limb-Ited support group.