Alvin was in his late twenties when a motorcycle accident led to significant injury and 5 years of pain. Here, he shares his story about making the difficult decision to have elective surgery and become an amputee, and how the Volunteer Visitor role has inspired him to support others…
‘Before my accident, I was a fit and healthy twenty-something, and spent my time working, playing football, riding my motorbike, and playing drums in a band. In 2002, I had an accident on my bike and sustained a significant injury to my right leg – suddenly, my life changed, and I lived with daily pain, impaired mobility, and many surgeries.
Suddenly, my life changed
After 5 years, and a lot of attempts to ‘fix’ my leg, I began to wonder if amputation might give me back my life. I had seen other amputees on TV who seemed to have a better quality of life than I did, and for the first time wondered if it might be a good option. By now, I was in a lot of pain and discomfort, unable to enjoy life fully.
I was plagued by worries, questions and fear about making the wrong decision – if only I could try being an amputee for a day! I was so worried about making the wrong decision, and constantly wondered ‘would I regret it?’ whilst at the same time worrying ‘what if I don’t regret it’. Finally, the day of my amputation came around and it was a very difficult day. After lots of delays in me going into the theatre, I remember looking at my lower leg thinking that would be the last time I saw it. Everything went well, and when the nurse woke me up, I thought ‘the rest of my life starts now’.
The rest of my life starts now
And it did! I managed to rehabilitate, and learn to walk with a prosthetic limb and although I still experience phantom pain, it is manageable and nothing like my years with an injured leg. I returned to my passions – music, motorbikes – and met my wife and raised a family. I so wish I could’ve gone back to my younger self and told him to amputate sooner – and that is one of the main motivators in becoming a VV. I wished I had known about the VV programme and had been able to have a visit.
I became aware of the LA as I play in the Douglas Bader band and performed at one of their events. I learnt about the VV programme and applied when they began recruiting. All the training for the role was enjoyable and I gained a lot from the different modules.
I am now enjoying my role as VV and have had a few successful visits – for me, having the opportunity so speak to a person who has lived through and done the journey in life which you are worried about embarking on is very beneficial. Tapping into life experience is raw knowledge, which is experienced, rather than learned.
Tapping into life experience is raw knowledge
The feeling of helping others is the greatest thing for me. The Limbless Association has trained me how to put my experiences to good use and identify how to appropriately draw on my experiences to do exactly that.
If you’re considering applying for the VV role and have the time to do so, then you will not regret it. I have a full and active life now, and am currently studying for my pilot’s licence as well as volunteering for the VV programme – life is busy, but great!