Interview with Katharina S.

Katharina S. lost her arm in a car accident as co-driver. At that time, she was 19 years old. How the now 22-year-old woman deals with her amputation and how she experienced the time after the amputation, she talks about in an interview.

MyHandicap (MyH): Your amputation was over two years ago. How are you today?

Katharina S. (KS): I feel easy and I am satisfied with myself. 

MyH: How long did it take to accept that you have lost an arm? 

KS: Strangely enough, not long. When I woke up after three days of coma, I saw that my arm was missing. Then I only wanted to fall asleep again. I've persuaded myself that everything will be fine; I’m only dreaming. But that was only for one day. I am not a person who can sit there sadly, when everybody around me is already sad. So I smiled. No one could understand that. But there is a saying: "These are the strong ones who laugh in tears, hide their worries and thus make others happy!" This has really helped me.

MyH: Did you have time to prepare for the amputation? Or have you lost your arm directly in the accident?

KS: No, didn’t have any time, the arm was completely torn off in a car accident where I was co-driver. The arm lied in the field and it was no longer possible to stitch it on again.

MyH: What was your first thought when you realised that you have lost an arm? 

KS: The first thing I wanted to know was how my friend was (who drove the car).

MyH: And what was your second thought?

KS: I go to sleep again, and how does that work now?

MyH: What were you most "afraid" of?

KS: Not be able to finish my education. I was at the end of the third year of my training as a nursery nurse. 

MyH: How has your family reacted? 

KS: Greatly, they gave uplift to me, caught me, they were just there and never have taken away things that I could handle myself. They were happy with me about every success. 

All my friends were there for me

MyH: Like your friends?

KS: They were all there for me; my classmates had given me a photo album with quotations and have written repeatedly "You’ll make it!" That was great. I received many letters, visits and phone calls, I never had the feeling "I am alone with this!"

MyH: Did you have psychological support?

KS: Twice, of necessity: once in the hospital and once at the rehab. I never wanted anyone. I prefer to talk with people who know me.

MyH: What other support / help you have received?

KS: I was sent to follow-up treatment (something like rehab) and there I had three weeks of medical exercise therapy, occupational therapy and I don’t know what all. That was great. Otherwise, a lot more obstacles than necessary were put in the way. For example, I should have to retrain because the profession nursery nurse would not work for me anymore etc.

MyH: What would you do differently today?

KS: Differently? I believe, nothing, I've always did it my way, who many don’t approve. But after all it is my life. 

The personality is important

MyH: In your opinion, what is the most important thing after amputation?

KS: One's own personality (I was previously no fashion doll and appearance was never that important for me). The support of family and friends. Without them, I would never have come so far.

MyH: What advice can you give people who have lost a limb?

KS: You can be sad and also allow it, since it was a part of you and leaves a visible and invisible gap. But you must also look forward. Set goals and remember that the whole way to the goal is part of the goal too. Obstacles, stones, mountains and valleys. And be proud of every little success, for you have worked for it hard.

MyH: What is your advice, especially to young people who have “lost” a part of their body? 

KS: Exchange is very important. Search the Internet. For me it was helping to see what those people, who went though the same as me, could do. I felt this was great and admirable, and it motivated me. And besides, I do not think that if you are single, for example, you should sell below your value only because there an arm or a leg missing. You are still as precious as before and you still have needs and desires and you should stand up for them.

MyH: Have you had phantom pains or stump pains?

KS: Stump pains, no. Phantom pains yes, and I still have. I have strong phantom pains when the weather changes or when I’m stressed. Less, when I’m in the middle of working because then I’m distracted. 

Once in the evening and morning, I have a Garbapentin pill (that eases the pain). The phantom feeling is always there. I'm testing now a Tens unit to see whether it improves somewhat in the longer term. In principle, one can say that the pain CAN improve by adjusting the prosthesis; with me it was more the case that other pain effects occurred as the ones I knew before. But I would say they are still endurable. Sometimes, I also think that you have to learn to cope with them and just get used to.

With the prosthesis, it was love at first sight

MyH: How long did it take to get used to the prosthesis?

KS: Actually, it was love at first sight (laughs). The first time in the mirror with prosthesis, that was wicked. And well then just practice. Can’t say how long exactly.

MyH: How do people react when they realise that you have only one arm?

KS: Many look, some stare and children simply ask.

MyH: What has changed since the day you have lost your arm?

KS: EVERYTHING! You somehow start completely from the scratch. You try to lead a almost normal life, but it will never be like it once was. That's now a new chapter in the book of my life, an exciting, beautiful, sometimes sad, but basically an incredibly valuable chapter. I just handle some things differently, and others I can’t do anymore. This sometimes annoys me. 

I've become more confident

MyH: Was there also anything "positive" in the accident for you?

KS: Yes, I am more confident. And now I'm trying more to fulfill my wishes as well.

MyH: What are you most proud of?

KS: That I have went on and now am an officially recognised nursery nurse with a very good grade point average and technical college qualification and a job in the kindergarten.

MyH: What means your handicap to you?

KS: A major limitation. But also something very valuable. I could see and learn things that only very few people understand. I can also communicate that disability is part of everyday life thanks my profession; but that I am still not different from those who are healthy. 

 

Text: MHA

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