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Politics & Government

April Is Limb Loss Awareness Month

Claire Matzie was born without her right hand and has since lost the majority of that arm. She’s gone through three different prosthetic limbs since she her birth 12 years ago, but decided to stop wearing them in 2011.

She said they got in the way.

“[She’s] my inspiration; the love of my life,” Claire’s father, state Rep. Rob Matzie (D-Beaver/Allegheny), said before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week.

The House unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Matzie that designates April 2014 as “Limb Loss Awareness Month.”

The month is designed to shine a light on the challenges faced by the limb loss community in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Matzie said the physical effects of limb loss are easy to see, but the emotional impacts aren’t always as obvious.

“Folks would rather stare than ask a question or ask if any assistance is needed,” he said, “and I think that goes for any disability quite frankly, but in the amputee community we call it a limb difference.”

About 2 million Americans have had amputations, and another 28 million Americans are at risk of limb loss as a result of vascular deficiencies, bone malignancies, congenital defects, or an accident, according to the Amputee Coalition.

While prosthetic limbs are becoming more advanced, they still come with financial and physical costs, according to Matzie.

“If there’s one good thing out of the war effort that has occurred, the technology as a result of that for our veterans coming home has really centered around making prosthetics lighter, more easy to manage and just in the last decade, to see the technology and how it has advanced is just remarkable.”

About 185,000 amputations occur in the U.S. each year, but Matzie said some of those cases could be prevented.

“Diabetes awareness just goes right along with limb loss awareness,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest factor from a medical standpoint that leads to an amputation. So, this just adds another layer of awareness by specifically pointing out limb loss awareness.”