What Are Ways to Help a Child Adjust to a Prosthesis?
No matter how old you are, adjusting physically and emotionally to an amputation takes time. The loss of a limb, whether because of disease, injury or surgery, is devastating. It poses special obstacles when it happens to a child, but there are ways to make the transition to prosthetics a little easier.
Children can be fitted with artificial limbs as soon as they’re able to stand, usually at 9-12 months. When they’re that young and haven’t yet transitioned to walking and running, a prosthesis simply becomes a part of their identity and daily lives. Insecurity over any kind of difference increases with age - a toddler will only want to know how the components of the new arm or leg work, a school-aged child will be nervous about being teased, and preteens and teens, insecure to begin with, will probably need reassurance about body image. At any stage, make sure to talk to your child about how he or she is feeling and address any worries and concerns.
Your prosthetist will become an essential part of you and your child’s life, not only measuring and fitting your child but understanding the challenges of adjusting to a new limb. He or she will go over how each component should be cleaned, as well as what substances shouldn’t make direct contact with the prosthesis, such as water, bug spray and sunscreen. Learning when to remove the prosthetic (think, contact sports) is also extremely important. Encourage your child to ask the prosthetist questions about anything and everything. Feeling in control and on top of caring for their new arm or leg will be empowering.
The more comfortable both you and your child can get with the new limb the better. Practice taking the prosthesis on and off as well as getting in and out of cars, taking public transport and other every day activities until they feel natural. Discuss how to deal with other people’s reactions and the best ways to deal with questions. Finding community with other families can also be a big source of support.
One of PCRF’s goals is to help get Gaza’s amputees back up on their feet. In 2014, we set up the POET program at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah to train local surgeons in pediatric orthopedic surgery through training abroad, visiting specialists, medical equipment and the treatment of complex patients. This reduces the number of children who need to be sent away from home for medical procedures. We’ve also presented a limb deficiency symposium.
If you’d like to contribute, there are many ways to help.
ABOUT THE PALESTINE CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND
The Palestine Children's Relief Fund was established in 1992 by concerned humanitarians in the USA to bring injured and sick children for free medical care they could not get locally. Since then, we have sent over 2,00 sick and injured children for free medical care, as well as sponsored hundreds of volunteer medical teams from all over the world to treat tens of thousands of sick and injured youths in local hospitals. PCRF also has built two pediatric cancer departments in Palestine and has several more major programs and projects taking place to help support the development of a sustainable health-care system there. Learn more by visiting our website.