Artwork by Millie Saunders
As you have probably guessed by the title, this particular instalment of the “Have You Ever?” series will be going in a different direction. Upwards, to be precise.
Over the course of writing these posts I have been asked a number of questions about being an upper limb amputee, none of which I can answer as my limbless-ness is limited to the lower portion of my body.
Instead of passing over them however, I decided to pose the questions to an amputee group over on Reddit and was delighted to have not one but two people get in touch.
Ben Dodds and Melissa Davis were both kind enough to take the time to answer these questions and you can read what they had to say below.
Have you ever tripped and reached out to grab something even though your hand isn’t there?
“Oh god yes, all the time! Spending 30 years of my life 2 armed it’s still an automatic instinct even after 14 1/2 years.
Now falling is different when I know there’s nothing I can do to stop it. My right arm and my nub automatically go behind me & my knees or my faces catch my fall. The thought of breaking or messing up my ‘good’ arm scares the crap out of me (even though my good arm is screwed up from overworking it). Needless to say my knees haven’t fared very well.” – Melissa
“Yes, 6 years on this still happens – old muscle memory!” – Ben
If you lost a hand later in life, was it your dominant hand and how did you adapt to needing to use the other hand?
“I lost my dominant hand in an accident, I learned to be left handed through Lego and colouring books.” – Ben
Is it safe to lift heavy objects with the prosthetic hands?
“With a prosthetic there is a weight limit determined by the level of amputation. I’m above elbow so am limited to the tolerance of the elbow. However, I have a sports arm that allows me to lift 8kg dumbbells.” – Ben
Is it daunting to be in public places without having arms to help move through the crowds?
“I don’t think so but I’ve never really thought about it. I just stick my Nub out to weave through a crowd because it usually startles people at first (doesn’t bother me because I get it). So they move out of my way without any kind of lip. I mean, who’s gonna yell or get a smart mouth at an arm amputee in public?” – Melissa
“No, I’ve never had this issue. I commute through London and have been to gigs without issue.” – Ben
Did you play any instruments and need to adjust or just stop all together after losing your hand/arm?
“I played the guitar before the accident, it’s simply too difficult to continue now which has been a great sadness”. – Ben
When I sent these questions out, Melissa told me that she couldn’t answer any about prosthetic arms as she had never used one and I wanted to talk just briefly about that here because it is important to note that there are many amputees out there who, for various reasons, are unable to use a prosthesis.
“I almost had one once after my wreck. I was working with a prosthetic company in building me an arm”.
She went on to explain to me that after her initial accident and amputation, problems with a skin graft healing meant more surgeries which changed the shape of her “Nub” again. This, alongside the fact that prosthetic arms cost a fortune where she lives, has made it impossible for her to get a functional prosthesis.
Thank you Ben and Melissa for answering these questions and allowing me to share them with everybody who reads this post.
If you have any burning questions of your own, drop them down in the comments and keep an eye out for the answers in future posts…
You can find Melissa on TikTok @1Hand-5FingersChic