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  • Writer's pictureNeil Hopper

I had my legs removed but I’m not an “amputee”

I’ve just returned from the Vascular Society conference in Manchester. As a vascular surgeon it is a great opportunity to learn about new research, techniques and also it’s great to be able to catch up with old friends

This conference, however, presented me with several new experiences and challenges. This is the first time I’ve attended the conference since I lost my legs. I was humbled by the kind wishes but also very proud that many people didn’t even notice that I was walking around on prosthetic legs!

So - why the “provocative” title?

The conference was the first time I’d met other amputees outside of my day-to-day job. To see them in the wild so to speak. They are an amazing and courageous group of people. I remain in awe of the challenges that they have overcome. But, and I feel a little ashamed to say this, I don’t feel like one of them. Please don’t think less of me dear reader. I am not suggesting that I am better - just I don’t feel like part of the amputee tribe.

I am quite sure that I am not in denial about my situation. I just seem to see things in a different way. There are 2 things that a different about me...

1) I still have legs. They are mine. I can walk around pretty much without difficulty (I know that I’m lucky in this regard). They are just made of plastic, metal and carbon fibre. I have accepted them as part of me.

2) I have made a decision to be a husband, father, surgeon who happens to be an amputee rather that an amputee that is a husband, father, surgeon.

I was very relieved to find out that I’m not alone in thinking this way. Footless Jo has a vlog which says pretty much the same - I would encourage you to watch her channel.

Maybe my attitude will change. I now don’t mind people seeing my legs - this has not always been the case - so who knows? Maybe one day I will embrace the amputee label?!

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