Amputee Support Group
Greetings and Salutations fellow RAMPS members. I am Jan Ferguson, age 68, and I’ve been a left BK amputee for 11 years. I was diagnosed with diabetes 13 years ago but delayed action as I had no pain or discomfort. I denied the potential dangers in spite of my significant family history. Removal of a planter’s wart left a cone-shaped hole that did not heal. Amputation of the great toe was urged but I resisted by pursuing alternative treatments with no resolution. I traveled from Juneau, Alaska, to Seattle, Washington, for a consult with a surgeon who recommended removing bones from the sole of my foot to reduce pressure and stop continued callous formation. Arriving back in Juneau, I went to the ER as I was in pain up to my hips and my foot was turning black. My surgeon was willing to take only the great toe but the fishing line test determined that I had no sensation below my calf. We elected to have the amputation at that level to avoid inevitable future whittling. The pathology report revealed that I’d had a long-standing, low grade infection and the leg would not have held up much longer anyway.
I, too, received a visitor while in the hospital. We both enjoyed my mistaking him for the Chaplain rather than another amputee. I almost instantly regained strength, energy and stamina. I have also profited from “paying it forward” by encouraging new amputees in the hospital and rehab centers. I still have restless leg syndrome and my ankles don’t match. But… I am ALIVE and blessed to be active and independent. My medical care in Alaska, Washington and here in Reno has been miraculous and greatly appreciated.
I am heartened to see that the entertainment industry is normalizing many disabilities. RAMPS is my first experience as a participant in a support group. The fellowship, help and information I’ve received have been invaluable. I plan to continue membership, activities, volunteering and advocacy. So please feel free to chat with me any time.
Hi I’m Melody Headley!
I am 52-year-old left below-knee amputee caused from Osteomyelitis (a bone infection). I had a wound on my shin that wouldn’t heal over the course of a few years. I went to lots of doctor appointments, had lots of antibiotics and surgeries, all in the hope that the wound would heal. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.
So… in 2009, after more tests, the infection had progressed to the point of danger. My orthopedic surgeon recommended that I have a below-knee amputation. Of course I had lots of support from family and friends. I decided to go ahead and have the amputation, which occurred in October of 2009. While I was in the hospital and before I knew of RAMPS, a friend introduced me to one of her friends who is a below-knee amputee. She shared her story and what she shared gave me the assurance that I would be up and moving in no time
I believe that those of us who visit hospitals are important because that visit was significant for me, especially since I didn’t know it would be January before I would be home from the hospital. My doctor recommended that I have intravenous antibiotic treatments for the infection that was still in my system so off I went to rehab. I’m glad I did because I learned a lot. I had the good fortunate to be assigned a very good physical therapy team. Also, occupational therapy helped me learn how to do things around the house when using crutches and a walker. While I was in the rehab hospital, I was visited by Mark Combs from RAMPS (check out his story on this page - it’s amazing). That was so good for me because I didn’t know exactly what to expect or how to live day-to-day with an amputation. I had lots of questions and he was so positive. He shared his experience and that gave me hope.
In January 2010 I went home and started the process of being fit for my first prosthesis. In the year that followed, I started going to RAMPS meetings, which lead me to other things like adaptive swimming at a local pool and joining a gym. Then, in the summer of 2010, I traveled to Texas and Florida to see family. In April 2011, I had a wound on my residual limb which caused me to have more surgery (again due to Osteomyelitis). This surgery required further shortening of the bone. Now, over a year, later I’m doing even more than before thanks to lots of support from family, friends and the people at RAMPS.
I hope that if you are an amputee or family of someone who is or may become an amputee and you need information, please come and share with us your experience, strength and hope. We’ll exchange ideas, information and support. I hope to see you there!
Melody Headley, Secretary and
Jelena Hatfield-Parker, Founding Member
My Name is Jelena Hatfield-Parker and I have been an amputee for over eleven years. I was 16 years old when I contracted a rare form of bacterial meningitis. At the time, meningitis was not as common as it is today and it took the doctors quite some time to discover what was wrong with me. I was found early in the morning, very ill and hallucinating, the ambulance was called when my skin started to turn purple and black . I remember being in the ambulance, I remember arriving at the hospital and not understanding anything that was happening. Shortly after, I fell into a coma for about a week (during which, in case you are wondering, I could hear EVERYTHING that went on around me even though I couldn’t respond). I woke from my coma and discovered that my fingers and legs were dead. We amputated my fingers within the month but my legs were a different story. I had a team of very loving and capable doctors who tried diligently to save my legs. After about four months of trying everything from hyperbaric treatments to cadaver skin, we finally decided to amputate…and so began my life as a multiple amputee..
Janaya Rehm, RAMPS Member &
Jelena Hatfield, Founding Member
Hello everyone, I'm Mark Combs, your Amputee Support Group treasurer. I am in no way unique in that we all have our stories and each one is different. I truly believe that these should, as much as possible, be stories of hope and make us all realize that we have more in common than we might have thought.
My story begins with a gunshot wound to the chest when I was 11 years old, 1957. My spleen was shattered so it needed to be removed.
No one ever told me or suggested that without a spleen I would be vulnerable to infection and to potential sepsis.
Fast forward to March, 1995. My wife and I had just returned from a trip to Africa, definitely the trip of my life. I got sick while on this trip and just couldn't seem to get better. After returning to Reno, I awoke early one morning in terrible pain and was shaking uncontrollably.
I was also delirious. My wife called 911 and away to the hospital I went where they said it was the flu and sent me home.
Shortly after returning home I went into a coma and was immediately taken back to the hospital but, by this time, it was too late. I remained in a coma for 30 days, during which time the decision was made to remove both my lower legs or I would die for sure. My hands were damaged badly also, as Jelena, and I suffered from overwhelming sepsis. I woke up to the nightmare of not knowing what had happened, how it had happened and why.
I believe from the start what saved me was other amputees coming to my bedside and showing me that they were living normal lives and that I would too. They gave me the strength and hope to stay alive and without their inspiration I would not be here now. I am so blessed in so many ways but this group is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. We get together and rather than complain about how hard life is, we look for solutions and ways of solving problems that are unique to amputees. I truly thank all of you for your support and I know when I help another amputee I also help myself. Thanks for taking the time to read my story.
Members, please email us your story to add to this section. As a new amputee, other people's stories can help heal and motivate you!
John Ascuaga's Nugget is the perfect meeting place for us!
We meet on the second Wednesday of every month at 6 pm!
Jeanne Blach, Secretary, and Alan Blach, Member
I'm Ashlee Flint. A 28 year old mother of two , who has lived in Reno all of my life. I was introduced to the Reno Amputees by a friend several months ago, and although I am not an amputee myself, I am proud to be a part of the Reno Amputees. I love coming to the meetings and being a part of something bigger than myself. I am also proud to show my children that it pays to give back to the community. I have always had an open ear for anyone in need, and now I am able to put that ear to great use! "Only great dreams bring on great things". Together our dream of supporting RAMPS is effectively changing the way people think and improving the overall value in our lives!
Ashlee Flint, Member, and George Nelson, Founding Member
My Name is Rick Riley and I lost my leg in 1974 in a motorcycle accident. I had no idea of what to expect from amputation. I didn't know any amputees. I was fortunate in that no one told me what I couldn't do, so I did whatever I thought I could.. I made a serious foray into the amputee athlete world by being an eight-year member of the U.S. Disabled Nordic Ski team and represented the U.S. in two Olympics, one World Championship and the World Masters.
Rick Riley, Founding Member
Jelena Hatfield-Parker and George W. Nelson