Hanger Clinic Prosthetist Allison Neil Shares Her Experience Growing Up With Limb Loss
Allison Neil, L/CPO, is not only a prosthetist and Area Clinic Manager for Hanger Clinic, she also has an above-knee amputation herself. During Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, we heard from Allison about her experience growing up with a prosthesis and how that impacts her perspective as a prosthetist today.
Growing Up with Limb Loss
Allison was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD), which means her ball and socket in the hip did not develop correctly in addition to having a short femur. During her early years, Allison wore shoe lifts to support her leg length difference. At age four, she had a Syme amputation and then used a prosthetic foot to support her daily activities. “I was a very active child, trying new sports, swimming, horseback riding, gymnastics, and biking. I kept up with my sister and our friends. My parents were very supportive of me, encouraging me to try new things and letting me enjoy being a child.”
During Allison’s teenage years, her leg length difference impacted her mobility and quality of life. As she grew, she was forced to compensate more heavily for her longer leg, causing her difficulty sitting in chairs and low back pain. After much consideration, at age 16, Allison had a second amputation through the knee.
Facts About Limb Loss
Discover more about the common causes of limb loss and limb difference, and opportunities to overcome challenges and embrace life.
“Age 16 was a very formative time in my life. I was an active high school student, then all of a sudden, I had my leg amputated through the knee and spent a lot of time with my physical therapist and prosthetist going through the rehabilitation process. It was the first time in my life I did not feel able bodied. I had to learn to walk with an above-knee prosthesis, and understand how my knee worked and how to control it. Once I relearned how to walk, I was still limited in how far I could walk and my overall activity level. Then by junior and senior year, with a well-fitting prosthesis, I was able to get back to the activities I loved, meeting the milestones I was worried about and walking across the stage at my high school graduation.”
As Allison went through college, she explored a few different majors, but ended up coming back to the field of orthotics and prosthetics. She volunteered in the office where she had been a patient since age four. Allison later moved into the position of a prosthetic technician, and stayed in that position for over three years while she completed her Bachelor in Science at the University of Houston. She next moved to California to complete her prosthetic education, and then returned back to her home state of Texas to pursue a career with Hanger Clinic.
Life as a Prosthetist
“I feel like being an amputee gives me an inside perspective. I personally know how much we can impact a patient’s life. There are many opportunities, from the prescription recommendation, to fabricating the prosthesis, to ensuring the patient has a comfortable fitting prosthesis that is providing them with benefits throughout their day. The attention to detail matters, and the relationship developed with a patient and their family makes an incredible difference in a person’s life.
In this field, we wear a lot of different hats. We have an opportunity to use so many different facets of our brains—hand casting, making modifications, doing repairs, documentation, marketing and business functions, sometimes managing offices and employees, and relationships with patients, their families, and other employees. I feel blessed to be in a wonderfully challenging career path and having the opportunity to regularly learn new things and improve people’s quality of life. We truly become like family, and there are not many careers where you can say that.”
Inspire to Elevate
Hanger Clinic is celebrating Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month by hosting a Virtual Recognition Board where members of the community can recognize a fellow community member who embodies the Amputee Coalition’s 2023 theme “Inspire to Elevate.”
Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month
“The developments in the technology, accessibility, and resources for people with an amputation are incredible. Growing up, I did not know any other amputees. Now there are so many resources for families, parents, and patients from one-on-one peer mentorship to in-person and virtual support groups and limb loss and limb difference sports or activity groups. I tell my patient’s to take advantage of these resources and remember you are not alone. There is a wonderful community ready to provide resources, education, encouragement, and support. I was encouraged by my parents to try new activities and live life without limitations, and I encourage my patients to do the same. Take time during Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month to share resources and appreciation, and to support others.”
Request a Free Evaluation
If you or someone you love is looking for personalized prosthetic care, get in touch with a board-certified prosthetist at a Hanger Clinic near you.
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