Adjusting to life after an amputation brings a range of challenges, as Red Deer resident Landon Haigh knows firsthand.
And from the start, he and his family have benefited greatly from the assistance of The War Amps Child Amputee Program (CHAMP). It’s one of the programs funded through the public’s support of the Key Tag and Address Label Service.
Through CHAMP, The War Amps is there to help child amputees and their families from the very start, with financial assistance for artificial limbs, peer support, regional seminars and programs like Matching Mothers.
Key tags are currently being mailed out to Albertans. Since 1946, The War Amps has returned more than one million sets of keys through the program. Each key tag has a confidentially coded number. Should the keys be lost, the finder need only call the toll-free number on the back of the tag or deposit them in any mailbox, and the keys will be returned to the owner by bonded courier.
It’s a vital fundraiser for The War Amps, as the organization receives no government grants.
“They provide equipment, and one of the biggest things they provide is recreational limbs. Any sort of specialized equipment that the government won’t cover, they will pay for,” explains Haigh.
Today, the 19-year-old has his sights set on a career in mathematics and computer science, continuing his education at the University of Calgary this fall. But just a few years ago, life for this teen and his family took a very unexpected turn when Haigh started noticing pain in his right knee.
Doctors diagnosed cancer in the fall of 2008 when he was 16. Surgery was performed in February of 2009 which was followed by months of chemotherapy.
Ultimately, doctors said an amputation was a necessity because the cancer had spread. That was something the family wasn’t expecting, as it was hoped that reconstructive surgery would be enough.
“It was shocking,” explained his mother Ildi. “It was also tough because it was in just a short time it happened. It was like ‘This is the next path we have to take’.”
‘Van Ness Rotationplasty’ surgery was the course Landon, his doctors and the family decided to take. Surgeons took his ankle joint and put it where his knee joint was, and prosthesis has replaced his lower leg. The breakthrough surgery has left him with greater potential for what he can do with prosthesis. Of course it took getting used to, but Landon’s calm and peaceful nature helped him – and his family – adjust to the new reality.
“The process of learning to walk with it was more about balance than about muscle training,” he explained.
And as mentioned, through it all, Landon showed a striking strength and resiliency. “He is so stoic, and upbeat all the time,” explained Ildi. “He’s always been that way. His attitude was ‘I have to go through this, so let’s just do it’.
“When I look back at it, I wonder how did we do this? But when you are in the situation it’s basically day by day – 10 minutes by 10 minutes,” she said.
Founded by a national charter in 1920 as The Amputations Association of The Great War, a fraternal society was envisioned that would be able to provide direction for its members while also seeing to their needs. Counseling, self-help and practical assistance were emphasized.
Landon and his parents, Dale and Ildi, are grateful to The War Amps for their support which as already pointed out is available in a number of ways.
“It’s comforting to know that no matter what situation comes up, they are there,” said Dale.
As Landon explained, when you find yourself with a question about how to handle a given situation, you can be confident that someone out there has faced a similar situation and can lend advice, insight and support. “It’s a very easy support to go to and find out what you need to know.”
For more information, or to order key tags, call toll-free 1-800-250-3030 or visit waramps.ca.