Tom Carlson is the founder of the Amputee Support Group of Tri-Cities, TN. He is a right below-knee amputee due to an infection in his foot.
Following is our conversation with Carlson.
DID YOU RECEIVE ANY PEER SUPPORT BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR LIMB LOSS?
When I lost my leg, I had many questions that I didn’t have answers to. Unfortunately, no one could help me answer the simplest of questions that an amputee has. I did everything without help from anyone. The prosthetics office I visited had no idea about support in our area. I was finally able to find the Amputee Coalition through Facebook.
WHAT HELPED YOU COPE?
Being very strong and trying to focus on getting my life back to normal as quickly as possible. I love my personal relationships, but in the hospital I didn’t have many. I thrive on personal interaction, and it helps keep me going. If it were not for my many close friends and their support, I’m not sure how things would have gone.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START A SUPPORT GROUP?
There is no support where I live, and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I did and feel so helpless because not even the doctors know how to answer your questions. We have large hospitals, along with prosthetic offices and clinics, in our area, and I want to provide support so their patients can get the help they need.
After I attended the Amputee Coalition conference in July, although I had no roadmap for doing so, I decided that it was time for me to do something. I have received help along the way, but most of this has been on my own. (Amputee Support Group of Tri-Cities, TN was founded in July 2019.)
HOW IS IT GOING SO FAR?
It has been difficult getting started. I need a platform that allows my group to reach more people, other than just Facebook. I want to provide support to those in East Tennessee, but I also want to talk to anyone online to answer their questions as well. On July 23, 2019, I became a certified peer visitor through the Amputee Coalition, and as of that October, I became a certified peer visitor through AMPOWER.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL OTHER AMPUTEES WHO HAVEN’T FOUND SUPPORT?
Don’t give up. By not having support through my limb loss process, I have now been able to reach and help others who are going through this. My main purpose in life is to help others, and this has helped me do that.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE CONSIDERING STARTING A SUPPORT GROUP?
You can do anything you set your mind to. If you have a vision, things will work out the way they’re supposed to.
WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF RUNNING A SUPPORT GROUP?
Being able to hear, “You’ve changed my life,” is something that I live for.
For more information, contact Tom Carlson at [email protected] or 423-741-2644
Editor’s note: The Amputee Coalition offers the free publication “Starting a Support Group” on its website. For your copy, visit https://bit.ly/2CwiAcH and type “Starting a Support Group” in the search bar.
IMAGE: Tom Carlson. By J. Robert Kell Jr. (www.creativestoryvisuals.com).