Being an amputee – the real mental and physical cost

There are a lot of things that I hate about being an amputee. Well, let me correct that, being an amputee in the situation I find myself in – at the mercy of ACC.

So many people think I should be ‘grateful’. I am not even going to go down that wormhole right now. All I will say is I struggle to know how I should feel grateful about losing a leg when it was completely preventable.

I struggle to understand how I should feel grateful about the fact that I am now 55% impaired meaning I will never be able to work full time again. This means I will be constantly at the mercy of ACC and their compensation system, which looks to continually take money off me at every turn simply because I am self employed.

I could carry on but I wont.

My point here today is this.

Fact 1

I live in Southland. That is 210km away from the closest limb centre. (420km round trip). This used to cost me around $95 in petrol. Due to rising fuel costs that now costs me closer to $150 in petrol. ACC pay me $120 or thereabouts. This has been unchanged in the last 3 years I have been dealing with them. This means that whereas once upon a time I could use some of that towards vehicle running costs etc, I am now in actual fact running at a loss financially every time I visit.

Not only that, it takes around 6 weeks to get it back when I claim.

Fact 2

WINZ pays $100 towards hotel costs associated with medical appointments. Being an ACC patient I cannot claim this. ACC pay only $57 towards hotel costs associated with medical visits. Actual hotel costs are around the $200 a night mark. This means that, on top of the $30 – $50 shortfall I already have in petrol costs, I would be expected to pay an additional $148 or more towards hotel fees as well.

Suddenly this medical appointment is costing me $178 – $198 each time.

Remember, I am unable to work full time. I do not get paid the equivalent of full time wages in weekly compensation (not even close).

Lately I was at the limb centre on the following dates

– October 27th

– November 10th

– November 17th

I will also be there on November 22nd and likely again the week following.

At $200 a time (in actual fact $378 all up until I get the rebate) how in the hell does anyone expect me to afford that?

Each of my visits would cost me at least $200. Each of my visits costs ACC $178.

If I was a WINZ customer / patient instead, each limb centre appointment would cost me $130 – $150 with hotel and it would cost WINZ $$221.

Fact 3

Disabled people on WINZ have lower personal costs for ongoing medical treatment, but also have less options for funded component parts.

Disabled people on ACC have higher ongoing personal costs for medical treatment, but have more options for funded component parts.

The system prevents you from being able to switch from one to the other in either direction.

The solution?

The solution is easy.

1) don’t go (not really an option)

2) don’t stay over and attempt to drive it all in a day.

The latter is what I am therefore forced to do.

Friday…. A day in the life of a limb Centre appointment

5am: up, quick breakfast, morning drugs and off I go. The car was packed up with the bike, bike leg, spare foot and trainer the night before.

5:40am leave for Dunedin. The only place I stopped on route was a BP garage for a takeaway coffee. Usually takes 3 hours.

8:45am Arrive at the limb Centre

11am: bike leg check socket sorted. Now trying to figure out what’s wrong with the walking leg. Asked to go for a walk and come back in about hour; Went to hospital cafe.

12-1:30pm: time spent trying to figure out how to fix the walking socket. In the end we gave up unable to fix it. So we started over with the casting process to make another new socket.

2pm Left the limb Centre. Went for a swim to calm my nerves and settle my brain / significantly triggered PTSD before trying to attempt the 3 hour drive home.

7pm Arrived home (driving non stop).

The impact of this incredibly intense and very long and tiring schedule was stark. I couldn’t control the tears when I got in the door and had an absolutely terrible nights sleep. I have cancelled all exercise plans for the rest of the weekend to allow me to emotionally recover.

The real cost of all of this on me

First of all remember this: the amputation of my left leg was completely preventable. It happened because a registered NZ medical professional fucked up.

Cancer is not preventable. Hereditary disabilities are not preventable.


If you dare to compare the two, and say you are hard done by, consider this.

A preventable acquired disability is like this…

… someone is in a field, they fall and their leg is in the path of some oncoming machinery blades. You do nothing about it.

… you are a bystander when you see someone step out into the path of an oncoming car that they haven’t seen. You do nothing about it.

… get the idea?

Then let’s talk about the house…

I am now into the fourth year of being an amputee and my house has still not been modified. For the next couple of weeks while we make another walking socket (and hope it works this time) I will be unable to walk very far at all due to the damage that has been done to my stump with the current socket whilst it heals plus the fact it doesn’t fit and I have to wait for them to make another.

My house is not wheelchair accessible. So there we add an other layer of stress and anxiety on top of all of this.

Now dare to tell me again how lucky I am.

It takes a great deal of strength to put a smile on every day and carry on. But never forget what is going on underneath.

Author: Melanie

I am a massage therapist and part time athlete, blogging life thru a disability lens. On wheels, with flipper and occasionally on feet.

2 thoughts on “Being an amputee – the real mental and physical cost”

  1. ❤️ I wish I could say something that could help….. sending hugs and I hope this episode is sorted as quickly as possible xx

  2. It makes me feel very sad and bloddy angry to see my daughter like this. I hope that the people responsible are suffering sleepless nights and that their consciences are pricking them every second of every day of every week of every year. I would like to know how they would feel if one of their children were going through the horrors and stresses that Melanie has to, always remembering that the root cause was foisted on her. How can you sit on your arses and ignore the consequences of your actions!!!!!!!!!!!!

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