My name’s Darryl, I’m 51 and a left below-knee amputee from Perth. I’m a wheelchair user. I had my amputation in 2016 and tried to use a prosthesis in 2019. I was excited about the prospect of being able to walk again but my experiences were negative. My prosthetic leg, which I named ‘George’ didn’t fit well and I felt that despite telling people, no one was listening. I had a few falls and hated wearing George, so I put him in a cupboard in 2020 and that’s where he stayed because I couldn’t wait the 6 to 8 months that it would take to see a clinician during Covid. I felt like hiding away from the world and that’s what I did.
In 2021, I started to realise that I was alienated and isolated, somewhat by choice, so I decided to make some changes. I applied for a job at Optus Stadium, in Retail Food and Beverage.
My first shift was working the 2021 AFL Grand Final! I was both excited and apprehensive that I would be working in a very ‘visible’ role and that so many people would see that I was in a wheelchair and that I was an amputee. But after a few stares and overhearing some people talking about me, I realised that I have the right to work and be in public and I became more determined and confident right then and there!
I spent a lot of time thinking about AMP-ED Up! 2023, and then in October 2022, I booked my flights to and from Melbourne, accommodation at the venue and my ticket to the conference. I was both happy and terrified! I called Andrew to tell him that I’d be there, and he was so proud of me for taking such massive steps! I couldn’t believe that I’d committed to not only attending such a huge, 2-day event, but also to going on a plane for the first time since my amputation and really, going anywhere apart from the local shops! What was I thinking?
In the blink of an eye it was February 23, and I was at Perth Airport for my flight to Melbourne. The QANTAS check-in staff member asked, “Are you OK?” I said, “No, I’m petrified!”
He told me that everything would be alright, and he was correct! QANTAS staff helped me board and disembark my flights and accompanied me through the terminal in Melbourne to my taxi. When I arrived at the Hyatt, the staff there were also fantastic. In the lobby, I was rapt when I saw Andrew and he was so glad that I had made it! He introduced me to Geoff, and we really hit it off. I met so many other amputees in such a short time, including people who had come from New Zealand. I found myself getting quite overwhelmed and emotional, but I felt very welcome and comfortable too.
AMP-ED Up! ‘23 was exciting and eye-opening. Just being in the same room as 100s of fellow amputees was an experience in itself.
We heard from Melissa first… wow, what a woman! Then Jason talked about self-advocacy, and it made me realise that maybe I hadn’t been great at that in the past. I got so much out of Andrew’s presentation on exercising choice and control. Sara’s story about trying things even when you feel anxious, made me think that I’d like to try to use a prosthesis again, despite my fears of pain and failure.
To sum up my AMP-ED Up! 2023 experience, I can tell you that I’ve made new, life-long friends. There is support available from professionals and our peers who can help us participate in society after amputation.