Tom is not only a dedicated father but also a passionate ecologist deeply fascinated by the natural world, including animals, fungi, and ecosystems. This profound passion has steered him toward a career in science as an ecologist, and much of it can be traced back to the fact that he was born with only one hand.
Being born with a limb difference and only one hand, Tom’s parents were exceptionally accepting and never overprotective. This environment cultivated resilience within Tom, allowing him to experience and overcome challenges while fostering fierce independence. Tom has been a client of APC for some time now and told us, “My Prosthetists at APC have played a key role in helping me with my upper limb journey, making attachments for an arm I can work out with, for the use of my compound bow, and the building of my myoelectric arm!”
Tom has two primary life goals:
His company, aptly named “Hooked on Nature,” reflects his hook on the natural world and his embracing of his prosthetic hand as a vital part of his life as an amputee.
Tom’s message for amputees is: “Really learn to love yourself without a prosthetic and accept who you are. Don’t hide what you have, and then incorporate your prosthetic into your life! I really believe that when you are an upper limb amputee, people stare, and it’s more obvious. Don’t push people away from that. Encourage conversations. I meet lots of kids through work, and I treat this as an opportunity to educate people about my limb difference.”
However, Tom acknowledges that he has also faced internal struggles, including a lingering sense of having to prove himself, often referred to as having a “chip on his shoulder.” This feeling has occasionally led to anger toward those close to him, causing hurt. In fact, his sisters nicknamed him “Chip.” Tom is still working through these emotions, which stem from the frustration of navigating life with just one hand, especially given his active nature.
One of Tom’s most significant personal challenges was finding comfort in his own skin. He tackled this challenge by taking part in wildlife shows at institutions like the Australian Wildlife Museums, Wildlife Conservations, Botanic Gardens, and more. Tom recently also accomplished a remarkable feat by rock climbing outdoors without the aid of his prosthetic limb, an achievement he takes great pride in. These experiences gradually built his confidence and pushed him to speak in front of audiences.
My name is Stephenie Rodriguez, and I am on a mission to impact a billion lives by 2025 by democratizing safety for vulnerable people. I’m the CEO and founder of a technology startup, and we’ve developed a free app called WanderSafe. This app helps users locate the safest way to navigate spaces and, when required, discreetly and accurately request help.
In 2019, while launching WanderSafe in Nigeria, I was bitten by a mosquito that transmitted the World’s Deadliest Parasite, Cerebral Malaria. This led to a coma, complete organ failure, and additional complications with Sepsis. The drugs that saved my life also left me with damaged limbs.
In 2021, after more than a year of hospitalisation, over thirty surgical interventions, and partial amputations, I made the decision to become Australia’s first bilateral above-ankle female osseointegrated amputee. Losing my limbs in 2021 during the Pandemic when socialising was at a minimum was a challenge. I am the only amputee in my social community and although my friends loving helped me accept my appearance, it remained very foreign. I felt very alone and that other people could not relate to both the physical and mental challenges I was facing. Getting involved in parasports has been the greatest contributor to a positive mindset about life on the other side of limb loss. It has helped me connect with other amputees, whom I can learn from and also encourage. Learning a new sport vs adapting something I already did like skiing was also a good thing. Parasports has helped me access a friendly community of positive people who too have endured trauma and accept me.
As a bilateral amputee, I am completely dependent on my prosthetics to support every activity I engage in. This ranges from taking care of my son and my dog to continuing my public advocacy for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Additionally, I serve as Rotary International’s Ambassador for the RAMS Finish-the-Fight.org campaign, which aims to raise awareness and funds to eradicate Malaria in the West Pacific Rim. These responsibilities often require me to travel extensively, and I am grateful that my prosthetics have given me back my independence.
My prosthetic feet provide me with the versatility to wear shoes suitable for business attire and have expanded my wardrobe choices considerably.
I lead an active lifestyle and have rehabilitated my body from paralysis and atrophy through extensive Pilates reformer work. My adaptive ‘ankles’ grant me a range of motion to safely engage in exercise routines on the reformer without the fear of injury. In September 2022, I commenced competitive wheelchair fencing training, and I am now proudly representing Australia with my sights set on the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
I have a deep love for the ocean, and one of my goals was to return to swimming, snorkelling, and beach activities. Thanks to my ‘wet’ legs, I now have the freedom to enjoy water activities with my son.
My initial goal was simply to regain the ability to walk, a remarkable achievement in itself given the incredible odds and challenges I faced in 2021. My second goal was to resume an independent life after surviving a near-death experience.
Now, my most recent endeavor is becoming the cornerstone of the Australian Women’s Parafencing program. Currently ranked 49th in the world in Parafencing Women’s Sabre, I aspire to break into the top 20 and qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Beyond personal achievements, my ultimate goal is to leave a lasting legacy and establish a program that enables people with disabilities to explore the competitive and enjoyable world of parafencing, helping them reach their full potential.
I take pride in being the first female parafencer to represent Australia since 1960 and aspire to set an example for fellow Australians. My overarching ambition is to witness Australia fielding a top squad of parafencers at the 2032 Brisbane Paralympics.
My message for amputees is: Advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask questions. Educate those who are ignorant/uninformed about amputees with kindness. Love the limbs and body you have.
David and Vicki are a married couple who live north of Newcastle in NSW and currently attend the APC Hunter Clinic. David and Vicki have seperate amputation stories, but a strong marriage and shared passion for Lawn Bowls.
Vicki’s amputation story begins in February 2000, being a volunteer firefighter, Vicki received a call during her lunch break to fight a fire. Unfortunately, the truck moved while her hand was near the winch, leading to a serious injury. Vicki underwent a total of 44 operations in an attempt to save her hand, and in 2020, Vicki’s hand was amputated. This is when Vicki began attending APC Hunter, seeing Paul who is now her prosthetist.
David’s amputation story begins in 2014, after being married for six months. David was involved in an accident where his leg was severely injured, resulting in 16 breaks in the lower part of his leg. Following the accident, David spent three years on crutches, and his leg was amputated six years ago. David became an APC Client after Vicki recommended the clinic to him and suggested that he also come to our Hunter Clinic.
Shortly after losing her hand, Vicki’s friends convinced her to take up playing Lawn Bowls. Since picking up this new hobby, Vicki and David have fallen in love with the sport, keeping themselves busy playing bowls! Vicki has participated in nationals 3 times and earned a silver medal in 2022. Her goal is to win a gold medal in her next competition.
Vicki wants to inspire other amputees with her message: “Never give up. Always try, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. David’s got the arms, I’ve got the legs, and between the two of us, we cope. While there are things we can’t do, we always give it our best shot!”
Vicki and David frequently travel to various locations to participate in Lawn Bowls competitions and to join other clubs. They have visited Ulladulla, Tasmania, Western Australia, Mackay, Gold Coast and more!
Vicki is heading to the Nationals in Western Australia in September, and she has the State Singles title coming up in November this year. Let’s wish them the best of luck!
I lost my leg four years ago in a motorbike accident in Indonesia. Before my amputation, I was very active, spending a lot of my time surfing and backpacking in different countries around the world to experience their culture. I played high-level sports earlier in my sporting life, with a key highlight competing in the 2015 World Championships for Ultimate Frisbee in Italy. Throughout my professional career, I was working as a Rope Access Technician, a labour-intensive job climbing around oil and gas facilities working 84-hour weeks. After my injury, my biggest concern was how I would earn money in the future if I couldn’t return to my job abseiling. I knew I needed to find a way to get back onto my feet for my own physical and mental well-being. It was a really tough period in my life. I made the proactive decision to put one foot in front of the other and choose to move forward and make the most of my life.
As soon as I was fitted with my leg, I started working to see what my mind and body were capable of, through hard and consistent training. I spent endless hours training in the gym and rediscovered my passion for pushing myself with the support of my network of family and friends around me.
People don’t realise how dark it gets after amputation and how much it takes to show up every day, not just to train, but to be present for your family and friends and complete small daily life tasks. Things could be going great for a few months; you’ve built all this muscle and strength and then somehow developed a pimple or tiny rubbing wound on your limb, and all of a sudden, you can’t walk for a month; and you lose all your hard work. Back to square one. I’m grateful for the support I’ve received, especially communicating with other amputees on social media who can relate and provide advice for what you are going through. It’s a tough mental marathon that never ends.
Only a few months after my amputation I got into indoor rock climbing. This was great because I could train and build strength, while having something to focus on which distracted me from the reality of losing my leg. For the first 6 months I didn’t use a prosthesis, I just hopped up to the wall and climbed with one leg. It was my goal to compete in the world stage. I got close and participated in some national climbing competitions, but unfortunately didn‘t have the means to travel to the world championships during Covid-19.
I was then encouraged to get into kayaking by friend and fellow amputee Kathleen O‘kelly–Kennedy who saw potential in my ability. I called the Australian coach and told him I was determined to get into the Tokyo Paralympics (top 2 in the country) and told him I was committed to focusing on that goal. I was training 6-8 hours everyday full time. This was by far the hardest sporting endeavour I have taken on. I had no idea how hard this new sport was going to be. When I rocked up to the Olympic training squad at the NSW institute of sport I was humbled and put into my place. All I wanted to do was give up, but I just kept turning up and giving everything I had into each training session. Fast forward eight months and I was a proficient paddler, I could keep up with the able bodied squad, but it was torture. I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons.
This was a major turning point for me. Realising that passion and purpose are fundamental ingredients for long term success in anything you do. If I spent the same time, effort and energy focusing on surfing big waves, something I had already been doing my whole life, I could turn it into my career. After spending two seasons in Hawaii and six months in Portugal surfing the biggest waves in the world, I can say I have truly found my calling. Surfing big waves is what I want to do. I’m currently working part time in rope access to self fund my progression into the realm of big wave surfing. I hope to turn my dream into a reality and travel around the world surfing big waves full time with the help of financial sponsorship.
I am proud of my sporting achievements, however my goal of returning to work was equally important to me and an important milestone in my rehab. It took lots of training, along with a lot of mental and physical preparation to get back to working in oil and gas. I’m by no means back at the same level but hope to continue getting stronger to where I can return to those extended 2/3 week shifts working offshore.
The team at APC Prosthetics helped me get my socket in the shape I needed to be able to surf comfortably. They observed how my knee fits into the socket, and the way my knee moves inside the socket. My Prosthetist, Sarah McConnell has been there from the beginning; Sarah would go as far as to come and see me at the Mona Vale hospital which really helped me during that time. After spending lots of time working together, Sarah was open to working outside the rules of the textbook and together, we worked collaboratively to tailor the design of the socket so that I could use it the way I wanted to. I am also grateful for David and Cathy Howells; through their experience and knowledge, they were also a huge support. The three of them came together as a unit to support me.
How I care for my limb has been crucial to my success. I make sure to eat well, minimise alcohol and get lots of rest. I desensitise the limb which helps with strengthening the skin. My message to the community is that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and commit. Never give up; just keep going. You will have bad days; it’s up to you to sit with these, feel the emotions and know that there will be better days coming. The first 6 months are so tough. It’s really hard to find good information. I followed my intuition. A lot of people said I couldn’t do it. If you have passion and purpose, you can make anything work. It’s all about practice, patience and purpose.
Follow @olliedousset on Instagram to keep up to date with the latest in Ollie’s active life.
In November 2017 I became a left below-the-knee amputee after contracting MRSA (multi-resistant staph infection). After ten months of numerous surgeries, I decided to have an elective amputation. I was surrounded by a great team of doctors and nurses whom I trusted to guide me with this life-changing decision. At the time I was 47 years old, a wife, a mother of two and working as a part-time dental assistant.
The APC limb clinic is where I felt supported and built relationships with the prosthetic team, physiotherapists, and most importantly other amputees. It’s Where I was able to talk about my concerns and listen to stories from other amputees. The team at APC Prosthetics are always willing to listen and offer advice. I told my Prosthetist that I missed being able to slip on thongs, and when it was time to get a new foot, I received one with a split toe for both my everyday leg and water leg. This means I can now wear thongs to the beach and dip my toes in the water, something I missed very much. The team at APC also provided me with a foot that adjusts to my heel height for various types of shoes and it’s the best thing ever!
I often compared myself to these amazing amputees on the Paralympics team. I was never sporty before my amputation, so I am not going to suddenly become this amazing athlete now. People would often suggest that as an amputee, I am now a suitable candidate for the Paralympics, however, there were times when getting into the shower was a big enough achievement for me. I am a proud amputee and whilst I am not on a Paralympic team, I am getting up every day and giving life my best shot. I will keep doing the things I love including working, going to the beach, playing with my dogs, renovating, gardening, socialising, and travelling.
My message to other amputees is, it may not be the life you imagined; however, it can still be just as wonderful. Grieve the loss of your limb, be kind to yourself, allow yourself the time to adapt to new ways of doing things, and be patient in finding your new norm as it takes time and effort. You are more resilient than you think. Be prepared for some relationships to change, you may lose some long-time friendships, and gain others. Surround yourself with positivity and great people who want to encourage you to be the best version of yourself and wear your prosthetic with confidence.
One day, I hope to have an amputee support group for our local area. This will allow us to unite, share stories, support one another, and create beautiful friendships.
My name is Allan, and I am a 52-year-old truck driver from Griffith, Australia. I lost my leg in July 1993 in a work accident when I was 23 years old. I was very active before my accident, as I was involved in football, boxing, and keeping up with my two children.
I was rushed to Wagga Wagga Hospital, where my doctor told me they could try to save my leg, which would result in countless surgeries, or we could choose to proceed with amputation. After being in the hospital for a few days, I developed Gangrene, and with the support of my doctor, we decided to amputate. I remember thinking, “I’m young; I’ll bounce back.”
After my amputation, I was determined to get back to work so that I could support my partner and children. I pushed through and went back to work after three months. I was introduced to Dave Howells at APC in the mid-’90s and have been with APC for close to 25 years. Dave pushes me if I need to be pushed, and this has made me feel supported by APC. I now see Alex at APC Northmead, who has helped me after a 20-month break from work caused by a staph infection where a part of the back of my leg had to be removed.
I have been truck driving for 33 years and have travelled all around Australia. I enjoy seeing Australia through my work and sharing photos from the road to send back to my children and grandchildren. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I have remained positive throughout the process. My message to other amputees is to stay positive and keep a smile on your face.
Sam is 6 years old and started Kindergarten this year, he has an older brother Joshua who is 10. Due to an anomaly during the pregnancy, Sam was born with an underdeveloped left limb from his hips down to his foot. Sam had a Symes amputation of his left foot at 2 and a half years old and since then, he has been using a prosthetic. Sam is a very active boy with a big smile on his face who loves the outdoors and trying something new and there’s no stopping him. He loves being active in the playground, jumping on the trampoline, biking, scootering, and skateboarding. He is a fan of everything emergency services – paramedics, fire fighters, police, rescue teams.
We feel at home with the team at Alexandria since we started visiting in 2019. It’s a big trip for us every time we go to the clinic; we have a tradition to go drive through McDonald’s every time. We always play around, and even do running races with the amputee employees. (Sam always wins!) Sam loves the casting process and even tries to cast his foot and leg when we get home. The team always listen carefully to Sam’s specific instructions on how he would like his socket to look! The team at APC is always open to work with us when we need something fixed, or when something doesn’t seem right – and this is the best part of being with APC, when we can really work together to have the best fitted prosthetic. Sam is an NDIS participant and has been well supported by NDIS for his prosthetic needs and in increasing is capacity to be able to do all the activities that he is interested in through therapies.
Sam stays active and regularly runs with his puppy Chico, rides his bike, and scooter. During school holidays he enjoys a lot more activities like going to treetops adventure park, parkour and going to the beach. He also tried skiing this winter and is keen to learn to snowboard. He is learning to skateboard and wants to try ice skating and rock climbing. This year Sam was also part of a soccer team and doing continuous swimming lessons.
Sam is continuously working on his balance, speed and weight bearing. Sam’s goals are to be really good at riding his skate board and removing the balance wheels on his bike which we are working on. He is keen to do more parkour, learn to ice skate, cartwheel, swim, snowboard and try little athletics!
Some of Sam’s favourite things to do indoors are: playing with his toy mobiles (emergency services), building with lego, playing with his robots (autobots and transformers) and colouring and painting. He also does regular swimming lessons.
When outdoors he enjoys the zoo, fruit picking, playing in the garden (pretending to be a gardener), and running around! He enjoys running with his puppy, biking, scootering, playing in the playground, obstacle courses at home, playing in the sand at the beach, and trip to tree tops every term.
Having seen Sam developed since he was little – I can see he is very proud about how he can do a lot of things. Sam is a very engaged and enthusiastic boy – every time he says he wants to try something, I always give him the opportunity to try it, and see for himself whether he likes it or not. At times he would get scared, but when he feels supported and gets past the fear, he feels so proud of himself having done what he really wanted to do. This goes with even the little things as – standing on his bike, biking on the street, climbing the up the climbing frame, trying skateboarding, even trying the adventure park at treetops and networld. Because balance is Sam’s biggest challenge, these activities are a big effort for him, but being able to them are also his biggest achievements and also helping him get stronger and more confident every day.
Sam’s message to other amputees is “It’s all all right, it will be all right. It is easy.”
I am a retired train driver since 2015, prior to driving trains I was a sheet metal tradesman, both in private enterprise and with the railway. My accident in 2019 put an end to my very happy retirement and started my rehabilitation. I have undergone 14 operations and my injuries were extensive, but I have always been keen to get back to living my life like I did before my accident. In the beginning of 2021, just under the 2-year mark, the bones in my foot collapsed and I could no longer walk, I decided the best way forward was amputation. While in Westmead Private Hospital, I was told about APC Prosthetics and this is where our journey began to get me back to a near normal life.
When I first started seeing the team at APC in March 2021, I met Alex who fitted me with a wet room leg, which gave me confidence that I wouldn’t slip in the bathroom. I also received an everyday leg, which as my stump changes need occasional adjustments and replacements. My experience with APC has been a God send, the physios at Westmead private hospital told me about APC and I rang to make an appointment before I was discharged from hospital. APC provide you with everything you need to meet your goals.
At my age, days can be hard but the staff at APC have been there for me when I have faced hurdles. There are habits you get into with posture that cause pain in the neck, back and shoulders but the team led by Cathy and David soon draw your attention to how you can rectify any problems you might be having. My passion is riding motorcycles so my eagerness to walk, then ride, gives me motivation to press on and keep moving. I have learnt so much from the team at APC about skin care, massage of the stump to assist with circulation, prosthesis fit in your wet room leg and every day leg, I don’t know what I would have done without them.
My goals are to walk as pain free as I possibly can, build my stamina and ride some of the distances I used to. My prosthesis has allowed me to walk and now after two and a half years I’m riding again. I try to get over to my local park where they have exercise equipment and a walking track around a pond, and on bad days I watch the ducks more than exercise.
I’m proud of the fact that when the time came to make the decision about amputation, I did my research about the process and was able to make an informed decision. This meant there were no real surprises and I knew what to expect. I am also proud of how far I have come since my amputation.
As an amputee we have good and bad days, sometimes a shower can be all the workout you need for the day so don’t be too hard on yourself when those days come around, just press on and do better when you feel you can. Cathy from APC constantly reminds me that the energy you burn just trying to walk with a prosthesis is huge, so just remember to take it easy. Be sure to surround yourself with people that know what you have endured and who have your best interests at heart. These are the people that will provide the best support and advice along the way.
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