Travel Tales: An Amputee in Africa

Breeanna Elliott is an Africanist who works at the Boston University African Studies Center. She has spent most of her adult life researching, living, and working in East Africa. She speaks Swahili and considers Zanzibar, Tanzania to be her second home.

This amazing young lady is also an amputee. Although she has been an amputee for all but ten months of her life, it is not a label she thought about consciously until fairly recently. Like brushing her teeth or cleaning her room, having a prosthetic leg was just an additional chore. That said, she admits that it came in handy occasionally when she wanted to legitimatize a claim that she could not feed the horses or go to school or do the laundry. ‘At least’, she says, ‘the excuse worked the first time!’

Breeanna emphasizes how lucky she was, and still is, to be surrounded by family and friends who have always encouraged her in spite of her prosthesis. Although she happens to be an amputee, she is not defined by that physical status. At the same time, she candidly admits that having two feet and two fully formed legs is “probably pretty fantastic.” Yet, she knows that those are not the cards she was dealt. As Breeanna so aptly states, “Life is so much more than having all your fingers and toes.” For her, life is about traveling–meeting new people, exploring new places, and trying new things. She also enjoys using those opportunities to more fully comprehend the variety of lived experiences of people around the world.

Here are photos from her recent trip along with commentary about each place:

amputee travel mount kilimanjaro Continue reading “Travel Tales: An Amputee in Africa”

Next Step Turns 20!

Today marks the 20th anniversary for Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics, Inc. I want to personally thank our patients, employees, referral sources, consultants, friends and family for the support and loyalty we have been so blessed to receive. I take great pride in knowing our organization has made a positive difference in the lives of people who have had amputations.

From the bottom of my heart I want to say “thanks” to each and everyone one of you.

Sincerely,

Matt

Next Step 20 years

Life After Active Duty – Finding a New Career

Finding Career after MilitaryThere are plenty of discussions around providing jobs for veterans. Yet, not many address the type of work veterans would actually want to do when their military career ends. Individuals who joined the military in order to be active, help people, fight for their country, and support their fellow troops, don’t want a desk job. It begs the question: Why should veterans be relegated to undesirable entry-level jobs when the only reason they’ve been out of the traditional workforce is because they were serving their country and/or were injured in active duty?

Chuck Donnelly is a veteran of the U.S. Marines who lost his leg on patrol in Afghanistan. He recently talked about the difficult transition to civilian life, including finding a new career, “I wasn’t ‘done’ being a marine. That’s the life I identified with. When I was ripped from that battlefield, I had no transition plan, no job, and no way to fit myself back into society as a normal person.”  Continue reading “Life After Active Duty – Finding a New Career”

Fighting the Good Fight: One Veteran’s Story of Life as an Amputee

Veterans life amputeeEven as a young boy, Chuck Donnelly dreamed about joining the U.S. Marines. He eventually lived that dream; he savored the military adventure, the brotherhood, and the ability to serve his country. It fulfilled what Chuck calls a “burning desire” that he had had throughout his entire life. However, the dream ended suddenly on May 13, 2011, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol in Afghanistan.

“I saw a tunnel of brown smoke come up around my body. I didn’t know what happened, but I remember screaming and having this feeling of weightlessness.” Chuck recalls, “After the doctor got to me, I knew I was going to be okay, but then I looked down and saw that my foot was gone.”

Coming back to the United States was filled with confusion, grief, and guilt. In addition to dealing with the physical recovery, there was a strong sense that he had let his team down. Chuck explains that he felt as if he had taken the “easy way out” by leaving with the injury; something that may be hard for those without that military mindset to understand. Continue reading “Fighting the Good Fight: One Veteran’s Story of Life as an Amputee”