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Group shows amputees that there's a lot of life left to live

SEMINOLE

Barbara Schickedanz became an amputee in October 2009 when an infection in her foot "went from pink to black.'' It was months before she could walk again.

But the Sun City Center resident and other amputees from Tampa Bay were out in force on the Pinellas Trail on Wednesday.

The motivation? A Step Ahead for Amputees, a support group.

Schickedanz decorated her prosthesis with butterflies "because butterflies are free.'' Although even a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night was a struggle at first, she is more active than ever, her husband thinks.

A Step Ahead for Amputees organizers Jamie Weil and Saundra Trower say that is exactly the point of the group, to keep amputees active.

"The focus is not sitting around feeling sorry for yourself," said Trower, a physician recruiter at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital in Tarpon Springs.

Because her job involves talking to doctors, Trower first got the word out about the group by handing them fliers. She and Weil then hosted a kickoff meeting in December and asked members for activity ideas.

Past activities have included the zoo and a trip to see Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail in Clearwater. Weil said they plan to go sailing. The group now has 10 members, Trower said.

Roy Howe of Indian Rocks Beach said he likes that the group does more than just have meetings. Howe lost his leg after crushing his heel while Dumpster-diving 15 years ago. He said he used to look for things in Dumpsters to sell to make extra money. He said Wednesday was his first time on a bicycle with the prosthetic leg, which felt "utterly fantastic." His next goal is to learn to run.

Adam Beland, owner of Bicycle Outfitters in Seminole, loaned bikes to the amputees Wednesday and taught them to ride. Beland said group members rode on recumbent bicycles and tricycles, which are ideal for people with balance issues because they allow riders to recline. Beland also said his store offers shoes that attach to bicycle pedals, which can help with balance.

Trower said funding for the group has come mostly from out-of-pocket donations and the support of stores like Bicycle Outfitters.

Although members and organizers seem grateful for all the community support, most agree that the group has been an outlet to express their independence.

"The whole idea is to get them back to their lives," Weil said.

Schickedanz, who inspired her friend's amputee roommate to lead a more active life, would agree.

"I wanted to show the world they shouldn't feel sorry for us."

Group shows amputees that there's a lot of life left to live 03/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 4:31am]
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