SOUTH JORDAN — Adjusting to life after an amputation can be traumatic, and that’s especially true during COVID-19.
Many amputees feel extra isolated and alone, but one Utahn is using his challenges to make life easier for others.
Dane Tidwell’s grandfather taught him endurance.
“(He was) kind of an old cowboy, tough guy, who survived so many things,” said Tidwell, who lives in South Jordan. “Just a survivor more than anything.”
It’s a skill he would need. When Tidwell was 18, he got osteomyelitis, a dangerous bone infection.
“My foot was like twice the size, and I’d just played in the regional golf tournament,” he said. “(I) qualified for state.”
Doctors couldn’t save Tidwell’s foot, and they amputated below the knee.
“It wasn’t until after the amputation that I was like, ‘Wow,’” he said.
His life changed completely, and he felt confused and alone.
“I wish I would have had somebody to be able to come and tell me what to expect after my amputation,” he said. “Because that was the hardest part, was looking down and seeing my foot’s gone and you have this overwhelming feeling of, ‘I’m never going to be the same.’”
Tidwell said those feelings are amplified for many amputees during the pandemic.
“They’re doing it alone because they can’t have visitors,” he said.
Many hospitals and nursing homes aren’t allowing any visitors unless it’s a life-threatening condition — which prosthetics are not.
But getting the right fit is crucial. It decreases pain and increases mobility and independence.
Now as a patient advocate for Fit Prosthetics, Tidwell guides people like Brian Ellsworth, of Salem, through adjusting to life as an amputee.
“(We do) Skype, Zoom, phone calls,” Tidwell said. “There’s some nursing and rehabilitation homes where they’ll bring an amputee out and stay 6 feet away, and still have a visit.”
Wearing a mask, they also provide home visits as they help Ellsworth adapt.
They also give vital emotional support and encouragement.
“It meant everything,” Ellsworth said. “They’re always so positive, like about how they treat me — respectfully. They don’t look at me any different.”
Dane is now back on the golf course. He’s back in the swing of things.
He’s likely making his grandfather proud.
“Just never complained, never felt sorry for himself,” he said while helping others who have lost a limb.