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Published on August 25, 2016

Therapy Keeps This Double Amputee from Slowing DownDawn Kelly

Dawn Kelly

Dawn practicing in the kitchen with
the guidance of her occupational
therapist, Karen Pulaski

Dawn Kelly comes to therapy twice a week at Cone Outpatient Neurorehabilitation Center. She says she loves coming because she is excited to learn new things. Learning these new things isn’t easy, but Dawn credits the “considerate and patient therapists who push you to your limit” for her success. For example, the first time a therapist suggested she would try walking up the stairs that day, “I thought they were crazy,” Dawn says, but “then three days later, I was walking up the steps at my church.”

What makes walking up the stairs a challenge for Dawn? Dawn has had not one, but two, amputations. She had her left leg amputated above the knee in November 2014. Before she had completed rehab for that, she developed a laceration in her right hand (the same thing that had led to her leg infection and amputation) and doctors determined that the hand needed to be amputated as well. So Dawn has been doing therapy to learn how to get around safely on her feet and also how to use an arm prosthesis in place of the hand she lost.

For her arm, Dawn prefers the prosthesis with the hook to the one with a hand shape, because the hook functions better.

Dawn Kelly

Dawn reaching into a cupboard using her prosthesis
with the hook

She has learned how to crack an egg and cook with it. Her other goals are to tie her shoes, make her bed, wash her car, and wash and curl her hair. She does a lot of these functional activities in therapy; she also does arm strengthening exercises with weights. For walking, she has a wheeled walker with a platform for her prosthetic arm, but she practices using a four-footed cane some of the time. To top it off, Dawn has had a neuropathy in her other leg and wears a brace on that ankle.

All of these problems stemmed from Type II diabetes that Dawn, now age 49, developed in 1990. Kidney failure that requires dialysis three times a week also stems from her diabetes. Most of us would quickly say it’s not an easy life, but the way Dawn sees it, “there’s somebody out there worse off than me.” She relies on her faith and on help from family and friends, which enable her to look through bad days to brighter days ahead.

Dawn says about all of this, “This doesn’t slow me down.” And that about sums it all up!