Woman using amputation to help fellow amputees

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND)-According to the Amputee Coalition of America there are nearly two million Americans who are amputees, a number that could grow to 3.6 million by 2050. 

Those that are amputees, know that recovering from an amputation is more than a physical battle.

"How do you go forward,” said Dr.Sanjiv Jain physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Carle Hospital in Champaign. “We have to figure out what's going to be the best method to re-gain the mobility.”

Nikki Grace-Strader knows the struggle of recovery, from her own personal experience.

"I needed a knee replacement, so I had that knee replacement and unfortunately it didn't work it failed,” said Nikki Grace-Strader an amputee and advocate for support.  “So, I needed to have a revision to the replacement. I did that in May of 2015 I got a post-operative infection which became Sepsis. That infection eventually lead to the loss of my leg.”

"Before Nikki's knee amputation she was a paramedic and led a very independent life.

"I was always the go to girl,” says Nikki. “People had crazy things they needed troubleshoot, and I was the person they came to for that. I loved it! I loved helping people, and I loved being involved in 911 emergencies."

Nikki was feeling helpless after she lost her leg. However, she realized her family was also feeling differently as well.

"What I realized is that after my amputation, I wasn't the only one feeling helpless,” added Nikki.  “I wasn't the only feeling at times that this was bigger than me and insurmountable. My kids were feeling that, my husband was feeling that, and my parents were feeling that."

Nikki's leg was amputated in Chicago, where she received support from other amputee's. Support she said was vital to her recovery. Something she said was missing when she came back home to central Illinois.

"When I got here all those peer visits stopped,” says Nikki. “There were no longer people coming to see me whom had shared experience in amputation."

Peer support was a resource she found other amputee's in central Illinois needed.

"I started researching, and I discovered that there's almost a 200-mile area that has zero support groups for amputee's,” added Nikki. “There are no peer visitors in the area there just isn’t anything."

 When she discovered the peer support groups weren’t around in central Illinois, she decided to start Central Illinois Amputees.

"It's not uncommon to get depressed or overwhelmed,” says Nikki. “I think by having peer amputee's available to answer those questions, and to help set those realistic and measurable goals is going to help people be successful in life after limb loss."

She hopes that starting a peer support group, she will initiate conversations just like her Iron Man prosthetic does.

"When I'm out in this iron man socket it invites conversation,” says Nikki. “My prosthetic initiations dialogue. Kids can't wait to run up and knock on it and ask questions or just touch it. They just think it's so cool. It’s crazy to me how something that started out as a simple idea, has become part of my wanting to be an ambassador for limb loss awareness. It has really bridged gaps in a way I never thought possible.”

Central Illinois Amputee’s first meeting will be held on November 15th at 6:00 pm. It will be in the rehabilitation activity room located in Carle Hospital on the third floor. If you would like to learn more about Central Illinois Amputees you can do so by visiting their Facebook page. You can also reach out to Nikki personally by calling 217-663-8064, or you can send her an email by sending a message to info@centralillinoisamputees.org.