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Local amputee seeking to spread awareness about limb loss

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 11:37 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 12, 2013 11:50 a.m. CDT
(Ty Rushing/Newton Daily News)
Tammy Heyveld along with "Felix" and "Peggy" are are trying to spread awareness for National Limb Loss Awareness Month. Heyveld first became an amputee in 2008, and had another procedure in December.

Tammy Heyveld is the proud owner of “Felix” and “Peggy.”

“People that know me yell at Felix and Peggy all the time,”Heyveld said.

Peggy is her left leg and Felix is her right leg. Peggy and Heyveld first became acquainted in 2008 when Heyveld had her first leg amputation below the knee. Felix joined the team last December after Heyveld had the same procedure done on her right leg.

“I had an accident 25 years ago,” Heyveld said. “It caused some damage to both of my legs below the knee. Doctors did quite a bit of work trying to save them, and I kept both of my legs until the left was amputated in 2008.”

Before her amputations, Heyveld said she felt constant pain in both of her legs. She said this limited her physically at times. Finally, she said doctors told her there weren’t any more procedures they could perform on her legs, which led to her opting for amputation.

“I had the first procedure in 2008 and I went through quite a period where I was in denial that I was actually an amputee person,” Heyveld said. “I think it took my first amputee convention that I went to in August of 2009, that kind of opened my eyes and I went, ‘Yeah, you are an amputee and you are going to be this way the rest of your live. You might as well embrace it.’”

Heyveld admitted to struggling to adjust mentally and emotionally to being an amputee, but said she physically started walking the day she tried on her first prosthetic, without any rehab.

“When I look in the mirror I still think I’m going to see both legs,” Heyveld said. “This is a lot less painful now. I was more limited before amputation, this is much easier and less painful.

Since then, Heyveld said she has joined several amputee support groups, act’s as a mentor and has been mentored by other amputee’s and most recently she is trying to spread awareness for herself and other amputees.

April is National Limb Loss Awareness Month and on the 27th it is “Show Your Mettle Day.” Mettle Day, which is being launched by the Amputee Coalition, is a day when amputees are supposed to not cover up their prosthetics and be in the public eye as much as possible.

“Most amputees that I know, prefer that you stop and ask them questions versus stopping and starring” Heyveld said. “I get a lot of little kids saying, ‘Mommy, look at her legs’ or ‘Mommy, what happened to her legs?’ And I still get a lot of parents going, ‘Shhhh.’”

“There are times depending on what kind of mood I’m in, that I’ll stop and go, ‘This is what happened,’” Heyveld continued. “But these legs are really cool, most of the little kids go, ‘Oh, I like your legs, they’re really pretty,’ kind of thing. I don’t care, it’s the parents who are going ‘shhh-shhhh,’ likes it’s some kind of big taboo thing. It’s not some big taboo thing, it is what it is.”

Heyveld said she plans on making Felix, Peggy and her own presence felt on the 27th. She is very open to answering any all questions about her legs and amputations in general. She also wants people to not look at amputees differently than they do any other person.

“I’m hoping what people will get, is we are normal people,” Heyveld said. “I have legs; they just aren’t the same legs I was born with.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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