What do you call an amputee who is active in going to the gym, peer mentoring, working with lawmakers on disability issues, political campaigning, and travels? Well, you call that person an active amputee, and in this case an amputee activist, too. And you call this specific force of nature Ms. Angela Manning.
Originally from Longview, Texas, Angela moved to the Baltimore area in 1996. A little over four years ago, she became an above knee amputee after a series of vascular setbacks arising from diabetes. Since then, some additional health issues have tested her positive outlook, and she found herself increasingly relying on her wheelchair, scooter and walker to get around instead of her new leg. But this was just a bump in the road. She wasn’t going to let herself get “stuck in a deep hole of feeling bad about the way things were.” She insists that you shouldn’t let your mind control your body on bad days. "Have your anger and move on out of it.” This echoes a sentiment expressed by her brother when she was in inpatient rehab shortly after her amputation. Her brother and sister had been in Baltimore to help with her recovery. She recalls that while in rehab, she fell some time after her brother had already returned to Texas. When she called and told him so, he told her “You only have one leg. You are going to fall. Did you get up? You just have to get up!”
As part of her self-motivation, she expressed an interest in peer mentoring to her prosthetist, Mary Reedy (CP). Mary suggested that she attend the annual Amputee Coalition conference. It hosts workshops on a variety of topics (including the peer mentoring), as well as a wide range of activities and group support. So, Angela registered, grabbed her sister and flew to Phoenix, AZ in July of 2015. She saw so many amputees at the airport that she was shocked! Never in one place had she seen so many people in circumstances similar to hers. The annual conference is the largest gathering of those with limb loss in the country. The events and demonstrations that were a part of the conference were eye-opening. There were rock climbing activities, dancing, therapy sessions, support groups, and the workshops on peer mentoring she was particularly interested in.
She met people from all over the world, and embraced the fellowship and energy around her. This conference packed some serious emotional wallop – when she saw so many other amputees in one place doing all kinds of activities she never dreamed of doing, she decided to face fears about her health and amputation and just dive in! Literally – she participated in a swimming event and had the time of her life. She had “more fun on one leg than she had ever had on two!” She left inspired to work harder to walk again.
On her return, Angela arranged a meeting with her vascular surgeon and his staff at the University of Maryland, to become a peer mentor to other amputees. She is there to provide answers to other’s questions, share her own experiences, and be a sounding board – she listens. In the process, she also motivates others, as her enthusiasm is infectious. Her stories will have you laughing through your own tears, or just laughing so hard that you cry! And she dresses to impress, saying she “wants to look good and feel good” and encourages others to do the same.
At one amputee support group that she attends, an attendee groaned, “I just want to walk.” Angela told them, “You are walking! You just have to do it our way.” This is a woman who sees herself standing tall and walking in high heels, even when she isn’t physically wearing them. Angela’s goals include starting a Meetup group online for people with amputations to engage in activities like bowling, dancing, to hang out and have fun, and to plan trips together. Amputees are family. She says, “Life is not over, and we have a right to enjoy life just like everyone else.”
She is going back to the convention in 2016, where she aspires to be a speaker. This year, the meeting will be in Greensboro, NC, where there will be three days of “networking, education, clinics, exhibits, and adaptive sports and recreation.” Since Greensboro is much closer to Baltimore than Phoenix is, she thinks she will drive this time, and more than likely will convince a whole busload of people to go with her. And, probably she will pack her dancing shoes.