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Central Massachusetts Limb Loss Support Group
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Welcome to the Massachusetts Service Alliance
Presenters: Karin Oliveira, Director, and Christine House, Community Builders Coordinator, United Way Community Builders; and a panel of Community Builders Fellows: Crystal Newkirk, Founder, The Jump Off; Judy Gentry, Founder, Warmer Winters; Rose Bissonnette, Founder, Central Mass Limb Loss Support Group; Wil Darcangelo, Founder, Good-Will
Rose M. Bissonnette just returned from visiting her newest grandchild in Hawaii, where his parents are stationed in the military.While there, she visited Pearl Harbor and was able to enjoy the entire memorial park with her family - including a boat ride out to a ship - despite having a prosthetic leg. But back home, says Mrs. Bissonnette, who lives in Lancaster, there are few recreational places she can take in with her four grandchildren. Mrs. Bissonnette, president of the Central Massachusetts Limb Loss Support Group, has announced a new partnership with the Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln.The farm and sanctuary, which is part of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, plans to develop new programs for full participation by people with mobility problems, such as having to use wheelchairs or prosthetics. The farm, off Route 117, would also make changes to some of its trails and exhibits. "So people with mobility issues can do everything the family does, and not just stand by and watch," Mrs. Bissonnette said. Anneke Nordmark, Drumlin's visitor education coordinator, said yesterday that a pilot program, to be tested by Mrs. Bissonnette and other members of the limb loss group, will take place in the summer.Mrs. Bissonnette said simple changes, such as adding benches along trails or a seating area during bird watching and other programs, would be big improvements. "I cannot stand in place for any length of time," she said. Mrs. Bissonnette lost her left leg below the knee in a 1997 car accident. Three years ago, she formed the limb loss group, which meets monthly at Clinton Hospital in Clinton.It has grown to about 30 members, of whom 20 are quite active, coming from as far away as Walpole, Auburn and Oxford. Mrs. Bissonnette said she knows of no other limb loss support group between Boston and Springfield. Her group has recently become incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts, and is getting nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service.The group has a formal board of directors, a Web site and a newsletter that is distributed to hospitals and rehabilitation centers, clinics, churches and businesses dealing in prosthetics. She plans to announce the partnership with Drumlin at tonight's meeting, which will also feature author and chef David Fekay, who wrote "Mortal Angels." Mrs. Bissonnette said Drumlin Farm officials were seeking an organization to advise them on how to go about modifying their programs and facility for the disabled, and she was put in touch with them through an accessibility consultant. "They want us to give feedback on if the modified programs fully encompass everybody," Mrs. Bissonnette said.
Rose Bissonnette - NEAA Founder & Peer Visitor Program Facilitator (978)-365-2580
NEAA Founder and Past President Rose Bissonnette was given the Presidents' Award during the conference....
Rose Bissonnette, founder of the New England Amputee Association, at her home in Lancaster.
Bissonnette was severely injured in a 1996 car crash and, following the death of her husband from undiagnosed cancer three months after her amputation, decided she wanted to give back. I had a broken pelvis, broken ribs, a severed right ankle, broken arm, broken wrist," Bissonnette recalled. But Bissonnette, 69, whose left leg was amputated below the knee, has changed that. In 2004, she founded what is known today as the New England Amputee Association, a nonprofit organization that is a resource for amputees and caregivers looking for support and information. To date, the New England Amputee Association, which was originally called Central Mass Limb Loss Support Group, has 250 on its rolls, and receives requests for information from families, patients, doctors and hospitals across the region. Bissonnette has met with Boston Marathon survivors to help them as they deal with limb loss. Advertisement Bissonnette fields the phone calls herself from her Lancaster home, and most requests usually fall into two categories: a spouse or child who is looking for help because they've noticed a change in their loved one's personality after an amputation; or a new amputee who is having trouble adjusting physically or emotionally. The New England Amputee Association just started a new branch at Kent Hospital in Rhode Island and is working to have at least one branch in every New England state. The impetus for Bissonnette to start the association was not just her accident, but the tragedy that followed three months after her amputation - the unexpected death of her husband from undiagnosed cancer. "I wanted to give back," Bissonnette said. "I was having difficulty dealing with how I had lost my husband, but I lived through this accident. He took care of me for the last six months of his life, and I had a lot of guilt." Bissonnette attended the Amputee Coalition's annual conference in Boston in 2003, and registered to be a peer visitor. As a peer visitor, she had to go to a local support group, but there weren't any. She began working with the Lancaster Commission on Disability, Clinton Hospital and prosthetists in the area. The hospital allowed her to use a conference room the second Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. There are speakers or themes each month. Bissonnette wants the association to be there not only as a resource, but a reminder that there is still fun in life.
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