Dr. Tracey Estok’s patient, a man in his 40s who had undergone amputation of his lower leg and been fitted with a prosthesis, coasted confidently around the room on a Razor scooter. It was his symbolic victory lap, having completed the amputee rehabilitation program Estok runs at Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares, Florida.
Estok, a 2008 Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) and 1997 Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) graduate, also started and runs the hospital’s monthly support group for amputees and caregivers and a program that trains amputees to be peer mentors. Mentors visit or call new amputees to answer questions and discuss living with an amputation. The program is recognized by the Amputee Coalition of America, and Estok is a certified trainer in Florida.
The six-year-old program started as a collaboration between Estok and two patients who wanted more information about overcoming the challenges of being an amputee, from finding a qualified prosthetist and getting adaptations to their homes to confronting the grief that often accompanies limb loss.
Current members range from their 20s to their 70s. Meetings not only provide practical information, like what to expect when learning to use a prosthesis, they also include guest speakers. A retired Disney park security officer who’s an amputee shared the ins and outs of getting around the park, including where to borrow a hand-held GPS to plot the shortest routes between attractions. A TSA agent spoke about what to expect when going through airport security with a prosthetic limb.
Estok also leads the group on community outings. They recently visited a rock climbing wall and met champion climber Ronnie Dickson, an amputee, who gave the group a climbing lesson. They’ve visited Clearwater Marine Aquarium and talked with the prosthetist of Winter, a dolphin with a prosthetic tail. And Estok hosts game nights and potlucks to give members a chance to socialize.
“It’s great to know I helped these patients get back to their lives—running 12-mile races, going on vacations, starting a second career, and taking motorcycle trips with friends,” Estok says. “Our group has become like family.”