NO BARRIERS: Grafton Public School teacher and amputee Fiona McCormack in her classroom.
NO BARRIERS: Grafton Public School teacher and amputee Fiona McCormack in her classroom.

Fiona goes out of her way to help others

EVEN though she's an amputee, Fiona McCormack feels she can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.

The Grafton Public School teacher had a lower leg amputation in November 2007 but that wasn't about to stop her leading a full and busy life.

She returned to work the following January as a behavioural teacher in Mount Druitt before transferring to the Clarence Valley and working full time.

"It's not enough of a disability not to work," she said. "Yes, I had some accommodations made, for example I do the morning playground duty so I am able to work full time."

Mrs McCormack even made the most of her prosthetic limb and dressed up as a pirate at the recent book character parade at the school. "Most of the children knew I had an artificial leg so they accept it and no one stares."

Mrs McCormack lives on a property near Whiporie and is cultivating a veggie garden. She contacted The Daily Examiner after reading the story of amputee Jeremy Meyer and his struggle in dealing with his loss. Her message is clear, there is light at the end of the tunnel and there is support out there if you need it. Mrs McCormack is a co-ordinator of the Northern Rivers Amputee Association and has been trained to help others. She's helping Mr Meyer and one other person locally and she says her training in education definitely helps her.

She said she had a good knowledge of how to deal with phantom pain, which plagues many amputees in the night. "It's about training your limbs and your mind," she said. "I constantly would touch the end of my leg and tell myself, 'this is where my leg ends, this is where my leg ends'. I haven't had trouble with phantom pain since doing that."

Get Help

JEFF Mitchell is all about filling the gap for amputees once they leave the hospital ward and head back into the real world.

As secretary of the Northern Rivers Combined Amputee Association, he and his wife Julie are based in Lismore and have support people in each of the major regions to service that community.

"The idea is to give people a positive role model to have throughout their rehabilitation process to get on with their lives and show them there is light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

"To show them it's not the end of everything, but the beginning of something."

Mr Mitchell said the association hosted social gatherings in Lismore and hoped to spread them to the Clarence Valley. "We have social get-togethers every two months but in the last 12 months, more people from the Clarence have joined so we want to expand down that way in the next couple of months," he said.

Any amputees seeking support should contact the association on the direct line, 66252254 or the Sydney line, 1800810969.