From Dad Cabs to Volunteer Visitor, how family man turned a tragic twist of fate into an opportunity to help others. Altruistic, ambitious family man Clifton Henry from Sawbridgeworth lives an empowered life and passionately believes that “No Amputee Need Cope Alone.”
Being a full-time Chef and father of an active boy meant Clifton has always lived a busy lifestyle. He recalled being a “taxi driver” most weekends for his son, taking him to play football, attending drama classes, and many other activities.
In 2013 on his way to work one morning, Clifton was involved in a road traffic accident which flipped his life on its head. Despite not feeling like it was too serious at the time, he was taken to the Royal London Hospital after sustaining an injury to his right leg. Ten operations later Clifton was up mobilising in the hospital and having discussions about being discharged the following weekend. Before this though, he had one more surgery to undergo. His last surgery was to do a debridement and what should have been a standard procedure resulted in complications meaning Clifton would have to endure an above knee amputation as he contracted sepsis. He was rushed under blue lights to the Royal Free Hospital in London. “Without the skill of the clinicians performing the amputation, I wouldn’t be here today. I owe my life to the NHS! I remember thinking about the future and telling myself, this is not going to beat me”, said Clifton.
After his amputation, Clifton went home using the patient transport and was greeted by his friends and family with a surprise street gathering to welcome him home. “I remember the first thing I did was pull my trouser leg down, I didn’t want anyone to know I had an amputation and struggled internally to deal with it”, continued Clifton. Once home, he found himself in limbo with the lack of support and information, not knowing what to do with himself and trying to adapt to being inside his home on his own for large portions of the day, whilst his family continued with their lives and commitments. Whilst looking for further information, he came across the Limbless Association (LA). The LA is a national charity supporting lives beyond limb loss whose manta is “No Amputee Need Cope Alone.” After reaching out to the LA, Clifton received a call from a volunteer who also was an amputee and described it as a “serious respite” to be able to receive vital information from a person who he was able to relate to after going through similar experiences. “The LA changed my life; it has made my life changing situation a lot less challenging as a result of the information and support network I have now encountered.”
Since discovering the charity, Clifton found himself advancing in his rehab progress and started wearing the Ottobock Genium Microprocessor Knee (MPK) as well as volunteering himself for the LA, supporting amputees around the country. “It was amazing to help other people through their journey and it would also help myself to pass the time and get out of the house especially at the early stages of my journey”, said Clifton. Clifton continued his amazing work for the LA which resulted in him being on the board of trustees for 3.5 years and in 2020 he became the National Outreach Manager after applying for the position.
At Pace Rehabilitation in Amersham after discussions with his prosthetist, Jamie Gillespie, Clifton decided to have a lifelike HD silicone cover made for his prosthesis. “I wouldn’t have known about the silicone covers if he didn’t mention it”, said Clifton. I think it’s important to bring awareness to the black community and people of colour that lifelike silicone which matches your skin tone is available. Mine is so realistic that at times when I have my shorts on and I am having a conversation with individuals about the world of amputees, I would say the reason why I can provide this type of information is because I am an amputee. The reactions from people are ‘No you’re not! Wow! I didn’t realise. It’s a perfect match’. My cover is so lifelike I have walked into hospitals to support patients and clinicians and they will still have no idea that I am an amputee. At times I must literally knock on my socket to prove that I am one. This is also due to the way I mobilise. My cover is always a huge talking point as it has hairs to match my sound side too”, expressed Clifton.
Clifton is an incredible person who humbly dedicates himself to supporting others and aiding them in what can be the hardest time in a person's life. He believes that you cannot underestimate the power of peer support, becoming a member of the LA you have more to gain and absolutely nothing to lose by talking and sharing your experiences with fellow amputees.