A former , David Dunville, is the first full-time Amputee Peer Support Visitor in the United States, according to a press release from the Amputee Firefighters Association.
Dunville, who lost his leg in 2003 in the line of duty as an on-call firefighter, is also the National President for The Amputee Firefighters Association and is a certified Peer Visitor through the Amputee Coalition, a non-profit organization with offices in Washington DC and Knoxville, TN.
Employed by H-Care, with locations in Flint, Davison and Saginaw, Dunville said the newly created position would provide information, support and understanding to both pre and post-operative amputees.
“I help them through the process,” Dunville said. “I help them understand what is coming down the road.”
It’s a service Dunville says is “beyond needed and needed for a very long time” in the hospitals to help patients understand that “their life is not over.”
“I’m basically, as one gentleman put it, a lifesaver in some respects,” Dunville said. “He basically thought his life was over. … I spent over five hours with the gentleman and when I walked in the room, he was crying like a baby. And when I left, he was laughing and joking.”
Dunville says his new position can be emotional, but considers it his way of “paying it forward” and of returning the favor for the people who helped him cope with his own loss.
“It’s not that I’m angry or upset,” Dunville said. “It just kind of takes you back to having to make that choice, which is was for my case. It was a choice and it was not an easy choice.”
With what he calls a “very intense” training to become a peer visitor, Dunville is on-call 24 hours, seven days a week. He does do some travelling, but also consults with patients over the phone or through email and says he has helped more than 1,000 amputees around the world.
“Sadly, right now, a lot of hospitals, what they will do is hand a new amputee a piece of paper and say here is where you can find information,” he said. “When that occurs they are setting up the patient for possible disaster and failure.”
Dunville, who is also one of the first in Michigan to receive the most advanced prosthetic foot, the IWalk BiOM, says his best piece of advice for any amputee is that there is life after amputation.
“You can succeed," he said. "You can get back your life and you can still have your life.”