Retired Master Corporal Paul Franklin may be retired from the Canadian Forces, but he was in Golden on Sept. 28 to give a speech at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 122.
Franklin, who lost both his legs in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan on January 15, 2006, has since become a nationally-known advocate for amputees.
“Firstly, we are here to support the legion in Golden. Small towns sometimes need outside support to show there are great things happening in the community,” Franklin said. “The other thing is to talk about Afghan vets and the Amputee Coalition of Canada.”
Franklin explained the Amputee Coalition of Canada is a charitable organization which uses 90 per cent of funds raised for programs that help improve the lives of people who have limb loss.
“First, there is peer support. We match amputees to amputees to get them to talk to each other. Instantly this changes their mentalities. It helps prevent post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said. Franklin added that the charity also is working towards reasserting issues which directly affect the lives of amputees.
“We could figure out things like what are the best legs to run on? What is the best arm to have to play golf? What is the best arm to use for a guy who is below or above the elbow? All that stuff is done by companies but not by research in a true medical professional sense. That is really where we want to go,” he said.
Franklin explained how the change starts the healing process right from the first day of the injury.
“The idea behind this was the soldiers themselves were able to, with medical professionals, change rehabilitation in Canada. Instead of just accepting that we are injured and are going to being in hospital for eight to nine weeks and then off to rehabilitation and hope to get better, the importance now is from day one of your injury we start the rehab,” he said.
There needs to be a change in attitudes, according to Franklin, from both the patients and medical profession.
“It is like screaming at a brick wall,” he said adding that even though it is difficult, once people see the results, they start to see the benefits.
Even though the science is only being developed Franklin said that amputee soldiers heading back into the field has been one of the most impressive things to see.
Adjusting to his new life has had its ups and downs.
“It can be challenging, there is no doubt about it. Anywhere from a one inch step in a door and I can’t get in,” he said. “It is frustrating that I can do anything I want but a one inch step is my nemesis.”
Meeting other amputees has been a great benefit for Franklin overs the years since the bombing in Afghanistan.
“It has been very enlightening and powerful. Peer support works both ways. When you meet someone and their reactions are positive then you live off that positivity,” he said. “I almost died six years ago and now I am alive and just having a good old time. That is the point of life to have fun, help your family and help others.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the project can go to www.amputeecoalitioncanada.org.