Amputee Outreach Group Gathers In Support
By Ed Booth | Chico Enterprise Record
CHICO — Shelly Wetmore extended a cordial welcome to the event her group was hosting Saturday. Her manner was easy; she had a pleasant demeanor. She wore what appeared to be a comfortable pair of summer slacks, with hems a few inches above her ankles.
Only thing was, she only has one natural ankle remaining. Doctors amputated part of her right leg a few years ago when she contracted pneumonia; the infection spread to that leg.
You probably wouldn’t notice anything amiss, though, unless Wetmore were to tell you about it. Even with her lower legs in plain view, the fact she has a prosthetic right leg is not obvious. Her gait is normal, and there’s no reason to think she is no longer “whole.”
“There’s a whole lot more to a person” than an intact body, she said, smiling.
Amputee Outreach hosted a get-together at Chico’s Wildwood Park picnic area Saturday. The monthly event is the final one for this year; gatherings will resume in March.
“Our group provides peer support” for amputees, typically as far north as Redding and as far south as Sacramento, Wetmore said. However, she has made occasional visits to patients in Napa, Sonoma, Fairfield and Vacaville.
“Social workers call us, and sometimes doctors call” with referrals, she said. “We don’t charge anything to the people we visit. We don’t need a lot of money to do what we do.”
The group spends 90% of its funds “to go to see people, with 10% going to administrative costs,” she explained, adding that the group has 17 volunteers serving in five counties.
A prime example of how Amputee Outreach benefits new amputees comes by way of the organization’s vice president, Andrew Menesini of Chico. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq beginning in 2007 and Afghanistan starting in 2011, Menesini attained the rank of sergeant before ending his service. He came out of the Marines without any major injuries.
He wasn’t so fortunate in civilian life, suffering a catastrophic injury to his left leg in a Jan. 31, 2019, motorcycle accident at East Ninth and Mangrove avenues in Chico. Doctors could not save the leg.
“I started out (following the amputation) depressed for about two months,” Menesini recalled. “I spent another six months healing and recovering.”
He “learned to walk again” after that eight-month span, and the recovery including resuming his favorite activities of mountain biking and lifting weights. There was nothing obvious about his amputation as he walked Saturday; only a slight bulge from his prosthetic device’s padding was visible under his jeans.
He joined Amputee Outreach because “I realized I can give other people guidance,” he said, adding that his amputation was “a humbling experience.”
“I looked to my military instruction about overcoming,” Menesini said. “The family is the best support system. Family Day (like Saturday’s event) is about showing you that you’re not alone.”
Menesini said Amputee Outreach also provides an opportunity for him to donate amputee-related materials to those in need. “I donate the stuff I don’t use,” he said.
Brian Shunta provided music for Saturday’s midday gathering.