The M.E.N.T.O.R. Project
Written by Beth Hudson, RBKA
I’ve never really thought about the word “resilience” in the context of being an amputee with other comorbidities. Recently the M.E.N.T.O.R. program was mentioned at one of my support group meetings in Florida where I’ve become an honorary snowbird member.
I was given the gift of participating in the very first virtual MENTOR program, which is administered by the University of Alabama and funded by the D.O.D (Department of Defense). This program has been running “live” for quite a long time, but when Covid hit, the DOD told them to pivot to virtual or lose the funding. The organizers put out calls to some of the larger rehab centers in the East, Spaulding being one of them; that’s how I was lucky enough to pilot the first virtual MENTOR program. The skills I learned were invaluable, and I still keep in touch with one of the participants who was in my class.
Here is its mission statement:
MENTOR, which stands for Mindfulness, Exercise, and Nutrition to Optimize Resilience, is an 8-week wellness program designed for people with mobility limitations. We focus on cultivating an improved sense of mental, physical, and emotional health using 11 wellness domains to help people achieve their goals.
Many of the folks attending this program have MS or are stroke survivors. I was the odd one out, being the only amputee. Because I had many other medical issues, I was invited by Spaulding to participate.
The program lasts 8 weeks and meets 5 times a week - a commitment they ask you to make before attending the program. Well, it was Covid, of course I didn’t have any other commitments, being stuck at home and all! And if I did have other commitments, I would have made time for this program. Now that we are on the back side of Covid, it is well worth working this program into your schedule.
The concept of mindfulness was absolutely new to me. I learned the basics of using mindfulness, meditation, and breathing techniques to help control my chronic pain and sleep issues. The exercise program is well thought out and designed with modifications for anyone who needs it, depending on their individual issues. I have learned to eat better, and our support sessions were guided by an expert in the field. There were so many skills to help me cope with my issues. Everything tied in together; the program is well run and was definitely worth the time.
Another plus is that not only is the program free, but also they provide a slew of exercise equipment, free of charge. I am still using all the equipment due to its quality. From the exercise piece I was able to create my own workouts that work specifically for me.
Even two years later, another participant and I work out via Zoom once a week. She is a stroke survivor; I have seen a huge improvement in her range of motion from our workouts. We also do a short meditation at the end of the workout, which she leads - we both benefit and have cultivated a life-long friendship. This relationship is, by far, my biggest take-away from the program.
One of the issues we, as amputees, face, is keeping our bodies and minds sound once we are medically released after our amputations. What is out there to help us keep the rest of our body working properly to avoid complications in the future? Where do we get support? What are our nutrition needs due to our increased amount of energy we need to ambulate? How do we cope with our new normal, new purpose, jobs, dating, family, and daily living skills? These issues are addressed professionally and with kindness. The leaders genuinely care about helping you improve in the areas that are important to you.
MENTOR also has an online community that does not end once you complete the program. You have access to all the materials from the program and can contact any leader with questions as you progress on your journey. As the acronym implies, the intended outcome is for us to gain skills for resiliency; to be as independent as possible and to be able to troubleshoot the myriad of roadblocks that face us.
Another plus, especially for me, was learning about the issues of people with disabilities different from mine and to have an open forum to educate others about being an amputee. The leaders create a safe space for that kind of discussion - without pity, without judgment.
I was invited to the program through Spaulding, as it is a participating member of the program. If you would like to participate in the program, you can now apply directly through their website:
https://mentornchpad.org/. You can find detailed information about this program and contact them with questions. As you may have guessed, I highly recommend M.E.N.T.O.R. So many tools to add to your toolbox - they are a class act.
And remember: You never know how much strength you have until you are called upon to use it.