Annual event empowers amputees

UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital’s Gator Amps amputee support group recently trained 13 individuals to become nationally certified peer visitors for people affected by limb loss. Participants had either lost a limb themselves or were a spouse of a Gator Amps member, and attended from as far away as Michigan, Pensacola and Miami.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for individuals affected by limb loss to come together and find community,” said Becky Piazza, M.S., OTR/L, UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital occupational therapist and group leader. “It’s truly exciting to watch participants empower and support one another. The training serves as a launch pad for these peer visitors to use their previous and current life experiences to influence others.”

Participants gathered during the national Certified Peer Visitor Training, held in Gainesville.

Participants gathered during the national Certified Peer Visitor Training, held in Gainesville.

The national Certified Peer Visitor Training, offered through the Amputee Coalition of America, came at no cost to the participants, thanks to collaboration between Gator Amps, the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center and local orthotic and prosthetic companies

The training allows participants to serve as certified, professionally trained mentors who share community resources and encourage involvement with a local support group. Serving as a peer visitor fosters a positive identity for those with limb loss and facilitates their ability to resume their lives and thrive as active, independent individuals.

“It’s a beautiful cycle of social participation that fosters engagement in the community and hope; it’s absolutely wonderful,” Piazza said.

Gator Amps meets at the rehab hospital the first Tuesday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m. Along with Piazza, the group is coordinated by occupational therapists Andrea Gilbert, OTR/L, and Meg Sack, OTR/L; and physical therapists Neda Mitova-Caneva, P.T., MSPT and Kevin Kohler, P.T., D.P.T. Meetings feature educational topics, guest speakers and activities. Visit for more information.