Amputee Refuses To Let Disability Prevent Him From Full, Active Life

Madisson Howanyk has never let his disability define who he is. It is part of him but it isn’t all that he is and it won’t keep him from living a full and active life.

“It’s part of you and something you are stuck with your whole life” said the 20-year-old Winnipegger who was born a partial left hand amputee and is The War Amps’ local spokesperson to help mark April as Limb Loss Awareness Month. “You have to live past it and accept it and be proud of it. I’ve always felt it was a badge of honour. I’ve played some high-level sports and succeeded in those sports so that’s an accomplishment of mine.”

Howanyk grew up with The War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program which provides financial assistance for the cost of artificial limbs and adaptive devices. He also attended regional CHAMP seminars where “Champs” and their parents learn about the latest in artificial limbs, dealing with teasing and staring, and parenting an amputee child while the kids exchanged tips and advice on how to overcome challenges.

When Howanyk was growing up, teasing was never a problem and the other kids to be very accepting. By the time he hit high school he had formed solid friendships which helped ignore any negative comments that came his way.

Like any other red-blooded Canadian kid, he learned to play hockey and helped design a special prosthetic device to allow him to hold onto his stick.

“Growing up I used the mentality that actions speak louder than words,” he said. “For hockey, it was nice because the hockey glove covers my prosthetic so a lot of times I’d go to the outdoor rinks and play pick-up (games) with people I didn’t know and they wouldn’t know about my amputation until the end.”

In addition to hockey, he played goalie in soccer for 10 years and volleyball in high school where he acquired the nickname as the One Hand Wonder, he said. The moniker even appeared on the back of his senior grad shirt.

“It’s something that I’ll have for my entire life so I might as well accept it,” said Howanyk, who works at Sport Chek and is a second-year University of Winnipeg student studying Exercise Science with a major in Kinesiology and the goal of going to prosthetic school. “I make good jokes about it (with his friends) and have fun with it because it is something I’m going to have my whole life. Like I said, it’s a badge of honour.”

Although The War Amps has provided more than 100 years of innovative programs, there is still much to do to ensure amputees across Canada have the support they need.

“The Association receives no government grants, but with the public’s continued support, our vital programs for amputees will carry on long into the future,” said Danita Chisholm, Executive Director of the CHAMP Program.

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