JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – One lawmaker wants Missourians to be aware of those who suffer the loss of a limb.
Federally, April is Limb Loss Awareness Month. Since 2020, St. Louis Democrat Representative Rasheed Aldridge has been working on getting legislation passed so Missouri will also spend the month spreading awareness and supporting those who have lost a limb.
“I’ve always had my prosthetic since I was a child, so I’ve never had any remembrance of having a full leg,” Aldridge said.
Aldridge gets around the Capitol like most others, walking, thanks to his prosthetic.
“Just because you’re different, you can be just as great as anybody else but so many other people that have a disability that is seen or unseen sometimes feel like they are less than the world,” Aldridge said.
He was born with one leg shorter than the other, leading to the need for a prosthetic.
“My right leg grew shorter than my left leg, so I have a full-length prosthetic, so I know the challenges of what it means to have a loss limb, what it means to have a disability,” Aldridge said.
With the loss of a limb, it led to him being teased in school.
“I remember plenty of days I would go home and cry and even question God of why out of all the people in the world that you chose me,” Aldridge said. “You know you get called names like Peg Leg Leon or Patchy the Pirate.”
For the second year in Jefferson City, Aldridge is sponsoring a bill dear to his heart.
“To me, it’s not just about designating a month and saying, oh you should think about people that loss a limb, I think it’s deeper about having conversations and also, how can we make sure that our friends, our cousins and our neighbors that have this disability also have access to healthcare,” Aldridge said. “This piece of legislation and who I am, is one part of me, having a prosthetic, I’m also a young African American man who grew up in an underserved community.”
Under his legislation, Missouri would designate April as Limb Loss Awareness Month.
“People who look at individuals with disabilities, they think sadness instantly. You know we are not looking for a handout or a hand-up or anything, we’re just looking to be treated fairly as anyone else,” Aldridge said. “We do need a little bit of extra help, but we don’t need the sadness, if anything, we need to make sure the state supports individuals with disabilities.”
Last week, the House unanimously passed House Bill 404.
Aldridge is not the only representative who has lost a limb.
“This is extremely important, not only to those of us who were amputated later in life, but to those born with limb different as well,” Rep. Bridget Walsh Moore (D-St. Louis) said. “I appreciate the representative for working so hard and for blazing the trail for the rest of us.”
Aldridge’s legislation from last year did not move forward due to the pandemic cutting session short.
“My colleagues across the aisle support it unanimously and I hope when this bill actually goes into effect, that people like I that have a disability know that they can be just as strong, they can be just as powerful,” Aldridge said. “They can be anything in the world that they want to be as they look at people like myself, as they look at people like Bridget Walsh who also services up here who has a disability and who also has a loss of a limb.”
A prosthetic can cost around $11,000 for someone without insurance. He said he hopes this measure will also help with healthcare for people who are disabled.
HB 404 is awaiting approval in the Senate.