Five hundred amputations are performed every day in America.
That statistic, from the Amputee Coalition, speaks to why Billy Brimblecom is passionate about Steps of Faith Foundation. Brimblecom, executive director and an amputee himself, notes that prosthetic limbs provide more than convenience for an amputee.
“It’s a matter of being handicapped or not,” he says. “It’s a matter of walking or using all four of your limbs and being able to go back to work and supporting your family or not. I’ve never expected to hear somebody say this, but we’ve had many patients say that we saved their life. They were so depressed and so down and so unable to take care of themselves and make a living and support their families that they had contemplated suicide. So why is it important? Because it’s not like, ‘I couldn’t walk, and I got this new leg and that’s convenient.’ No. It affects the person 360—mind, body, spirit, the whole thing. Not only that but their family, their friends, their coworkers.”
For Grace Manning, who was connected to the organization when her leg needed to be replaced, Steps of Faith relieved the worry and anxiety of the unknown.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to replace the leg,” she says. “Most people don’t have tens of thousands of dollars lying around. I do everything with my leg, from walking across the room to going down a flight of stairs. I can’t even leave the house without it or live my daily life without the ability to walk. I’m so incredibly grateful for Steps of Faith for taking away the burden and for helping me when I truly needed it. I’m overwhelmed by their generosity.”
Another amputee, Jp Phillips, echoes her thanks.
"Steps of Faith has been a lifesaver for me," he says. "If it wasn't for them, I have no idea where I would be."
Brimblecom was first connected to the organization in 2013 by Robert Pittman, who owned the prosthetic company where Brimblecom was a patient. Pittman asked if he’d be willing to speak with one of his patients who had lost his leg to cancer. At the time he was working steadily as a musician but after that conversation, he told his wife he wished that could be his job.
“Being a bridge to hope and comfort for amputees in need—I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do,” he recalls. “That moved me more than the idea of making music which has kind of historically moved me more than anything in my life. It just seemed like it was this opportunity that was kind of made for me. And ultimately it was.”
Over the last seven years he has seen the organization grow, noting that they receive requests each month for help in new cities across the country. In 2019, their goal was to help 100 people, and they ended the year helping 133. Connecting the amputee with a prosthetist who can help is an aspect of the job that Brimblecom loves.
“When I get to talk to a prosthetist in a new city, they say, ‘Wow. Yes, I’m in,’ because what we’re doing is providing a solution to a problem they have as well,” he says. “What do they do with these great people who need their help—the kind of people they got in that business to help—and they can’t help them because they have no way to pay for it? We’re an option.”
April is Limb Loss Awareness month, and while Brimblecom doesn’t want people to live in fear of its occurrence, he acknowledges losing a limb can happen to anyone, any time.
“It could happen to any of us,” he says. “One of my best buds works with me, and has for a few years now, and his mother lost a leg this past year because of a crazy infection. I mean, what are the odds that me and now his mom are both amputees? It’s not for people to live in fear of being in an auto accident or having vascular disease or getting cancer by any means, but it’s not something that anyone ever plans or signs up for.”
And for those who are uncertain of how to help—Steps of Faith is a place to start.
“This is a small but very legitimate charity,” he says. “People can see their dollars in action with every step taken by somebody that we help.”