Mona Patel Turns a Tragedy into Triumph Through the San Antonio Amputee Foundation
By Rudy Arispe
Mona Patel was 17 when she was struck by a drunk driver while walking on the campus of Cal Poly in 1990.
“The driver hit me a couple of times and the second impact severed my right lower leg,” she recalled. “Initially, I had my foot amputated and for seven years I had my leg and went through 21 salvage attempts to save my leg. But I got tired of losing strength and mobility and having to rebuild over and over.
“Eventually, I looked for someone to talk,” she continued. “I found an above-the-knee amputee who had four children after her amputation. She told me what I needed to hear, so I scheduled my surgery. More than 30 years later, I am a mom to two beautiful daughters.”
Today, Patel is the founder and executive director of the San Antonio Amputee Foundation, a nonprofit that rebuilds the lives of amputees through peer support, education, and financial assistance for basic car and home modifications, and prosthetic limbs. The organization also offers recreation opportunities, like the time in 2015 when Patel and nine amputees climbed the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“The San Antonio Amputee Foundation has been meeting as a group for the past 20 years,” she said. “I have been doing peer support, and I go to hospitals, dialysis centers, nursing homes, doctor’s offices or wherever someone needs me. Being a social worker by education, I’m able to provide advocacy, care management services and fitness programs.”
Recently, Patel flew to New York where she was honored by CNN as part of their CNN Heroes program, which recognizes people who make outstanding contributions to their communities. She was highlighted in a segment that focused on how she turned a tragedy into triumph by impacting other amputees through her nonprofit.
“What I can tell a new amputee, who is questioning themselves and not feeling confident because of their limb loss, is to remember their confidence and sense of self is in their mind and not in their limbs that were amputated,” she said. “They are still the same beautiful person with the same heart, mind and spirit that they were before their amputation.”
As head of the San Antonio Amputee Foundation, Patel looks forward to each day, knowing it will be filled with opportunities to touch the lives of others.
“The qualities that make one resilient can be a positive mindset and attitude and ability to look into their environment and seek out positive forces, and support groups,” she reflected, “and look within to find their spiritual side, and to look at their situation as an opportunity to learn and grow from.”
The SAAF support group meets the second Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. at Warm Springs Rehab Hospital, 1st floor conference room, 5101 Medical Drive, 78229. For more information, visit www.saamputeefoundation.org.