After 25 years, the Texas State alumna is hoping to help other amputees rebuild their lives through her organization, the San Antonio Amputee Foundation.
When Mona Patel was hit by a drunk driver in 1990 and had one of her legs amputated, she knew her life would never be the same again.
It was in the early afternoon of March 1, 1990, that Patel was hit twice by a car. She was thrown 12 feet upwards and six feet across before being pinned between the vehicle and a metal railing. The accident caused her leg to shatter from compound fractures on her tibia and fibula bones, leaving all muscle tendons exposed.
“I noticed a man sitting in a car parked along the right side of the service road,” Patel said. “I remember making full eye contact with him before going behind his car and walking along the right side of the road. Next, I was sitting up on the road with my books and other school supplies scattered everywhere.”
Patel was given two options by the hospital that admitted her: she could either salvage her limb, or undergo amputation. Being a minor at the time, her parents decided to salvage her limb. Patel then suffered gangrene, which resulted in a partial foot amputation four weeks into her hospitalization.
“Shock protected me from the physical pain but I still had a calm demeanor,” Patel said.
Over the next seven years following the accident, Patel underwent a total of 20 surgeries in order to save her injured limb. As she was preparing for another surgery, she knew she needed something different and sought a support group. She said her biggest concern was towards pregnancy and motherhood, something she worried would not be possible as an amputee.
“I did not find a support group but (I) did find an amputee who was also a mother,” Patel said. “She answered all my questions and put strength and comfort in my heart… I elected to have my leg amputated and vowed that … I’d start a support group in the San Antonio area.”
The San Antonio Amputee Foundation started 20 years ago as part of a group project in one of Patel’s graduate social work classes at Texas State, known then as Southwest Texas State University. She created the support group to fill the service voids in her community with the belief that there must be other people in need.
Her foundation also created a team called Cloud Walkers who scaled Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341 feet.
In 2015, she put together a team of nine amputees and a medical crew to climb the mountain; proving that anyone can climb any mountain in their own lives.
“I was not going to allow anyone else to make me feel ‘less than’ or ‘damaged’ or like a ‘cripple’,” Patel said.
Patel plans to continue building membership and awareness for her foundation. She wants to create an amputee youth program to support children with limb loss and their parents. Patel will continue exposing her members to opportunities for healthy lifestyles.