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Amputee Impersonates Celebrities With Her Stump

March 12, 2015

An amputee who dresses her stump up to resemble celebrities says it helps her “own” her disability.

In the summer of 2013, comedian and performance poet Jackie Hagan was writing a one-woman comedy show about how she didn’t feel like a grown-up, when a series of blood clots and infections led to a lengthy hospital stay and the amputation of her right leg.

She first had her foot removed, then a higher leg amputation was needed. Maggots were put on to her stump to eat away any lasting infection, and all the time she faced further clots and perhaps death. She said these life-changing, unpleasant events helped her to gain perspective – and finally grow up.

“In the bed next to me was this old woman called Edna, who was 72 and looked like a threadbare tennis ball with eyes – she hated the world, she hated me, she hated nurses, she hated compassion, says Hagan who, despite the negativity, grew to adore Edna, through whom she soaked up 72 years of experience she otherwise wouldn’t have had.

The comedy piece Hagan was writing changed course as she underwent surgery, and endured a lengthy stay in hospital.

What emerged was a show about Hagan’s journey from the initial embarrassment she felt about her new prosthetic leg, to accepting it, putting glitter on it and, she says, “genuinely loving it”.

In her chatty Liverpool accent she told Ouch’s talk show that her residual limb, or stump, “healed really weird” and had a scar that looks a bit like the “miserable gob” of the character Tracey from Birds of a Feather.

She says she felt ashamed of her stump and was “gutted” that it wasn’t going to be beautiful. But now, 18 months later, she takes photos of the residual limb dressed up to look like celebrities and asks followers on social media to guess who they are.

Among many different guises, her stump has sported glasses and a lightning bolt scar to look like Harry Potter. It has sported the blonde hair and trademark mole of Marilyn Monroe. She has also grown a moustache on it to resemble the singer in a TV insurance advert.

In her 20s, Hagan spent time in a psychiatric ward with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and has a number of other difficulties like dyslexia and an eye disease called Fuchs’ dystrophy.

“I consciously decided that [the amputation] was going to be a good thing, because I thought this could half break me and I’m already half broken,” she says

Now, at the prosthetist where she gets her leg adjusted, she feels she has to act “fabulous” so as not to fall in with everybody else, who she says are all “grey scale and falling apart”. She dresses up in fancy clothes for appointments and says she hates conversations in the waiting room which start: “How high up is your amputation?”

Doctors have told Hagan she could have more blood clots in the future which has helped adjust her attitude to life. “If I’m going to die any minute”, she reasons, “I just can’t be bothered listening to boring conversations.”

Jackie Hagan’s show Some People have Too Many Legs is on tour in England until 9 May, finishing at Manchester’s Contact Theatre where it’ll be part of their Flying Solo season.

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