Vancouver's 'mirror man' helping amputees recover from phantom limb pain
Published Sunday, April 21, 2019 4:36PM PDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 21, 2019 6:30PM PDT
Stephen Sumner lost his left leg in 2004, after he was hit and tossed from his motorbike by a hit-and-run driver.
In the years that followed he faced a rocky recovery, including a condition known as phantom limb pain.
“I suffered intensely and terribly for many, many years,” Sumner said.
After years of excruciating pain, one day Sumner discovered something that helped take it all away: a treatment called mirror therapy.
After five weeks of mirror therapy, the 59-year-old had not only cured his phantom limb pain - he also found his calling in life.
"The brain does all the work," said Sumner.
He said by positioning a mirror in the right location, it can trick the brain to think a lost limb is actually still there.
Since his recovery, Sumner has devoted his entire life to helping amputees in war-torn countries like Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Laos.
Sumner travels through these countries with a bike carrying a stack of mirrors to help other amputees find the same relief he did.
His work caught the attention of Vancouver’s Reckless Bike Store owner Paul Dragan.
"I was impressed and I was touched that he would go and do this especially in countries that a lot of people have forgotten about," Dragan said.
Life-changing injuries are something Dragan knows all about. In 2014, he was shot in chest and also faced a long recovery.
"I had a life changing injury as he did," Dragan said.
Dragan connected with Sumner, and through a partnership with Benno Bikes, he gave the amputee a brand new customized cargo bike to carry even more mirrors and help more people.
“I’m grateful that I can do something because people helped me and people helped my family," Dragan said.
Sumner explained his work has helped thousands of amputees who do not have access to treatment otherwise.
“It's very easy to give up when you lose a limb, so if I power myself into their town on my own steam, on my own volition, I think it sends a really positive message to other amputees that you can do anything you ever thought possible before your limb loss," he said.