Saturday, April 27, 2013

Limb Loss Awareness

Every day, 500 people loss a limb. On December 7, 2007, I was one of those people. Due to an infection in my foot and having peripheral artery disease, of which I was unaware, I had an amputation below my left knee after undergoing leg bypass surgery two weeks before in hopes of saving my leg. I knew going into the bypass surgery there was only a 20 percent chance of saving my leg, according to my wonderful surgeon. I spent 99 days in a skilled nursing hospital. Well worth it. (well worth it except for the food there) :-)

While I was there, I kidded with the therapists that I was going to write a murder mystery about who killed the chef. The bad guy had to be one of the patients, no doubt. :-)

Here is a photo of my leg. April is Limb Loss Awareness Month, and today, April 27, is Show Your Mettle Day. And the Boston Marathon Bombings have brought amputations suffered by 14 of the victims into the news. In my photo of my leg, my titanium post is covered by the sock but my “Mettle” is there as is the carbon foot.

Just this week, I received a new foot, an award-winning Echelon prosthetic foot with biomimetic design which simulates natural ankle motion. It gives hydraulic ankle control on ramps and stairs. It has an instant impact on postural symmetry, easing abnormal pressures at interface and other joints and promotes stability and confidence on rough and sloping surfaces and gives excellent energy response at all times. This is the first time I have had a movable ankle in any of my prosthetic legs.

I’ve had this foot since Wednesday of this week, and although it weighs a little more than my previous feet, I believe I’m really going to like it. Because I wear my prosthetic leg for 16 hours a day, my muscles and gait will need to adjust some, but already I have worked out twice without any discomfort, and I’m finding that it feels so much like a real ankle. One thing that many do not realize, that using a prosthetic for a below the knee amputation, takes a third more energy to walk. And of course full leg amputations use even more energy.

So for anyone having to go through an amputation, I suggest getting all the physical therapy you can, even way beyond what most insurance companies will cover. I had 14 months of physical therapy and gait training and it so happened my insurance covered it all. It is important to have a excellent relationship with your prosthetist and insist on a good fit! I’ve lost count of the test sockets and final sockets I’ve had over the past five years. But what I do know, bad fits can cause lots of problems, including skin problems.

Phantom pain at times can be difficult. I well remember the nights that the phantom pain would wake me from a sound sleep. Thankfully it never lasted more than 5 minutes or so. I still have it occasionally but not to any extreme. Cellular memory is fascinating--My foot and toes are still there. :-)

I see, in watching the Boston amputees, that they will get through this before long, and return to a normal life with little restriction. They have courage, and determination, and that is what it takes to heal. As Joseph Campbell wrote: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

If anyone would like to help the Boston amputees you can donate individually via

I also posted this at my blog:  Drops of Ink Upon the Page