Dealing With AmputationOctober 1, 2014. We were sad to learn of the recent death of Dick Miller. May his stories live on.
by Dick Miller
2001, I developed an infection that worked its way into the bones of
my left foot. In spite of a series of strong intravenous antibiotic
treatments, it became obvious that amputation was the wise course of
action. At that time, my wife related to me the following story.
The Story of
upon a time, a little boy was born. He was a beautiful little boy,
except, instead of regular arms, he had stumps. When most people saw
him, they were aghast. But his mother loved him very much. She named
him Sam, but she called him Stumpy. Her family and friends were quite
disturbed at her calling him this name. “Why would you do
to this beautiful child?” they asked. She replied,
that's what the children will call him when he goes to school and
plays with them in the neighborhood. I want him to get used to being
called that name.”
people shook their heads in dismay and went on their way. Sam's
mother continued to call him Stumpy throughout his childhood. When he
went out to play and went to school the other children did call him
Stumpy, but it didn’t bother him.
moral of this story is that things may not be as bad as some people
think they are.
do you prepare to have a piece of your body removed? It's not an easy
task. There is a lot of soul-searching that goes on before making the
decision to proceed. Eventually, reason must win out over emotion and
a trusted physician provides the input you need to make the decision.
you have made the decision, preparations for the surgery itself are
fairly straightforward. Anyone who has had a hospital procedure
performed understands what I'm talking about.
up at the appropriate time, and the next thing you know, you are in
the recovery room.
from amputation has two aspects: physical and emotional.
am a large man: about 6'3" and about 300 pounds. When I came out
from under the anesthetic in the recovery room, I apparently did not
have enough pain-killer. I was in a great deal of pain and cried out.
I have a large voice to match my large size. Needless to say, I got
immediate attention. Once all that was under control, I was taken to
a room where I continued my recovery.
had to wait a few days for the swelling to subside before I was
fitted with a temporary cast. As this swelling continued to subside,
the temporary cast was replaced and recast. Each time, a prosthesis
post was added to the bottom of the cast so that a prosthetic foot
could be added. As the incision healed, I was able to bear more
weight on that leg and gradually learned to walk with crutches or a
walker. Eventually, the cast was replaced by a custom fitted
time, the size of the stump continued to decrease, and new custom
orthotics had to be made to fit the new size of the stump. In between
new orthotic sizes, adjustments were made to the fit by adding
several thicknesses of socks between the stump and the prosthesis.
this recovery process, I had to spend a lot of time bedridden at
home. If it weren't for my wife's help, I wouldn't have made it
successfully. She deserves a huge amount of credit for my successful
recovery from amputation is much like the grieving process from any
other major event in life. These stages of grief are well documented
elsewhere and I won't go into them here. I will say that I
experienced them all and, if you go through amputation, you probably
will, too. For a reference, see
are some lessons I have learned after my amputation. I hope you can
learn something from them, too.
Get over it
not going to grow back. Your life is different now. You have to do
things differently. You may not be able to do some of the things you
used to be able to do. However, you can still lead a useful, happy,
Learn to cope
out the best new way to do things, and stick with it until you can
improve upon it. Always look for new ways to do things more easily,
more quickly, or more effectively. Be open to new experiences.
Try to find the
humor in things
easy to play “Oh, poor me.” It’s a lot
beneficial to try to find the humor in what may appear to be a
difficult situation. Here’s a case in point.
had a cast that covered my stump from my mid-calf to my mid-thigh,
with a steel post affixed to the bottom. I had an appointment with my
prosthetist to have a prosthetic foot affixed, and my wife drove me
there in her minivan. I’m a big guy, about 6’
but I was able to maneuver myself and my unbendable leg into the
saw the prosthetist, who attached the prosthetic foot, and cautioned
me to bear only about 25% of my weight on it for now. Using my
crutches, I did my best to comply with his instructions as we headed
back to the car. My wife brought the car around to the pickup area
while I waited, and I attempted to get in. No matter how hard I
twisted or turned, there was no way that extra length of prosthesis
was going to let me drag it into the car. What was I to do? I was
waited with the door open and my prosthesis sticking out while my
wife scurried back up to the prosthetist’s office for help. I
was beginning to get a little irritated when I thought,
what this must look like to someone coming up to the hospital
entrance. Here’s this guy with his cast and artificial foot
sticking out, catching a few breezes.” I was chuckling to
myself as my wife returned with the prostetist in tow. He removed the
foot and gave me a small hex wrench with which I could reattach the
foot when I got home.
lesson I learned from this experience is that, if you look hard
enough, you can find something to smile about in what might seem the
most unpleasant situation.
Get back to
was fortunate enough to work for an employer who had a program that
retained my job for me while I recovered. As soon as possible, I
returned to work. This did a great deal in helping me feel useful and
normal. The income didn't hurt either.
you’re not employed, get back to doing whatever it was that
kept you busy before: housework, crosswords, whittling, singing, or
Find ways to
addition to doing useful work, be sure to have some fun. There are
some activities in which you may no longer be able to engage (water
skiing, for example), but try to find others that you enjoy just as
much in which you can engage. There may also be activities in which
you used to engage that are still viable. Be sure to continue those.
Keep in touch
your situation is like mine, you had a lot of friends wishing you
well when you were in the hospital recovering from your surgery. They
sent nice cards and made pleasant phone calls, saying things like,
“If there's anything I can do, let me know.” Now is
time to take them up on their offers. Call them up and invite them
over to play cards or a board game, or just for coffee. Watch a
ballgame together. Go to church. Meet at the movies. Find a way to
continue the friendships that you had before your surgery.
Spend time with
your recovery, you may have seen a lot of your family members. This
may not have been under the best of circumstances. You may have been
in pain, you may have been grieving, or they may have been stressed.
Take some time now to spend with each of them as individuals,
relating to them on a personal level now that you are both past the
recovery period. This will give you an opportunity to rebuild the
relationships that may have been strained during your recovery.
What does this
lesson I learned from this experience is that losing a limb does not
mean losing a lifestyle. I was able to continue doing many of the
things I enjoyed doing before the amputation. Certainly, there were a
few activities that were no longer available to me, or that I chose
not to do, but I think the essential ingredient in recovering from
amputation is a positive attitude. Combine that with a willingness to
try doing things in a different way than you used to, and you can
lead a very happy life.
(Unless you type
line of the message
to send it.)
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