Amputation


 

Why to amputate?

My doctor pointed at the artery on the MRI and explained I needed an amputation because the tumor was surrounding the artery and the main nerve. He argued that even if chemo or radiation were able to destroy the part of tumor close to the artery and allow resection with apparent clean margins, the risk of recurrence was high and metastasis usually quickly followed recurrence. I almost fainted when I heard his words.

Everybody tried to convince me to find a doctor willing to offer a limb saving surgery. But honestly, I was far more concerned about loosing my life than my leg. And even if a surgeon offered to replace my artery with a by-pass, I wasn't convinced of the practicality of such procedure and I opted for the amputation without hesitation.

The most difficult was to convince my family that this was the right choice for me.

I never regret my choice.

The surgery

My amputation was done on november 17th 2003. On the 20th, I was out of the hospital.

I had an epidural anesthesia instead of general anesthesia. When I woke up after the surgery, I still had the epidural hooked up so they could administer pain medication through the epidural.

I received some kind of electrical shot on the stump aimed at reducing my phantom pain.

Here is a link that shows an amputation surgery (not for sensitive people):

amputation surgery

Recovery

The wound took many months to completely heal. I guess it didn't help that I had chemotherapy before and after the surgery.  I was prescribed silver sulfadiazine to apply on the wound.

 Here is how it looked on december 6th:

Here is how it looked on february 3rd:

Phantom pain

The month following the surgery, the phantom pain was very intense. I was prescribed neurontin but it didn't seem to help so I eventually stopped taking it.

A physical therapist came to my home several times a week the month after the amputation. This is one thing that really helped with the pain. I felt like the therapy helped improving the blood circulation which helped with the pain for the hour following each therapy session.

The phantom pain was most intense at night and I could hardly sleep.

I am convinced the phantom pain is related to the brain trying to respond to what it thinks is abnormal blood circulation.

Eventually, the pain disappeared completely. I still feel my limb as it was still there but I do not feel any pain anymore.

Physical therapy

After I got my first prosthetic leg, I had physical therapy which I thought would help me learn how to walk. I was very disappointed with the therapist. She didn't help me with my main issue which was to find the balance (I am an above the knee amputee). I quit without asking her opinion so she threatened me saying I wouldn't get a permanent leg if I stopped seeing her. I learnt to walk without her help. And I did get my permanent prosthetic leg.

 

Prosthetic legs

I am an above-the-knee amputee. 

My temporary prosthetic leg was a 2R38 Otto Bock Titan 9256. It was awfully slow. I had it for almost one year because my prosthetist was having trouble getting the insurance approval for a C-Leg, which I didn't get in the end. My son was one year old when I got the temporary leg so I learnt to walk at the same time as him. I had to put him on a leash because he was walking faster than me!

My permanent leg is a 3R80 from Otto Bock. It uses a  liner for the leg attachment. The  liner is made of some kind of soft, thick, elastic material and fits on the stump. It has a screw at the end that attaches to the prosthetic leg. My first liners were "Explorer gel liner Silipos uniform 6mm large+". These are crap. They lasted about one day before they would start wearing out. I suspect my prosthetist was making money on my back, charging the insurance for more than the liners were worth.

My current liner is a "Iceross 3mm with Sensil gel" from Ossur. I had it for one year and after about  8 months, it started to have minor signs of wear. I love it.

I had two main problems with my prosthetic leg:

1- there isn't much soft tissue between my bone and the skin at the end of my stump. Rubbing between the bone and the prosthetic leg  damages my skin and walking becomes painful. Fortunately the bone ends on the side of the stump, not in the center. So it was possible to make a hole in the socket where the bone ended. It improved the situation significantly.

2-  Another site of skin damage was at the top inside part of the stump, where the socket ends. Adding a thick sock at the top of the stump improved the problem significantly.

I still have one problem: sweating. If I sweat too much, walking can become very painful, specially where the bone ends. When I sweat, the leg also feels heavier and I often get cramps in my stump's muscles.

Here are links to the most popular leg manufacturers:

Otto Bock

Ossur

Here are videos showing diverse problems with prosthetic alignment:

alignment issues

What an amputee can do

Here is a link to an amputee social network:

Less than four

 Here are some links that can give hope to any new amputee:

an amputee can rap

an amputee can dance

an amputee can ride a bicycle with a prosthetic leg

an amputee can workout

an amputee can snowboard

an amputee can play soccer

an amputee can ride a bike without prosthetic

an amputee can play basketball

amputees performing ballet dancing

my favorite amputee, Terry Fox...

Why to amputate?

The surgery

Recovery

Phantom pain

Physical Therapy

Prosthetic legs

What an amputee can do