My amputation wasn't gruesome. I have
never had the experience of waking up in the hospital, unaware of an
accident or the injuries I incurred. I knew the date and time that I
would lose my limb. I was able to plan for my new reality of life as an
My story began in Ocean City Maryland on March 11, 1998, at a conference. A vendor was pushing a computer on a cart. Unfortunately, the cart became stuck on the floor board. Brute force was applied to the cart, causing it to lurch forward. The computer monitor became dislodged and fell with edge landing directly on the top of my foot.
I did not feel any pain when the monitor made contact with my foot. I actually bent down and picked the monitor off my foot. It was then that I felt mind numbing pain.
The first exam showed multiple broken and crushed bones. What was not initially known was that the nerves also had been damaged in my foot. Pain was constant and became unrelenting. I sought help through physical therapy and various medical strategies.
Finally, nearly 6 months later, I had a nerve stimulator implanted in my leg. The electrodes were put on the nerves in my ankle, and wires were burrowed up my leg to a battery pack embedded in my thigh. I had a remote control to work the device. I was quite bionic!
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong during this time period. My leg became infected, and the battery pack needed to be cleaned and finally removed. I was placed on intravenous antibiotics until the infection cleared. The system was then reimplanted.
I required over 20 surgeries to revise the device. It worked to control the pain, but it never removed it completely. I continued to have issues with hypersensitivity. Even a slight bump would cause a bone to break.
On July 3, 2002, I approached my surgeon about amputation. It took me a full year to process this difficult decision. I was forced to go to court to obtain approval through the workman's compensation insurance carrier. It felt surreal, sitting in front of the judge, begging for my foot to be removed. I never thought I would be in that situation.
Exactly one year later, on July 3, 2003, I had my left foot amputated. This was, without doubt, the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. Upon reflection, it was the best choice I could have made.
The night before my amputation was the most excruciating of my life. I remember taking a bath, looking at my foot. I was trying to freeze time, trying to memorize every detail. I remember lying in bed, crying. It was a primal, uncontrollable emotional breakdown. I was angry and scared. During the ride to the hospital, neither Scott nor I spoke. There were no words at that moment.
The most terrifying moment of my life was when I was lying on the hospital gurney and being wheeled away from my family, away from life as I had always known it. I knew that I was making the right choice, but I was terrified of becoming an amputee. I knew that, when I woke up, my life would be altered forever.
After the surgery was complete, I remember asking for my Mom. She held my hand, and I opened my eyes. Almost in a panic, I remember telling her that I don't have my foot. Then I heard my Dad say, "Somebody catch him." Scott fainted. Then I heard my Mom exclaim, "Jae's going too!" My brother had fainted as well. These two stoic men had fainted when they heard my reaction and saw my wrapped stump. They quickly recovered and their support was constant and unwavering.
I remained in the hospital for several days. I was never alone during this time, a fact for which I am grateful. I was surrounded by my family and friends, offering unconditional love and support.
The physical recovery was difficult, but not nearly as painful as the emotional recovery. I underestimated the emotional ramifications to an amputation. I went through a spell of depression. I underwent an identity crisis. I wasn't sure who I was because of the amputation. It took a year, and more tears than I can count, to realize that I was the same person as I had been previously, but now without my foot. My foot didn't define me, just as my amputation doesn't define me now.
I don't want to simplify the work necessary to recover emotionally from an amputation. It was not an easy journey. My surgeon recognized the depression and body issues and set up counseling sessions with a specialist in the field. Unfortunately, the insurance company denied the request stating that the amputation was "elective" and that I, therefore, shouldn't have emotional issues.
I was forced to maneuver through the transformation without expert guidance. I struggled with my identity as an amputee, and as an amputee woman. It took years before I could look in a full length mirror and not tear up. Although I believe I have worked through the pain and the issues, I still have bouts of "the amputation blues."
In addition to adjusting to my new reality as an amputee, Scott and I had to redefine our relationship. Up until I the amputation, he had never known me to walk without crutches or pain. I relied upon him for simple household tasks. He had never known the "true Peggy," the woman who was strong and independent. As I had adjusted to my prosthetic and my life as an amputee, Scott and I slowly became reacquainted.
The amputation was the hardest, and the best, choice I could have made. I am no longer on pain medication. I am able to walk without crutches. I am pain free. I have a wonderful little boy. I have emerged from my amputation a stronger, happier and more secure woman. For that I am thankful, and I pray that I never have to visit the dark recesses of my depression again.
I now find myself striving to do things on one leg that I never dreamed possible before my limb loss. My amputation has changed my life, but it has not affected my spirit. I am the same person, only now I realize and appreciate my own strength. Finally, I am becoming the person I always dreamed I could be!