Odds and Ends
Everybody who calls me receives the same piece of advice. I recommend
that they write a letter, explaining the pain, the difficulties and the
obstacles they are facing living in their current situation. Write down
the reasons behind your decision to amputate, and your dreams for the
future. Time has a way of fading memories and, although I thought that I
would never forget the pain, the frustrations of living as an amputee
can overshadow the past. The letters have helped me immeasurably,
especially during difficult moments.
I didn't know that it was going to be painful when my residual limb was
below my heart for the first time. It felt as if it was being stung by
and the pain took my breathe away. Had I known that this is normal, and
had I been prepared, I doubt that it would have been as traumatic.
Sleeping was an issue for me. I struggled to find a position that was
comfortable and did not amplify the missing limb. The quiet of the
night used to haunt me, making my limb loss seem insurmountable. As I
adjusted, it became easier to sleep.
Lower extremity amputees pose a 100% risk of losing bone density. This
is due to the unequal weight bearing when ambulating. Knowledge is
power. Stay vigilant and receive scheduled bone density screenings. I,
along with 86% of all lower extremity amputees (at least 5 years post
op) have osteoporosis. I am being treated and my prognosis is good
because it was detected relatively early.
It is recommended to avoid shaving the residual limb, especially if you
plan on using a prosthetic. Shaving leaves the area vulnerable to
ingrown hairs, which can lead to infection.
I regret that I never received formal physical therapy training after my
amputation. Like most below-knee amputees, I received my prosthetic
and was given a brief gait training experience in my prosthetists
office. I wish I had pursued formal physical therapy to instruct me on
how to properly load weight into my prosthetic and to develop an
appropriate gait from the beginning.
It sounds obvious, but it needs to be stated. Many amputees become
addicted to their pain medication. After the surgical wounds have
healed, speak with your doctor to wean off the narcotics. Turning to
the drugs to numb the emotional pain left by the amputation does not
Don't be discouraged. Many new amputees believe that they are somehow
"healed" once they receive their first prosthetic. In many ways, the
opposite is true. Receiving the prosthetic is another milestone along
the journey, but it is not the end destination. It is not uncommon for
the new amputee to become frustrated or depressed several weeks after
receiving their prosthetic. After the congratulations and celebrations
by friends and family members, the amputee is faced with the reality
that life as an amputee is more difficult than anticipated.
Time, experience and patience all help the amputee make the adjustment.
As they become more comfortable using the prosthetic everything becomes
easier. Talking with other amputees or professionals can help to
alleviate fears and anxiety.
It is difficult to believe when the amputation is still new, but it does
get easier. There will be a day when you wake up, slip on your leg and
go about your activities without lamenting or thinking about the
reality that you are an amputee. The focus of your life will no longer
be your limb loss. It takes time, but it will happen.