Amputation doesn’t have to mean losing control of life
- Kerry Benjoe | March 09, 2021
Life as an amputee is complicated.
Twenty-eight months ago, I consented to the surgery and prepared myself for the journey. Learning to walk again was not easy. There were many times I was overwhelmed with fear, pain, and complete frustration.
However, losing my leg helped me in several different ways. I took control of not only my health, but my life. Although I was presented with an option for a partial foot amputation, doing so required several more painful surgeries and lengthy recoveries.
If there had been a suitable alternative that would have allowed me to keep my leg, I would have taken it.
I realize amputation of lower limbs is common among Indigenous people due to high rates of Type 2 Diabetes. I know people who have lost toes, feet, and legs because of the disease. Diabetics must be extra vigilant because a small injury can quickly become serious.
In the 1980s, my dad underwent emergency surgery where doctors removed his leg below the knee because gangrene had set in. After months in the hospital, he came home and eventually received a prosthetic. He stayed active for the remainder of his life.
In my case, my limb loss was due to trauma, so I still had a measure of control. Before I made my decision, I weighed the pros and cons and decided what was right for me. I knew there were things I would have to give up and some things I wouldn’t be able to do anymore, but there was still so much I could do.
Being a single mom, I needed to be at my best and the only way to do that was to get rid of the damaged foot that was slowly killing me. Although I never doubted I would walk again, it still took a commitment on my part to make it happen.
One of the first things I did was learn as much as I could about being an amputee. I also followed the doctors orders when it came to medication, appointments, limb care and physiotherapy. I joined online amputee support groups to connect with others and ask questions.
Most importantly, I kept active by forcing myself to do all the things I did before the operation. Once I received my leg, the work did not stop. Limb care is part of daily living.
I continue to pay close attention to my equipment – silicone liners, suspension sleeves, 2-ply to 6-ply socks and my prosthesis. All of these help to secure and protect my fragile limb and keep me mobile.
I have developed a good relationship with my prosthetist at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.
I also do not to ignore any discomfort and know when I require an adjustment, which is important.
Two years ago, everything seemed so overwhelming, but it has become second nature to me now.
I am still adapting to life as an amputee, as is my body. I fell only a couple times because I forgot I didn’t have a leg. Most recently the phantom pains have subsided.
Don’t get me wrong. At times I still feel pain from walking, such as tired muscles, but I can still walk, drive, work and do basically everything I did before. The pros definitely outweigh the cons.
I know my situation is a bit different, but I want others who are dealing with an amputation, to know life can still be everything you want it to be because you can still define your own future.