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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum


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About mikeybucs

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  • Amputation Type:
    Future RAK
  • Amputation Date:
  • Amputation Cause:
    Failed TKA/staph infections
  1. mikeybucs

    Plie 2 prosthetic leg

    Hello, everybody! I'm going to be reaching the point at which I have to decide on a prosthetic leg, and I'm stumped (bad pun alert!). I've narrowed it down to the Plie 2 or the C-Leg. I have lots of information about the C-Leg, but there is a dearth of information available with respect to the Plie 2. Have any of you had the chance to see the Plie 2 in action, or possibly used this leg yourself? I'm leaning towards selecting the Plie 2 for its water resistant attribute and also for aesthetic reasons (I just like the way it looks). It seems to have some stumble recovery capabilities, too, according to the Plie 2 brochure. My prosthetist told me that the cost would be roughly the same for a C-Leg or a Plie 2. Once all of the insurance paperwork is completed, it's going to come down to my decision. I just worry about getting a C-Leg wet and ruining it. All things considered, I'd rather get a Plie 2, unless there are significant reasons to stay away from this product. I look forward to reading any information that you can provide! :-) Mike B
  2. mikeybucs

    Phantom limb pain

    Sorry for the delay. The worst of the phantoms faded after about six weeks. In other words, no more stabbing electrical shock pains in the big toe. I still get the pervasive "pins and needles" sensations throughout the missing foot. While they are annoying and make it tough to get to sleep, the phantom pains have improved by several orders of magnitude. I haven't started gait training yet, so I'm crossing my fingers that physical therapy will eliminate the remainder of the phantoms. It's been just over nine weeks since my surgery. Staples are gone, Steri-Strips are gone, and the incision looks terrific. I'm still using a stump shrinker to shape the residual limb. My prosthetist is working with my insurance company to get the green light to start making my leg. From what I've been told, the cost will be about the same for a C-Leg or a Plie2. The choice is mine. I'm still on the fence as to which way to go (i.e. should I choose the track record of the C-Leg or the potential innovation in the Plie2?). I still have time before I have to commit myself one way or the other. I hope your recovery is coming along smoothly, too. I have NO regrets about proceeding with the amp. The last two years represent a speedbump along the journey of my life. Nothing more. :-) Mike B
  3. mikeybucs


    Is there any way to find out how much prosthetic legs cost? I understand that it's not as simple as the cost of the materials, because the prosthetist has separate charges. I'm just curious about rough ballpark estimates on the various legs for above-the-knee amputees. Roughly how much would you expect to pay (for the socket, knee, foot, and prosthetist fees) for a C-Leg, Plie 2, Rheo? How about the non-microprocessor knees (e.g. the Otto Bock 3R80)? If anybody knows or can make an armchair estimate, I would greatly appreciate it. Also, how about water legs (for the pool and the shower)? Can those be obtained relatively inexpensively, and did your insurance company approve that request? Thanks! Mike B P.S. I plan to ask my prosthetist all of these questions. It's just that I won't see him for another month, and I haven't been able to find out any cost information on the Internet.
  4. mikeybucs

    Tax on Prosthetics

    Hello, Peter! Point well taken. I hope the lack of emoticons in my last post didn't lead anybody to think I was in any way upset over the content of this thread. Far from it. I should have interspersed some smiley faces as I typed. :-) One of my greatest fears about health care ties in with the fact that I'm an above-the-knee amputee, and I'm fairly young (35 years old). I worry about being able to keep my excellent health insurance as the years go by. Will it be canceled by my insurance company for some unfathomable reason? Will they price me out of the market by greatly increasing my premiums beyond what I can afford to pay? Given the cost of prosthetics, will I hit my lifetime cap ($2,000,000 dollars on my policy) well before I'm due to kick the proverbial bucket? These issues are huge, and that's why health care is such an important political issue to me. Healthy people take their good fortune for granted. It doesn't matter how wonderful someone's life is going at the present time. In the blink of an eye, any of us can lose our excellent health, our job, our savings, our good credit, and our health insurance. This can all happen shockingly fast. While I was in the hospital up at Stanford last year, I watched the medical helicopter flying emergency patients in around the clock nonstop for a week straight. Most of those people were just living their life, taking things for granted, and then, boom. Everything changed in a nanosecond. They didn't plan on being in the emergency room, but there they were just the same. Seeing that had quite an effect on me. And with that, I will step down from my small but good-natured soapbox. I will do my best to refrain from making any more stump speeches (sorry, couldn't resist). :-) Mike B
  5. mikeybucs

    Tax on Prosthetics

    I'm confused. The original linked article seems to be implying that veterans are being singled out. I was under the impression that vets are able to get their prosthetics funded through the Veterans Administration. Is this not correct? I have an acquaintance who was wounded in Afghanistan. He gets his C-Legs through the VA gratis. He even has a modified Segway, which was provided free of charge through a Vet-related charity. The March health care bill ends pre-existing conditions and lifts the lifetime cap on benefits, two items that dramatically impact all amputees (particularly younger amps like myself). If I'm weighing the pros and cons, I'd say that those two items more than offset a 2.3% tax on medical equipment (which was really just an arbitrary political decision designed to drum up funding for this giant entitlement program). Also, I read that the tax isn't going to be collected until 2013, so if this is the same item, the article could be mistaken on that point. Personally, I can't see how the tax will affect me in any significant material way (or the vast majority of amps, for that matter). I have health insurance, for which I pay a handsome premium (plus deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments). My maximum out-of-pocket each year is $2,500. I suspect that most amps are similar situated. Perhaps the health insurance rates will increase slightly as a result of this excise tax. But honestly, it's not like the health insurance companies haven't been arbitrarily jacking up their premiums every single year anyway (thus creating the need for some type of a political health care reform effort). I've heard a similar tune from most of my conservative-leaning friends regarding the health care debate. It goes something like this: "Well, yeah, SOMETHING needed to be done, but not this. We need to go back to the drawing board and do this thing the right way." Which is all really just coded language for killing the bill and keeping the status quo. Something did need to be done. The Republicans had six years to implement "SOMETHING." They did nothing (except pass Medicare Part D, which they neglected to fund). Well, the Democrats did SOMETHING. It might turn out to be a huge positive for the nation. It might turn out to be a disaster. But they acted in a situation that required action. And it's going to cost many of them their political careers.
  6. mikeybucs

    Phantom limb pain

    I can empathize with you concerning the insomnia. I probably haven't had more than two or three hours of consecutive unbroken sleep in the past two weeks. At the moment, I have a burning in my shin and toes, coupled with a dull aching throb on the heel of my missing foot. Those pains wake me up after a few hours, no matter how tired I get. The Fentanyl reduces the pain a GREAT deal, but it's still just bad enough to prevent sound sleep. The nerve block that my doctor recommended was actually some type of injection. I think it's similar to a spinal shot, which sounds a lot worse than it actually is. I opted to try a less aggressive form of pain management (i.e. the Fentanyl transdermal patches). I guess nerve blocks aren't always effective, and they carry some risks. Having said that, if I'm still suffering from phantoms six months down the road, I will definitely be going the nerve block route. Mike B
  7. mikeybucs

    Phantom limb pain

    Thanks for the information, Lynne. I didn't know that. I'll most likely keep taking the gabapentin if I have *any* ongoing phantoms. I've only been taking it for about two weeks, so I've got quite a ways to go before I hit that three-month mark. I don't mind taking it on a long-term basis. I just want it to be effective. :-) Mike B
  8. mikeybucs

    Phantom limb pain

    Hello, Joan. The Fentanyl is working very well. I'm on my second patch (they get changed every three days). My dose is 50 mcg per patch. I haven't experienced any side effects from the Fentanyl. I'm not sure whether or not these patches are feasible for use on a very-long-term basis (have to check with your doctor). My plan is just to use them for the next three to four weeks, and I'm hoping that the phantoms subside by the end of that time period. I'm also taking gabapentin (2400 milligrams per day, broken up into four 600 milligram doses). To be honest, I haven't noticed this doing a darn thing. On the other hand, I haven't experienced any side effects, either. I'm going to keep taking it at least as long as I'm taking the Fentanyl. Since I haven't missed a single dose, for all I know the gabapentin is working great and holding back some really unpleasant phantom pain. I was initially taking Vicodin for "breakthrough" pain (the small amount of pain that the Fentanyl couldn't suppress), but I discontinued taking that after a few days. My system doesn't tolerate Vicodin very well (or its big brother, Percocet, for that matter). These pills work just fine at relieving pain. However, they also completely back up your pipes, if you know what I mean. Very scary when you can't go to the bathroom. Not a laughing matter to anybody who has ever gone through this after surgery. You might as well go ahead and discuss the Fentanyl with your doctor. I'm only a small sample size of one, but I heartily endorse it. I have very little stump pain and lots of phantom pain, and the Fentanyl has worked splendidly for me. These phantom pains are bad news, and there don't seem to be many effective treatments available to knock 'em out. My doctor initially wanted me to get a nerve block, so you might inquire about that as well. Good luck, and don't give up! Mike B
  9. mikeybucs

    Phantom limb pain

    After a week of nonstop horrible phantoms, I finally contacted my doctor to request a change in the pain medications. I received a prescription for some Fentanyl patches. Within 24 hours of applying the first patch, the Fentanyl has almost completely wiped out my phantoms. They're still there under the surface, but almost all of the pain is buried by the medication. What was a severe burning and stabbing sensation before is now just a light tingling. Thank goodness. Problem solved. Thank you, Fentanyl! :-)
  10. mikeybucs

    Phantom limb pain

    Wow, this phantom pain is no joke. A week ago, I thought I was going to avoid this entirely and have a nice easy recovery. Then, Tuesday morning rolled around, and I woke up with a sharp burning sensation throughout my missing foot. This was punctuated by regular periodic jolts every 30 to 45 seconds (primarily around my big toe, heel, and the top of my shin). Feels like a live wire. I'd rate the pain from these jolts at a solid 7/10. This has continued steadily for the past five days with no letup. I'm thinking that these pains must be the result of my cut nerves healing themselves, right? I spoke with a friend of mine who's also an AKA, and he told me that the worst of these pains should subside after about six weeks. Funny thing is that I have almost no pain at all in the vicinity of my missing knee. That knee was my only source of pain prior to my amputation. No idea why all of my phantoms are focused on the foot, when I never had any foot problems at all prior to surgery. My stump pain has been negligible since the operation (mainly just the back of my thigh where the surgeon cut the hamstring muscle and some slight discomfort along the incision). For the record, neither Lyrica nor gabapentin has done much good with respect to alleviating the phantom pain. I'm taking 2400 milligrams of gabapentin per day (Lyrica was discontinued due to being wholly ineffective). I'm not sure whether or not the gabapentin is doing anything at all, but I'm operating under the assumption that the pills I'm taking might be reducing the phantom pains from what would be a horrendous level of agony to merely a very bad level of pain. Despite this development, I remain extremely happy that I had the surgery. This is hopefully just a bump in the road that will pass in time. Having said that, if anybody tries to tell me that these are "all in my head," I'm liable to knock them out. :-)
  11. mikeybucs

    Left knee update.

    And just to put your mind at a little more ease, the amp was by far the easiest surgery that I've ever had in my life. You would think that it would be an agonizing ordeal to have all of that tissue and bone sliced. But it really wasn't. I was laughing and joking with the nurses in the recovery room and feeling no pain. I'm dealing with some nerve pain right now (a week post-op), but it's fairly tolerable and will fade with time (Lyrica really, really helps). Sounds like you've had some horrific surgeries on your leg. Don't fear the amp, if you ever have to have it. I had my leg taken off a week ago today. From the time I woke up in recovery, I've felt like I finally have my life back. I'm window shopping for prosthetics right now. It'll be about 4-6 weeks before I start serious rehab for my leg. I know the C-Leg looks like the gold standard for legs, but I have to say I'm leaning towards choosing the Plie 2. That leg looks amazing. Take care, and stay positive!
  12. mikeybucs

    Left knee update.

    Correction: None of the local ortho docs wanted to talk about taking off my leg. Dr. Jan Ertl would have done it, but he was just too far away to be a realistic option for me.
  13. mikeybucs

    Left knee update.

    @Kender, glad you made it through the surgery okay. I can definitely empathize with your situation. It's frustrating to go through a painful surgery (or a series of them) and still not achieve a satisfactory outcome. I hope your knee situation stabilizes so that you don't have to spend the best years of your life on the surgery merry-go-round. If you decide down the line to have the leg taken off, I think you should consult with some vascular surgeons instead of having an orthopedic surgeon do the work (with the possible exception of one of the Ertl brothers). When I was trying to find a doctor to take my leg off, none of the orthopedic surgeons really wanted to even entertain the idea. All of the vasculars with whom I consulted agreed to take off the leg after reviewing my situation. Just noticed that you're from Tampa. I'm a lifelong Tampa Bay Bucs fan. My DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket is ordered, and I am counting the days until kickoff. :-)
  14. I am very relieved to be home from the hospital. My right above-the-knee amputation surgery was done this past Wednesday (06/02/2010). I was released yesterday afternoon, three days after the operation. After speaking with the anesthesiologist about pain control options, I chose to have a spinal epidural plus a light general anesthesia for the procedure. I'd never had a spinal before, and it really wasn't bad at all. Once I was wheeled in to the operating room, I was asked to sit up on the gurney. I received a few shots in my back (minimal pain -- just a small stick from the needle). The next thing I can remember is waking up in the recovery room. I had ZERO pain in the recovery room after the operation. I couldn't believe it. After noticing the absence of pain, I checked to make sure that my leg was gone (it most definitely was). The spinal epidural did its job and then some. I highly recommend this form of anesthesia to anybody facing an amputation (or a revision). This was the ninth surgery that I've had on my right leg. Far and away, this was the least amount of post-op pain I've ever experienced. I'm still amazed at how the doctors managed to accomplish this feat. Once the epidural wore off (about a day after the surgery), the stump pain arrived. To be perfectly honest, it has been very tolerable so far. I was on morphine for about a day after the epidural expired (PCA pump). As I tapered off of the morphine, I found that I really didn't need much in the way of pain meds. As I'm typing this (four days post-op), I am taking about four hydrocodone pills per day. This is holding most of the stump pain at bay fairly well. I would rate my pain at 2/10 to 4/10 (it fluctuates). I'm not complaining. I thought it would be much, much worse. With respect to phantoms, I'm definitely experiencing them. However, they're more annoying than painful. For example, the middle toe on my amputated foot has been itching pretty continuously for the past few days. I've also had Charlie Horse sensations in my missing calf. My missing toes often feel as though they are crossed with each other, and I want to uncross them, but I can't because they're not there. And I've had a pretty consistent background "pins and needles" buzzing on the lower right side. That kind of thing. Mostly just weird little episodes. No bona fide phantom pains as of yet (knock on wood). I'm taking Neurontin just in case. All in all, I'm extremely relieved that everything is working out well. Still a long way to go with recovery and rehab, but it seems pretty realistic to envision myself walking again by Christmas. I am so happy that I decided to have the leg removed, and I have absolutely no regrets about going forward with the amputation. If anybody on the message board is facing an amp and has any questions about my surgery, please feel free to post a question or send me a message. This board was the single best source of information and inspiration for me prior to my surgery. There is simply no substitute for speaking with people who have "been there." Thanks for everything! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go recover. Somewhere, there's a C-Leg with my name on it (or a Rheo; or a Plie; or a 3R80 -- I'm not picky, I just want to walk). :-)
  15. mikeybucs

    Planning for RAK amputation

    I met with a terrific vascular surgeon yesterday (recommended by my prosthetist), and my right AKA surgery is officially scheduled for next week. It's kind of funny. As I was getting out of the car to go in to the appointment, I noticed that there were three other businesses sharing the same business park along with the medical practice. ALL THREE of those other firms were prosthetics specialists. The surgeon has a lot of experience performing amps. Plus, I got a really good vibe from the appointment. The doc did say that, given my age (35), it's pretty likely that I will need a revision surgery someday due to accumulated wear and tear on the stump. We discussed post-op pain management, and I feel pretty sure that everything will be squared away on that front. All in all, I feel extremely confident that this is going to go well. Incidentally, I did make contact with Dr. Ertl in Indiana. Seems like a great doctor. He called me back the same day I left a message for him. Unfortunately, I would need to travel back to Indianapolis for surgery. For a lot of reasons, that's just not feasible. Next Wednesday (06/02/2010), at 1:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, this albatross is gone. Good riddance. This leg has been nothing but trouble for almost three decades. I do feel a little sorry for my foot, though. An unfortunate innocent bystander in this whole mess. :-)