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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum
Wondercat

Hello from me

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Hello everyone,

At last! I've had a lot of trouble joining the forum, but have done lots of reading which has been so useful! I've been a LBK since February 2008. After a fall from a 4th floor balcony in 2006 which left me with bones missing from my foot I went through a long period of contemplation about what to do. In the end I opted for quality of life rather than trying to fix what was left and finally took the plunge this year. I think I have been quite lucky so far, having my op at the RNOH in Stanmore, and great physio and prosthetic care in Havering. It's funny as I've been told I am progressing really well but as I don't know many other people like me, I'm not sure! I got my first leg 8 weeks after my op and am now on my 3rd... This one has been the best, smallest and most comfortable but I hope that soon I'll be able to get something more life-like.

I am sure that I'm not alone in feeling impatient and wanting things to happen quicker! I am 31 and want, after 3 years of frustration, to just get on with it. Unfortunately at the rehab centre I attend there are few people of my age group meaning I sometimes feel a bit isolated. Overall though, I feel really positive about the decision and seeing as I can't remember what it was like to walk "normally" now, my leg is already feeling like mine.

I think there's nothing better than talking to others in the same boat - a prosthetist, physiotherapist, doctor has expertise but can't really understand what it is like.

Anyway, that's a little bit about me!

Warm wishes,

Wondercat x

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Welcome to the forum Wondercat...

I think that you will find that we are all in the same boat, so to speak..There are many here to chat with..

Enjoy your stay...

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OMG another Cat!!!! lol

Welcome to the forum. It sounds like you're coming along just fine. It's important to feel like the prosthetic is part of you. Your brain stills registers a foot there so this should come easily. The rest comes in time. You need to work on balance. Balance will enable you to walk over all surfaces somewhat comfortably. The first year is the hardest. Everything is a new challenge. When you come upon a new challenge, accept it if it's safe and proceed. If you can't do it now, try it again a few months from now.

Keep us informed.

Neal

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Welcome from Minnesota! Glad you found us.

Caroln

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Hi, Wondercat. Welcome to our forum family :)

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OMG another Cat!!!! lol

Neal

*pokes my tongue out* :P

G'day welcome to the forum :)

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Welcome to the forum Wondercat....

Don't know if we can stand 2 Cats or not........ guess we'll find out!!!!!!!! :P :P

It makes three. Don't forget Scully.

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Hi and welcome, wondercat... glad you found us! Yes, you'll have plenty of times when you feel frustrated, especially during your first year of adjustment. Each new socket should get better, though, until you really feel your new leg is part of you.

Hang around and chat... there are a lot of members here with a lot of experience to share!

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Don't know if we can stand 2 Cats or not........ guess we'll find out!!!!!!!! :P :P

*pokes me tongue out again* :P

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Popping in to say "hello" to you Wondercat... Best of luck to you as you journey on!

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Hi Wondercat,

I'm the same age as you, 31, and had my right leg amputated below the knee in December 2004 when I was 27. Welcome to the forum and to this new strange life. I found it funny reading your post because I have often wondered how my life would have been if they could have saved my leg and I could have had the chance to let it heal without having to have it amputated so soon after my accident - and that's basically exactly what happened to you, so it seems like there are a few parallels between us - with your situation going one way and mine going the other....

I had my leg amputated outside the UK (because that was where the accident happened), but went to stanmore for physio and to get my first few prosthetic legs. They are great there but I do know what you mean, there aren't many people our age.

If you have any questions at all about anything you are thinking about doing again, or even just trying for the first time in your new legless state then please feel free to get in touch. Since I got back on my feet I have done a fair amount of everything really - walking up mountains, cycling (at present I'm training for a bike ride over the Andes in Peru which I'm slightly worried about I have to admit), running, dragon boating, swimming, and lots and lots of travelling, and so I am happy to share my experiences of these things with you should you wish to ask at any point.

Take care and good luck,

F

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Hi Wondercat,

I'm the same age as you, 31, and had my right leg amputated below the knee in December 2004 when I was 27. Welcome to the forum and to this new strange life. I found it funny reading your post because I have often wondered how my life would have been if they could have saved my leg and I could have had the chance to let it heal without having to have it amputated so soon after my accident - and that's basically exactly what happened to you, so it seems like there are a few parallels between us - with your situation going one way and mine going the other....

I had my leg amputated outside the UK (because that was where the accident happened), but went to stanmore for physio and to get my first few prosthetic legs. They are great there but I do know what you mean, there aren't many people our age.

If you have any questions at all about anything you are thinking about doing again, or even just trying for the first time in your new legless state then please feel free to get in touch. Since I got back on my feet I have done a fair amount of everything really - walking up mountains, cycling (at present I'm training for a bike ride over the Andes in Peru which I'm slightly worried about I have to admit), running, dragon boating, swimming, and lots and lots of travelling, and so I am happy to share my experiences of these things with you should you wish to ask at any point.

Take care and good luck,

F

Hi Fiona,

Thank you so very much for your message! It is amazing that we have so many things in common! It is great to hear about someone "like me" who has come through the first stages and has accomplished so much. From your message it sounds as if you've managed to embrace the changes you've faced brilliantly. Hearing about running and swimming makes me feel so much more positive as I have so many issues and hang ups about people knowing that I'm an amputee at the moment. It's not that I'm ashamed, far from it, it's just that some people I've told so far have been shocked and then I sense have felt sorry for me. This is the last thing I want. I want to say "If you feel sorry for me, you should have done when I was hobbling around on broken bones" - it's funny how many people think it would be better somehow to have something broken and useless than to take the step in order to get something that works! I am very sure that some people I know, not my closest friends and family of course, think that I have done something quite rash.

You mentioned that your leg was taken soon after your accident - I have often thought about how I would have felt if I woke up and my leg was gone. This was apparently, according to my fiance and parents, what happened in the first hours after my accident. I am one of life's organisers and I personally think that I benefited from the choice even though it didn't feel like it when I was making the decision. One regret I have is that had the procedure happened in 2006, then I'd be two years ahead now! How do you feel about not having the time I had to decide? I would really be interested to hear what your thoughts are.

I've got so many questions for you! Thanks so much for being willing to answer them for me. I promise I won't drive you mad! I suppose my first questions are whether you are open about your amputation with people you meet or if you keep it to yourself? How long was it before you felt quite "normal" - at the moment I still walk with a stick and have periods of discomfort (mostly related to the constant changes to my limb), so I feel "different"? Last, I always loved shoes (flats fortunately) and wondered when you were able to wear nicer footwear - I'm getting sick of my Converse and tennis shoes! I'm planning to get married in May next year and want to feel confident at my wedding and on my honeymoon - I don't think that trainers and a wedding gown are too good together!!!

One more thing actually, you mentioned that you had your first few limbs fitted at Stanmore but when did you more to another prosthetist? I am really confused about this transition and who I would go to. I hope to be able to get a super-duper leg at some point but don't understand the process.

Well, I hope you're well. A bike ride over the Andes seems pretty full-on for anyone and I think it is incredible and inspiring that you're going to do it. Best of luck - when is it? I am ever so keen to see Macchu Picchu at some point in my life and hope that this little glitch won't stop me - you are proof that it won't!

With very best wishes and thanks,

Wondercat x

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No worries at all - as I am suffering from a severe lack of motivation at work at the moment I will try to reply as fully as I can now...

First of all, I totally get where you are coming from with the hang ups and also with the people feeling sorry for you. With regards to getting the leg out in public, it is something that with time you will get over. The first kind of exercise I started doing after the leg was swimming basically because that's the only kind of exercise you can do where it really doesn't matter whether you have a leg or not. At the beginning I was self conscious about it but after a while people in the swimming pool etc. got used to it and so did I and after a while I stopped thinking about it and it just became second nature to walk to the pool and take the leg off. Since then I have got myself a swimming leg which I use to go to the beach with and it's great because it means that you can walk into the sea like normal.

Re: the feeling sorry thing. It still drives me insane. And what is worse is the whole "you're an inspiration" thing - ultimately there's no choice really is there? You either sit at home feeling sorry for yourself all day or get on with it and do what you want to do. People saying it do have their hearts in the right place though and I suppose amputation is just something that people think of as being way worse than it really is so you must look fairly "inspiring" to them if you are just getting on with it. The best way to deal with it would I suppose is to take it with grace when someone tells you that you are an inspiration, but I still haven't got the hang of that to be honest - the English awkwardness and embarrassment factor kicks in and quite often I think I end up being quite rude. Must work on that.....

In some ways I wish I had had the chance to make a proper decision about whether to get rid of the leg or not. My situation was basically that it was so infected that the surgeon taking me into what I thought was an operation to put it back together told me that it might be my life or my leg and so could I please sign a consent form to allow him to amputate it if he deemed it necessary during the operation. I signed the form but begged him to try to keep it if he could. The next thing I knew I was being woken up by him shouting at me that he had amputated my leg. It was a big shock and the way it was done was not the best. Having said that, I think in the long run I am glad that it was over and done with so quickly. It forced me to face up to the inevitable straight away, I didn't have a long drawn out hospital stay, and I only had to go through one rehabilitation process instead of waiting to see if it would heal and then having to deal with the reality that it wasn't going to. Mentally though not really having the choice, and also not feeling like I had been in control of the whole process was pretty difficult to deal with at the time. Let's face it - neither situation is ideal though.

New people - that's always a difficult one. I didn't really come up against that for a while as everyone I knew at the time of the accident obviously knew what had happened to me, as did all my work colleagues. However last year my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Hong Kong and I had a whole new load of people to broach it with (not least my new employers, who I didn't tell until after the employment contract was signed). With new friends what generally happened was that I was out with them somewhere (strangely enough quite often in bars sitting on those really high bar stools), and had slipped the leg off for comfort and when getting up again forgot I had slipped it off and it fell off. A quick "ooh I'velost my leg" get the message across pretty effectively. The reaction from them all was pretty much universally surprise and then questions about it. I think that generally people take their cue from you and so if they can see that it doesn't bother you very much and that you are happy to talk about it much in the same way you'd talk about having a headache or something (or not talk about it at all because it just isn't relevant), then they get over it pretty quickly. Work wise I told the head of HR and my two bosses immediately they gave me the job, and they have been fine about it too. With Colleagues though it is generally quite a gradual process. If someone needs to know about it, for example, because we are sitting in the same office together, then they find out pretty quickly when they see my gym leg sitting on the floor. Otherwise I don't bother telling anyone unless they ask.

Whew this is a long reply. Sorry if you are falling off your seat with boredom - I will try to be more succinct with the rest.

How long did it take to feel normal? I think that is honestly a very gradual process. With every week and month that passes, and with every new little thing that you do in your legless state, you will feel more and more normal again. I think for me the feeling that everything was back to normal finally came again when I realised that I could go out and do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about what it was going to be like doing it with a prosthetic leg because I could find a way to get round any situation if I wanted to enough. For example, I remember when I first got a prosthetic leg, or even before that when I was on crutches, every trip out of the house was a bit of a mental hurdle to overcome - I'd constantly be worried about whether there were a lot of steps/ escalators, how far I would have to walk/ hop and whether I would be able to do it or not. But the fitter you get and the more used to your leg you get the less you worry about that until you get to the point where you don't even think about it anymore because you know you can cope with anything that is thrown at you. It really comes with time, and very gradually. Sorry, that's not a great deal of help is it? All I can say is keep pushing the boundaries and challenging yourself and it will come, I promise.

Actually, you say that you are still walking with a stick. I can assure you you won't be for very long but one thing that really helped me get rid of the stick was cycling - I used a stick for ages, until 18 months after my amputation and a year after getting my first prosthetic leg and I almost got to the point of thinking that I would never be able to get rid of it. Then I signed up for a charity bike ride in Vietnam and Cambodia and had to practice. I decided that the best way to practice was to cycle to work and so that's what I started to do. As obviously you can't bring a stick on your bike I had to leave it at home, and in that way I managed to wean myself off it. If you are of a mind to try to cycling thing (which again is a great way to exercise without putting undue pressure on your leg), then I would really recommend it.

Shoes - ask at your clinic for an ossur elation foot - they definitely give them out on the NHS because I have one from there. It has an adjustable ankle and it means that you can wear whatever height shoes you want up to about 2 and a half inches. It's made a massive difference to my life as it means that I can basically wear whatever shoes I want to. I think your limit on the NHS is three different kinds of legs so it is definitely worth asking for one which you can use together with a more sporty leg and maybe a water leg or running leg too. And you definitely need one for your wedding. I couldn't agree more - you can't be wearing trainers on your wedding day. Congratulations!

The reason I moved from Stanmore was that I moved to Hong Kong so I'm really sorry but I can't tell you what the story is with changing clinics on the NHS. If you want a really super duper leg some day though (by which I am presuming you mean one that looks like a leg as per heather mills) then you won't get it on the NHS - you will have to fork out for it from your own pocket. Dorset Orthopeadic is the place to go in England. I got a quote from them for GBP10,000. I actually do think its worth it though because I really really want to be able to wear nice summery skirts and sandals again and I don't do that at the moment because my current high heeled leg just doesn't look enough like a leg for me to feel confident in them. It's just swallowing the price that is difficult as well as finding the time to travel down to dorset to actually get it made.

If you want a running leg (one of the high tech carbon fibre ones that you see that athletes using) you may have to pay for that privately too (mine cost GBP4000 to get made privately at Stanmore). But the rules in relation to that are more flexible I think so it is worth asking at your leg place. One thing to be aware of though is that NHS policy is only to give out 3 legs to one person at any time - I messed up with mine because I got a sporty leg, a high heeled leg, and then a water leg and so when I asked for the running leg they told me no. Obviously the running leg is far more expensive to get made than the water leg (which is just plastic) and so had I played my cards right I may have been able to get the running leg on the NHS and then I could have paid for the water leg. But noone told me that at the time and so in the event I ended up having to pay for the expensive one - it might be best before you make any decisions about what you want the NHS to pay for for you to check exactly what it is you will be entitled to.

Thanks for your encouragement re: the bike ride. I am a little worried about it actually as there aren't many places to cycle in HK without about a 70% chance of getting knocked over by a car somewhere along the way. I have been doing spin classes and went to taiwan to cycle last weekend (it has great mountains), but apart from that haven't done a great deal. I will need a lot of encouragement for Peru I think. It is in September.

Right I really should go you must be bored out of your mind.

Good luck with it all and feel free to send me a personal message or an email if you want to chat anymore.

Fiona

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Hi Wondercat,

I can relate to many of your issues even though I am older, but fairly fit and I definitely do not like sitting by the wayside. I too had my amputation about three years after the accident. I had four surgeries along the way and the Dr. wanted to do one more and I said, "No, take it off." I was sick and tired of being basically in a wheelchair. And although I wish I did not have to make the decision, it was the very best thing I could have done. One of the ways I avoided the image of being helpless was (I teach at a Seminary preparing students for the ministry) I told my students two days before the surgery and told them it would be experiential learning for them how to help one with a disability. They could ask if I needed help and respect my, 'No, thanks." They did beautifully, but I had a friend who constantly started pushing the wheelchair when we were together. I dealt with it by turning quickly around as she began to push and said see I can do this ( I had tried subtle ways before).

Since I am fairly high profile in the city here--no I am not mayor. :) So, many people knew I was in a wheelchair and why. I thought about trying to hide the amputation and just say my leg healed, but I felt that was too much energy and maybe because of age I thought--if someone has a problem with it, it is their problem. To avoid the "feeling sorry response" I beat them to it. I say I had an amputation and without a breath I tell them how well I am doing and how I am basically back to pre-accident activities and more (I could not run before the amputation and had no expectation at all of doing it post-amputation, but at ACA this year I learned to "run" or at least move faster than I have for 30 years). So, I head them off at the pass! :rolleyes:

I wear shorts in the summer. I have a cosmetic covering now, but I am re-evaluating if I want one with my new leg and foot. I still would wear shorts and with pants or long skirts, which I have always worn, you can't really tell. The one place I have not managed people not to stare is in Viet Nam (I take a group with me on a cross-cultural tour each summer--I leave in two weeks :D ) Vietnamese are fascinated by differences, so as they stare I "play a game" by saying hello and see how many really look at me--it is a surprisingly large number.

I am glad you found this forum.

Peace. Beth Marie

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I think all of us, no matter our age, go through a period of adjusting to others' reactions. This is my fourth summer since losing my leg, and each summer has gotten better on the "staring" front. My first year, I noticed every single stare and every other reaction I might get from others. I didn't let it stop me from getting out and doing things, but it irritated me no end! I still wore shorts when it was hot, and if someone asked a question I made an effort to answer it. I still felt "very amputee-ish" though.

Summer #2 was better: I think I probably got just as many stares, but I wasn't focused on noticing them. I also made my first foray into the swimming pool, which got me past another nervous issue. By summer #3, I rwas feeling normal and didn't notice or care what anyone might think.

This summer, I noticed my first "stare" in a long, long time. Would've been hard NOT to notice it: the guy did about a triple-take, with eyes bugging out and jaw dropping. I shot him a rather sarcastic grin and went on my way.

Fi's got the right idea when she says that "normalcy" returns gradually. Every litte step forward in your recovery leaves you feeling a little more "normal." For me, it wasn't a specific moment... more just a day when I realized that I didnt' feel "different" any more. It's a nice feeling!

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I think all of us, no matter our age, go through a period of adjusting to others' reactions. This is my fourth summer since losing my leg, and each summer has gotten better on the "staring" front. My first year, I noticed every single stare and every other reaction I might get from others. I didn't let it stop me from getting out and doing things, but it irritated me no end! I still wore shorts when it was hot, and if someone asked a question I made an effort to answer it. I still felt "very amputee-ish" though.

Summer #2 was better: I think I probably got just as many stares, but I wasn't focused on noticing them. I also made my first foray into the swimming pool, which got me past another nervous issue. By summer #3, I rwas feeling normal and didn't notice or care what anyone might think.

This summer, I noticed my first "stare" in a long, long time. Would've been hard NOT to notice it: the guy did about a triple-take, with eyes bugging out and jaw dropping. I shot him a rather sarcastic grin and went on my way.

Fi's got the right idea when she says that "normalcy" returns gradually. Every litte step forward in your recovery leaves you feeling a little more "normal." For me, it wasn't a specific moment... more just a day when I realized that I didnt' feel "different" any more. It's a nice feeling!

Thanks very much Cherylm for your reply, I'm naturally a self-conscious type but I'm not shy so I hope in time that I'll learn to take things in my stride. In fact I'm sure I will!

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Hi Wondercat,

I can relate to many of your issues even though I am older, but fairly fit and I definitely do not like sitting by the wayside. I too had my amputation about three years after the accident. I had four surgeries along the way and the Dr. wanted to do one more and I said, "No, take it off." I was sick and tired of being basically in a wheelchair. And although I wish I did not have to make the decision, it was the very best thing I could have done. One of the ways I avoided the image of being helpless was (I teach at a Seminary preparing students for the ministry) I told my students two days before the surgery and told them it would be experiential learning for them how to help one with a disability. They could ask if I needed help and respect my, 'No, thanks." They did beautifully, but I had a friend who constantly started pushing the wheelchair when we were together. I dealt with it by turning quickly around as she began to push and said see I can do this ( I had tried subtle ways before).

Since I am fairly high profile in the city here--no I am not mayor. :) So, many people knew I was in a wheelchair and why. I thought about trying to hide the amputation and just say my leg healed, but I felt that was too much energy and maybe because of age I thought--if someone has a problem with it, it is their problem. To avoid the "feeling sorry response" I beat them to it. I say I had an amputation and without a breath I tell them how well I am doing and how I am basically back to pre-accident activities and more (I could not run before the amputation and had no expectation at all of doing it post-amputation, but at ACA this year I learned to "run" or at least move faster than I have for 30 years). So, I head them off at the pass! :rolleyes:

I wear shorts in the summer. I have a cosmetic covering now, but I am re-evaluating if I want one with my new leg and foot. I still would wear shorts and with pants or long skirts, which I have always worn, you can't really tell. The one place I have not managed people not to stare is in Viet Nam (I take a group with me on a cross-cultural tour each summer--I leave in two weeks :D ) Vietnamese are fascinated by differences, so as they stare I "play a game" by saying hello and see how many really look at me--it is a surprisingly large number.

I am glad you found this forum.

Peace. Beth Marie

Hey BethMarie, thanks for your reply! I think that some people would see amputation as a fate worse than death - a few of my "friends" are quite obviously horrified and nonplussed that I would have taken such a, in their view, drastic step. Just goes to show that they never understood what caused me to take the decision I did. I suppose this is a reflection on them and not me... I think that your outlook is great and I hope that in time I can lose some of my self-consciousness. Ultimately I opted for the amputation to improve my life and it would be a shame to then miss out on things because I feel uncomfortable with other people's reactions!

Have a safe trip to Vietnam,

Wondercat x

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