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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum
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Hi My name is Jenn, I was involved in a car accident almost two and half years ago. The accident was entirely my fault I wont go into any more than that. I remember my accident like it was yesturday. I hit a large parked vehcile, the impact crushed my entire foot. I remember slamming into the vehcile and spinning. When I climbed out of my car I attempted to walk only to fall flat on my face. I broke my foot and I remember thinking this surely can be fixed by a doctor. I was wrong I was mistreated and misdiagnosed and its has caused me so much pain. I have had many surgeries to put my foot back together and every single day I am in pain, walking is a huge chore. I have mentioned amputation to my boyfriend and family and they dont want to accept it. My orthopedic dr is willing to do the surgery but I can not get the strength to follow up with it. I am so scared of what my future holds. I have been with my current job only for the fact I have health insuance, and worry if I switch jobs the procedure will be denied because it will be consider pre existing. I blame myself every day for the accident. I dont know how to look myself in the face without being so disappionted in me. I am here looking for answers and I dont know how to make such a life changing decision without being scared to death of the outcome.

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Hi, Jenn, welcome to this site. Between all of us we have quite a wealth of information about recovery from amputations and different ways of getting through the problems we encounter after the amputations.

That said, it is also very hard to tell someone that it is the right solution for them without knowing that person very well.

I hesitate to give you advice without knowing more about you, your relationship with your doctor, and more about how much you do walk now, if at all. From what you said it sounds like, perhaps you do walk, but with very bad pain. Please make that a little clearer if you can. There are a lot of us that elected to have amputations after other solutions have been tried. We who have done that can, for the most part, say that either we have no regrets, or at least that we are better off now.

Tell us more about what you are going through.

All the best,

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Hi Jenn

I am not an amputee, but the mother of an RAKA. My daughter, likeyou, had a RTA almost 8 years ago. That accident, like yours was also her fault. She went through 47 operations in 4 years before electing for above knee amputation because of the pain. I begged her not to have the surgery, but she said that the pain was no longer bearable. I have to say that 3 days after her surgery, I visited her I the hospital and knew, immediately that she had been right and I had been wrong. The pain was gone from her face and I knew that I had my daughter back again. I am not going to say that her road to recovery was an easy one, and for a long time both she and I NEEDED the expertise of both her surgeon, physiotherapist and friends here on this site. She now walks, drives and works full time. Only you can decide what is best for you, but I know that you will find friends here on this site who may be able to answer some of your questions for you. My prayers go out to you and I hope that you indeed find the right answer for you, as my daughter did. You might be interested to read the thread I started about her journey. It is under "Greatest Hit Threads" and entitled "The Journey Has Now Begun". It was a thread I started Just before her ampuration. There were almost 19,000 viewings of the thread and I had over 360 replies.

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Welcome to the forum Jenn.

You will find people of all walks of life here. We all share amputation, either ourselves or a loved one. We all came here as a means of healing or finding a better way. Some of us lost our legs immediately with no choices. Some had to choose amputation over a malfunctioning, painful leg. Some of us are getting on just fine with our lives. Some of us struggle each and every day with phantom pain, stump pain, ill-fitting legs, etc. It's hard to define a typical amputee.

I can tell you that I am one who chose amputation over 12-18 months of surgeries with no guarantee that amputation wouldn't be the end result. I didn't want to give up that much of my life. I was amputated 30 days after my accident and I've never looked back or second guessed my decision. That doesn't mean that I haven't had some frustrations over the past 6 yrs. When my leg fits properly I don't even realize I'm an amputee during my daily routine. My leg is something that I put on first thing in the morning and take off when I go to bed. It is just a part of me now. I do experience days when things just aren't quite right. I muddle through those days in various degrees of pain. Thankfully those days are very few and usually are of my own making. I can tell you that I lead a very normal, fulfilling, active life.

Many people, doctors included, consider amputation a failure. In some ways it is, but in many ways, it is the best possible outcome. I don't know your location, age, weight or proposed level of amputation. I'll assume that you are somewhat young and have a full life ahead of you. I'll also assume that the damage is your foot only. If you are of normal weight and if these assumptions are correct, you should have a positive outcome with a below the knee amputation. I would suggest an amputation called the Ertl procedure. Instead of a straight chop through both bones of the lower leg the doctor will join the two bones via a bone bridge. This forms a very strong, functioning stump that is able to take a lot more activity with less pain.

If you are of good general health and have no complications through surgery, you should be in and out of the hospital in a few days. You'll be on crutches, walker or wheelchair for a few weeks. You'll then be fitted for an artificial leg and should be walking again in about 6-8 weeks post-op. I am a hairstylist and was back at work 4 weeks after surgery. I only worked half days, but I was working. If you have a job where you can sit most of the time, you could go back to work much sooner.

It's a big decision and not one to take lightly because there are no do-overs. You will need the support of your family and friends. You'll also need good insurance with good prosthetic coverage as prosthetic legs aren't cheap. Feet can cost up to $6500 and sockets with liners are around $8000. You'll wonder for the first 6-12 months if you made the right decision, but then all of a sudden things start working properly and you kind of forget about it. It becomes the new normal. Pain can get you down. Painkillers can be dangerous. Find an amputee support group in your area where you can talk face-to-face with amputees. You can also visit a Prosthetic Center where limbs are made. They can arrange a visit with an amputee around your age with an amputation similar to what you would have. If you do your homework, then make an educated decision, you'll be able to make a decision that you know was the best.

Good luck to you. Keep picking our brains. We're here to help.

Neal

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Hi Jenn

I think you are being a bit too hard on yourself. Accidents happen to people everyday, they happen and everyone makes mistakes, some have more impact on us than others. I don't really remember the details of my accident, but it was most probably my fault ... it happened and probably changed the shape of my life and those around me, but I really don't go beating myself up about it, because I can't change what happened.

I have been walking on two prosthetic legs since I was a teenager, to me its just normal ... I live what I think is a pretty normal life, so its all do-able, for the most I am pretty pain free but there are good and bad days and, quite often, frustrations .... although on the TV you will see top atheletes running with prosthetics, etc. etc. it isn't always the norm for all amputees ..... and sometimes, but not always, walking with prosthetics can be a chore too ... it will probably take at least about six months out of your life having the surgery and getting mobile again ... and then entail regular visits to a limb fitting centre .......but only you though can make the decision for yourself and decide whether you would be better without your foot than you are with it, at the moment.

I think family and friends not familiar with amputation surgery are probably always horrified by the enormity of it all, so you will probably have to break them in gently to it and get them round to thinking that it can be a positive (as opposed to a negative) decision. Maybe you need to go and talk to other amputees, visit prosthetic centres etc. and possibly take family with you and maybe just go and talk it through with a Counsellor. If you don't have to make the decision immediately, don't rush it, take your time and talk to as many people as possible, also take a look at the limbs and get some idea of how things will be.

Hope things work out ok for you Jenn, and remember, be nice to yourself.

Ann

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Hi Jenn, and welcome to the forum..

Like several here, my amputation was due to trauma/accident... a failed re-attachment of my left foot. I had no knowledge of the re-attachemnt surgery at the time it was done. I do slightly remembering to tell the doctor while I was in ICU to remove the foot when he said that he wasn't sure it would take... I, like Neal, have never looked back.....

I think that first and foremost, you are going to have to forgive yourself for your accident. Things happen in life, and we don't always know the reason, or why the powers that be, (according to what your religious beliefs are) allow them.

It can't be changed, or rewound.. as unfortuate as that is..You will end up quite daffy if you don't finally say, "crap happened, now how do I go on from here". Give yourself permission to feel sorry and angry, and then say, enough is enough... You have the strength to do it, and it sounds as if you have the will.. You have came here looking for answers and enlightenment. It's the beginning.. You, must take care of you.. regardless of what others might agree or disagree with.. You live with the pain, daily.. It is untimately your decision. If they agree and support you, good.. If they don't, it's because they fear the unknown and how it will effect your life, but right now, they can't really equate the pain either, if they aren't living with it.. Tell them, it is their right to disagree, but that you hope they will support you in your what ever decision you make, not hinder you..

I dealt with a lot of anger, post accident, and I didn't even know I was carrying it on my shoulders until my hubby informed me, that I was a huge ball of anger. I realized, I was letting the accident take away from my husband and my father, and vowed that day, not to give it the power to take another minute from me. I gave my left foot, and that was all the accident was claiming from that day forward.

I do know this...

If I were given the chance to have my real foot back, I wouldn't do it... I read the reports, all of them, and nothing on this earth will of ever made as it was prior to the accident. I also know, that with the loss of my foot, came greater understanding, believing and some AWESOME friends.. They have more strength, guts, soul, and compassion than any able bodied person I know. I won't give up the pass eight years of my life...

I will admit, I have my days were things aren't the easiest. As Neal said, it's just an off day..the good days, far out-weigh the bad. For me anyway..

No one can tell you what the right decision is for you... They can only tell you how they feel, and you must realize, it is based on what they have lived and learned..

We here are full of thoughts and information, hints and tips.. so use us as a sounding board... for what ever decision you will make.. maybe we can enlighten you, maybe not.. but I'll bet some one will have a tidbit or tip about something.... :smile:

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Hi there and welcome to the site.

My mum sent you a reply earlier (Anne.Brooke) from a non-amputees point but I wanted to share my experience from an amputees point of view.

I joined this forum about 4 years ago now for exactly the same reason as you did I was considering amputation and needed advice. My story is similar to yours, like you i had an accident that was completely my fault but it was just that AN ACCIDENT. The doctors fought for 4 years to save my leg but after 46 operations and a whole lot of morphine later against my families wishes I opted for an above knee amputation. This was not a decision I made lightly and it was an even harder one because not only was I trying to convince myself it was the right thing to do but I was also trying to convince the doctors and my family. Once the doctors finally agreed things moved quickly. I was still unsure at the point I was wheeled down to theatre but when I was with it enough the next day I knew things were on the up. Two days later I definately knew I had done the right thing as I was pain free for the first time in 4 years.

The road to recovery was not always an easy one, there was good days and bad days but as time has gone on the bad days are few and far between and even my bad days now would've been classed as a good day 4 years ago. I am now drug free, working full time, driving and just catching up on my lost years.

The people on here are a wealth of knowledge and have offered nothing but advice and support for not only me but my family as well. You say your family do not want you to have an amputation the same as mine didn't but may I suggest you get them to look on here. Amputation for me was the loss of my leg but the beginning of my life.

You have to decide what is right for you but if I can be any more help please feel free to contact me.

Good luck and take care

Vicki

xx

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Hi, Jenn, and welcome...it's a tough decision that you're facing, and you've gotten a lot of good advice so far. As opposed to Neal, who made his decision to amputate early on, and Vicki, who went through so many attempts to save her leg, I'm somewhere in the middle. I broke my left foot in an incredibly stupid and silly accident...thought it would be a simple thing for the doctors to sort out...and then went through a year of repeated hospitalizations and failed surgeries, while I became less and less mobile and suffered from more and more pain. Eventually, my doctors went from "we'll just try again" to "there's still a chance we can repair this, but it's a slim chance and you might want to start thinking about the possibility of amputation." It took me less than a day to say "take the foot," and it was that act that brought my life back.

I had a really long recovery time. I was older (50), very out of shape at that point, and I'd been seriously ill with repeated severe infections. In fact, before they COULD take my foot, they had to get me stable enough to survive the surgery. I "checked out" of this world twice, briefly, while waiting for my amputation.

When I awoke after the surgery, I was amazed at how much better I felt simply being rid of that mass of diseased tissue and shattered bone. I was NOT back at work in four weeks, though...it was closer to five months of very hard work to get myself back together, and even then I was not back to my usual self. However, I WAS no longer in pain, and my work at getting stronger was actually giving me results!

By the end of my first year as an amputee, I was feeling good...and I've continued to improve ever since. Today, I have a life that's very, very close to what I had before my foot broke. And I've learned a lot about myself, and I've made some amazing friends who know what determination really is. Like Higgy, if I could have my foot back, I'm not at all sure I'd take it. Not only would it never be as strong as the prosthesis that gets me around now, I would have missed out on a tremendous amount of self-growth and some wonderful experiences.

Think about this decision carefully...there is no "do-over" for amputation. But when you've decided, don't be afraid to commit to that decision...whatever it may be.

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Thank you all for the wonderful responses. When people look at me I look very healthy and they dont understand why I am in so much pain. I am only 26. When my accident happened I was working 10 hour shifts on my feet, so when I broke my foot nothing changed expect now I had to work on crutches. I was on cructhes for a good six months and then the doctor okay me to walk. I went through thearpy and that didn't help much. I could walk but the amount of pain I was in was horrible. I continued to go back to the doctor looking for answers and he basically said there is nothing more we can do except have more surgeries and see what the outcome is. I was highly upset because as more timed passed the less mobile I was becoming. I have learned to accept my pain, but I do rely on medication to get me through a day. My medicine has strong side effects so I cant stand taking them. My whole goal is to become the healthy person I was before all this. I have reached out to other amputees before coming to this forum. I have emailed and talked to a few people on the phone. The future outcome scares me the most. I am a college graduate and I want to be a productive person, not one who has to stay in bed all day. I do work full time but now I have a desk job that has helped my pain alot, and with that job came a huge pay cut. Like I stated before I am still with the same company because of my health coverage. I am afraid to swicth jobs, because I worry they wont cover me because what I have is consider pre existing.

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Hi Jenn, firstly constantly blaming yourself isnt a great place to be, whats done is done, my recollection of my accident is somewhat vague which to be honest is worse wondering who was at fault!!

My amputation was decided almost for me by the condition of what was left of the bones in my foot, the very next morning after my accident I was asked to consider an amputation, we persevered for one week and after a week of almost constant pain relief, decided there was only one way to go. After some slow recovery and 3 years down the line you wouldnt know any different unless you ask me to run. Now on no meds what so ever.

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Jenn

It's been one year this week since my amputation due to a accident at my work. You will find that life goes on, it takes time. Keep asking for all your questions here, as its a great source of info and support.

Jim

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Hi Jenn

I agree with what every one has said on here, but just let me say

It has got nothing to do with friends, loved ones, or even family, its your choice, now it very clear the foot is useless and causing you a lot of pain so do the right thing and get it cut off and start living pain free and get on with your life. & you will most likely find once the pain has gone and you start getting on with your life you learn to forgive yourself.

Sorry for being a bit blunt,

take care. Mick

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Hi Jenn

So sorry that you are feeling so sad, I would just like to say please dont be so hard on yourself regarding the accident. An accident is exactly that and could happen to anyone of us. So put it behind you and keep looking to the future. As regards pain, none of your family or friends know what that is like for you. My pain at the time was horrendous and I wanted out. But the legs came off and the pain vanished and that could happen for you. No pain means a clear head and you can do anything with a clear head. Lifes just a bit different thats all.

Hope this helps and keep thinking positive thoughts Sue

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Hi Jenn

So sorry that you are feeling so sad, I would just like to say please dont be so hard on yourself regarding the accident. An accident is exactly that and could happen to anyone of us. So put it behind you and keep looking to the future. As regards pain, none of your family or friends know what that is like for you. My pain at the time was horrendous and I wanted out. But the legs came off and the pain vanished and that could happen for you. No pain means a clear head and you can do anything with a clear head. Lifes just a bit different thats all.

Hope this helps and keep thinking positive thoughts Sue

You said it perfectly. I dont have a clear head. I have a mind that is weighed by my daily struggles. I am trying to see the end of the tunnel but its hard because all the distractions.

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Mick,

Your right it has nothing to do with the people around. It has everything to do with me, and I am not sure why their opinion of my situation matters so much. :mellow:

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Their opinion matters to you because you love them, as I am sure that they love you. As I said to you, I begged my daughter not to go through with the amputation, but it wasn't long before I realised that she was right and I was wrong. I didn't have to experience her pain, just as your friends and family don't have to experience yours. At the end of the day the choice has to be yours and yours alone. Just by them visiting this forum might help them to accept your choice. It certainly helped me.

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Thank you Anne ,

you have just highlighted what i was trying to get across, in a much better way than i ever could :rolleyes: even admitting that you didnt want vicki to have an amputation Despite the fact she wanted to end the pain and get on with her life.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

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Hi Jenn,

I really feel for you. I was in a similar situation but my problems with my foot were because of illness. In a nutshell I had a partial foot amputation at the time of the illness and I struggled with trying to walk - I spent 4 months in a wheelchair and 14 months on crutches. I could drive and get around but everything was a struggle and I had one infection after another. I ended up back in hospital with my latest infection and a surgeon came to review me. He told me he felt that at this stage a below knee amputation was the best option. He wasn't the first one to say so. The first time that was suggested to me was about 9 months ago and I freaked out. I felt like sticking my fingers in my ears to shut out the world and the reality that I felt was closing in on me. I ignored it and reacted almost violently any time any medical expert suggested it. But the seed had been sown and the idea started to grow that maybe this wasn't the end of the world but rather the beginning of a better life for me. So I kept thinking about it and to cut a long story short I had the surgery last Thursday. It's such a relief and I'm at peace with it I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I'm chomping at the bit to heal and get on with the next stage i.e. fitting a new leg.

I know exactly how you're feeling now - confused, angry and most likely scared and unsure. You probably want someone who knows everything to just step in and take over and do what's right for you. The one thing I heard again and again on this forum is that you'll know when you're ready for it.

Don't listen to your family telling you not to do it. Ask them to support how YOU feel and what YOU eventually decide to do - whether that's to go on living in pain or consider the alternative.

Make a list of pros and cons. Talk to people who KNOW what they're talking about i.e. your doctor, rehab consultants, physiotherapist and prosthetist. Visit the rehab hospital. Ask questions. Ask to meet other elective amputees. Take advice from them not from your family or friends. They are not objective and with respect haven't a clue what you're going through. People who work in this area or have experienced amputation are much better informed and able to help to guide you at this difficult time.

Without exception every person I've met/spoken to who has elected to have this surgery has only expressed one regret - that they didn't do it sooner and even though I'm only at the early stages having had the operation only a few days ago I can now add my voice to theirs. I have no pain now, my ulcers will no longer plague me with infections and very soon I'll be putting my crutches in the attic.

Someone once said to me at the early stages of rehab following my first amputation that you can't control what life throws at you - you can only control how you react to it. It was the best advice I ever got and I've decided that I'm going to live my life according to that motto from now on. It's really help me to cope. Illness happens, accidents happen and bad things happen to good people every day. It's a cliche I know but that's life. We're all destined to face adversity sooner or later - whether in our own life or losing someone close to us and the impact that may have.

My advice to you right now is to just take each day as it comes. Ask your family for their support rather than opinions because they are not objective in this case as they're emotionally involved. Weigh up the pros and cons and soon the answer will be obvious to you. You'll find a lot of support here - I did and it helped me arrive at my decision. In the end though three things made up my mind for me - seeing Heather on 'Dancing on Ice' and knowing that she gets out and can ski, rollerblade, hike, etc. etc. seeing how well other below knee amputees are doing and can walk without limps and get on with their lives and finally finding a surgeon I had faith in. I liked and trusted him from the second I met him and I believed him when he told me this was the best option.

I wish you luck,

Tara

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This might be a stupid question but how do you come to the conclusion that the living hell you live from the pain is going to be better from an amp? Its a chance that you have to take, but I am so scared to face my family and my future. All I want in life is to be able to walk without pain again and not take the medications.

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Nothing is 100% certain, Jenn...but that goes for anything, not just the possibilities from an amputation. It's true that some people have problems with phantom pains following an amp...but in the vast majority of cases, the phantoms are occasional and/or fade with time. I've had next to no pain for over five years now, after being in misery for years before that. Being able to walk with friends again is one of the joys of my life.

Since you are considering an elective amputation, there are a lot of things you can do to help prevent future pains...getting yourself into a "pain-free" state prior to the surgery via an epidural is supposed to be one of the most useful actions you can take. I didn't do that one, specifically, but I had an epidural for the exploratory surgery on my foot a few days ahead of time, I was kept on major pain meds for several days prior to my amp, and continued with the "heavy-duty" stuff for another day or two following the surgery. When everything wore off, I was amazed at how good the residual limb felt!

I can tell you that my own family and friends did NOT understand why I was so relieved to be rid of my left foot and ankle. They didn't try to talk me out of my decision, but they also didn't exactly "support" it either. It was more like, "well...it sounds like you've made a decision and I hope it works for you." It took them seeing me after the surgery -- without the mask of pain clouding my face -- before they began to understand that the amputation was the solution to a long-standing problem. I'm still not sure that my parents would have understood my decision -- I was actually kind of relieved that they had both passed on -- but I'd like to think that they would have seen the improvement in my life and accepted it in time. Once your own family and friends see that you've made a decision, one way or the other, I think that they'll eventually come around to realize that you are the one who knows your body best. It will also make a difference to them once you're up and walking with a prosthetic...the simple appearance of "normal life" does a LOT to reassure folks.

If you are in so much pain that your mobility is limited now, and you've considered all the other possible solutions, there are worse things in the world than losing a painful and crippling part of yourself. In reality, you lost that leg (or at least its function) a long time ago.

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This might be a stupid question but how do you come to the conclusion that the living hell you live from the pain is going to be better from an amp? Its a chance that you have to take, but I am so scared to face my family and my future. All I want in life is to be able to walk without pain again and not take the medications.

My amputation had to be, gangrene had set in. Afterward, the pain I'd had for 2 yrs was gone, gone, gone. If the thing that is painful is gone, there should be no more pain. Why are you so scared to face your family? Being afraid to face the future, I get. But your family? They love you for who you are not what body parts you have or don't have. They will be your soft place to fall, so to speak. You have to do what's right for you. Everything else will fall into place. There are NO guarantees in life you just have to make the decision you believe is in your best interest. My husband always says, "you can't win if you ain't in". So whatever your decision, be "in" and WIN.

I wish you all the best.

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While I may not be very experienced on this subject I am going through a similar situation. My mom was easy to talk to and understands the desire to just want to end the pain and skip all the surgeries. My dad however is more of the keep it as long as possible. I have found that the more confident and sure of your decision you are the more at ease and accepting they will be. If you are nervous and upset they read it and feed off it.

I know it's one more thing that we have to be strong for but it does make things go smoother.

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There's no such thing as a stupid question! If you can't ask it here where can you ask??

You've mentioned pain and living hell... Not a good place to be in my opinion.

We talk a lot about emotions here but it's worth pointing out to you that the below knee amputation is by far the most common type, therefore the one with which the medics and support staff have the most experience and the highest success rate. There are probably thousands of people if not hundreds of thousands around the world who've had this procedure and are living full productive lives. They're working, getting married, having families and in a nutshell doing all the things able bodied people do and often making more of their lives having been through this than some lazy couch potato who takes his/her mobility for granted.

Yes it is a leap of faith but as I said your medical team know what they're talking about because of all those who've gone before you so you're jumping into safe arms if you do decide to go ahead and they wouldn't be recommending it if they didn't feel it was best for you.

Remember this is your choice and there's no time limit so you can take all the time you need to think about this before you decide if pain and living hell trumps surgery. You may need to take a giant step back by opting for surgery but think of the possibilities it offers. They manage the pain very well - I've had no discomfort at all and I'm kept going by the knowledge that in a few short weeks I'll be getting my new leg.

You have to be 110% certain before committing to this course of action. You've taken the first step in that you're considering it and asking questions and honestly, you'll know if and when you're ready to change the direction your life is going in...

I hope this forum is helping you and I wish you well.

T

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as an elective amp myself I can understand where you are mentally and emotionally right now, its a difficult place to be. However there has been lots of great advice in this thread. When I first joined this forum I had already gone ahead with my amp and was really ok with things, I had what I thought was the normal swing of emotions and doubts. I stubmled accross a thread on here that summed it all up for us elective amps, it truely helped me completley accept my decision and I have never looked back with any doubt: it was posted by Judy Berna and is titled You've Already Lost it. It is an absolute gem of pure realism and hit home for me, maybe it to can put things into perspective for you. read below

There have been several times in the past year, my first year as an amputee, that I have been called on to speak with future amputees. It is a common practice for current amputees to give advice and counsel to future ones. It is an experience in life that can only be fully understood once it is lived first hand. There is a category of amputee that is seldom recognized. I call them elective amputees. They are people who have injuries that don’t heal, infections that won’t clear up. A doctor finally tells them to think about amputating the limb. Because I chose my own amputation, my prosthetist calls me in, to talk to these people. It is very hard to wake up from a car accident with a missing limb. It is a different kind of terrible to make the decision yourself, having the option to go on living with a non-working foot or to have a doctor cut it off. These soon-to-be amputees have a lot of the same questions I had before my surgery. They want to know about pain - surgery and phantom. They want to know about the hardware, how an artificial leg really feels on your body. Mostly they want to know about quality of life. They ask specific questions, usually starting with, “will I still be able to…?”

My gut answer is that quality of life depends on you. If you are patient with healing time after the surgery, and are willing to work hard at the gym once you have your new leg, you can reach just about any goal you desire. There are amputees out there who have climbed mountains, run in marathons, swam with dolphins; you name it, they’ve done it. Occasionally someone will ask about an activity that, logistically, might be pretty hard for the average amputee.

A few weeks ago I met with a guy who asked if he could still water ski. Technically, yes. Realistically, he might need to put that hobby on the shelf. Sure, the technology is out there, to make a leg that could withstand the logistics of water skiing. But unless he is a die-hard skier, the cost and training involved will probably keep him from pursuing it. This is when I throw in the big “but…”

This is the point of our talk when I remind them of an important fact. Anything they lose from being an amputee, they probably already lost. The person with the luxury of deciding on amputation or not has usually spent a lot of time on crutches already. They have been in and out of hospitals, in and out of braces and casts. My water skiing friend lost that sport at the point of his non-healing injury. He hasn’t been able to participate in that activity for the nine years he has hobbled around on crutches. Amputation is not the reason he will probably never water ski again, his injury was.

If he can see it that way, and realize that his surgery will give him more than it will take, only then can he can see it for what it is, a chance to start again. Amputation is the answer, not the problem.

I am also asked about surgery day, how it feels to hobble into a hospital, lay down on the bed, and sign away a body part. I remind them again, they’ve already lost it. They have to lay on that surgery bed and remind themselves that what they will lose by waking up without this limb has already been lost. The freedom of mobility, already lost. The sense of feeling able bodied, already lost. The ability to run around the yard with kids or grandkids, already lost. But there is a good chance they will gain a lot more than they lose on surgery day. They will gain hope and opportunity. If they are willing to reach for it, they can feel able bodied again, with a high tech leg. If they want it bad enough, the ball is finally in their court; to jump in and play the game again is totally up to them.

People called me things like brave and strong after I decided to have my amputation. It was a risk; there is no doubt about it. But by keeping that leg that didn’t work I knew my future would definitely be a life of immobility. With a prosthetic leg there was a good chance things could improve. I preferred ‘good chance’ to definite immobility. It did take guts, it took making a hard choice, but I am no hero.

The hero is the person who lives with a life altering disability, and does it with grace. The blind woman you see at the library, devouring every Braille book she can get her hands on. The child who still smiles, while trapped in a body twisted by cerebral palsy. The deaf man who still finds a way to enjoy music. These are my heroes.

I just have a leg that snaps on in the morning. Most of my days are spent like every other two-legged person I know. Besides the occasional ‘bad leg’ days, when I need an adjustment of some kind, I don’t miss out on much in life.

As an amputee I have found a life of victory. I don’t run marathons or climb mountains but I have found success in my own way. I never think of my amputation as having lost anything. In my mind it was purely a gain.

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That was awesome.

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