Life after foot amputation
Having an amputation can have a devastating effect on the lives of diabetics. Eighty five percent of all diabetics who get an amputation, had a foot ulcer first. Every 30 seconds a leg is amputated due to diabetes, adding up to one million amputations worldwide every year. Fifty percent of persons having an amputation will die within five years. This is more than persons with prostate and breast cancer. Many persons who have an amputation are often sad and depressed and may give up on life because they will never likely get back to their pre-amputation lifestyle — job, church, driving and other activities. Amputations are also very costly in terms of the procedure, the rehabilitation and prosthesis, which can be a heavy burden on the amputee and family.
Before the procedure
Once you and your doctor have decided that there is no other treatment option, the amputation is planned. Many diagnostic tests may be done such as, x-rays to look at the bones, an MRI or an angiogram to check the blood flow in the leg. Furthermore, you will need to be seen by a surgeon. You may be given more medications that can help with your blood flow or to treat any infection that may be present. Amputation is usually performed in the hospital, where you will stay for a few days or even weeks.
After the procedure
The end of your leg or foot is called a stump and will have a dressing and bandage that will remain on until the wound heals. Pain is common after an amputation. You may have pain for the first few days after surgery and will get medicines to relieve it if you need them. Pain and feeling in the leg that is no longer there is called “phantom limb pain/sensations” and is also a common experience. This will go away after a while once the person accepts the amputation.
Rehabilitation after the amputation is vital and comprehensive. Before leaving the hospital, you will begin your rehabilitation by learning how to use a wheelchair or a walker to get around, in addition to stretching and strengthening your arm and leg muscles to make them stronger. You will start moving around in the bed and onto the chair in your hospital room. Your joints will be kept mobile by sitting or laying in different positions to keep them from becoming stiff and to control swelling in the area around your amputation stump. Education of patients and their families is aimed at caring for the stump and preventing complications. The rehabilitation process is geared toward helping the amputee cope with limb loss, and prepare them for a prosthesis (false leg), and life after the amputation.
Your recovery and ability to function after an amputation depends on many things and could actually be the reason for the amputation in the first place. Examples of factors which may have caused the amputation include: diabetes, poor blood flow and also your age. Having and maintaining a positive attitude plays a vital role in determining how well you cope after an amputation. It is best to believe life is not over because a part of your body was amputated.
Depression after an amputation is common with 36 percent of persons experiencing it. This is because the loss of a body part leads to a change in one’s appearance, functioning capabilities, sudden disability and self-esteem. Depression usually resolves after a while with counseling, education, good family support, and involvement in rehabilitation. Sometimes anti-depressant medications can also be used for a short time.
Amputation is a tremendous life-changing event and family support is also very important in the healing process. Reach out to friends and loved ones who will be able to help you along, encourage you, give you a shoulder to cry on, and maybe even help hold you up as you learn to walk again. You can also seek out a support group or other persons who have experienced an amputation.
A lower extremity amputation is a traumatic and life-changing event. As a diabetic you should do all in your power to prevent an amputation. However, God forbid that you have to have an amputation, realize it is not the end of your life and that you can survive and have a full life after an amputation. Remember, having one amputation increases your chances of getting another amputation either on the same foot or the other foot. This makes it even more important to continue seeing the podiatrist to have regular checkups to prevent more ulcers and amputations.
- For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.apma.org. To see a podiatrist visit Bahamas Foot Centre on Rosetta Street, telephone 325-2996, or Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Albury Lane, telephone 394-5820, or Lucayan Medical Centre on East Sunrise Highway, Freeport, Grand Bahama, telephone 373-7400.