It was a typical spring Sunday afternoon in April of 2016. Tammy woke up after taking a nap, but she instantly knew something did not feel quite right. Her feet and legs felt like they were tingling and had that annoying "pins and needles" sensation. She thought it would just go away eventually, but after a few hours the pain had gotten so intense, she couldn't take it any more. She decided it was time to go to the ER and get checked out.
When the doctors examined her they found out that an infection had taken hold and caused several blood clots to form. Doctors did their best to break up the clots, and they were successful on Tammy's left foot. Unfortunately, they were unable to break up the large clots that had formed in her right leg.
Tammy was given a choice. She could either go through amputation surgery and lose her right leg above her knee or in less than 2 days, lose her kidneys and possibly still have to go through amputation.
For Tammy, the answer was obvious. While she was in the process of healing from her amputation surgery, doctors feared that she may have had a stroke and she had to be intubated and transferred to another hospital for observation.
Tammy found herself dealing not only with the physical challenges of being a new amputee and having to learn how to do literally almost everything while still healing from her harrowing ordeal.
She also dealt with the emotional impact of going through amputation as well, struggling
with depression and feeling like she was now different than everyone else. It was not easy. But her 25 years of experience as a preschool teacher came in handy. She used her problem solving skills and applied them to her new life. This was a new challenge, and she decided to make the best of it!
Encouragement and support came from some of the most unexpected places, both from friends and senior citizens she came into contact with. They all told her that she was an inspiration to them and encouraged her not to give up. Tammy took their words to heart and made it her mission to show people she was going to be ok and that she could do more than anyone thought!
The biggest lesson that Tammy learned along her journey was to have courage. It took a lot of courage to face each hurdle and not give up, but Tammy never lost sight of her goal.
"If I can show someone else what is possible and inspire others to believe in themselves, that is what I want to do. I want to show them that I am normal! Amputees can do all kinds of things. I can hold a job. I can do lots of things. Yes, what happened to me was heartbreaking, but I want to show people 'Hey, I'm ok!'"
Tammy helps to educate her community and answers any questions people throw her way. However, one of the funniest questions she ever was asked was asked by a little child. They looked at Tammy's residual limb and asked, "Will you grow another leg???" Tammy still chuckles about that to this day.
"I love working with Optimus! They treat you like a person and you all cared about me as a person! I remember you all took your time to let me see, touch, and explore all kinds of different prosthetic parts and options and were so patient with me."
We look forward to continuing to work with Tammy for many years to come. And we are all so proud and honored that we get to be part of this amazing journey with her.