For some, the journey of limb loss comes on suddenly and without warning; for others, it is a slow progression toward a difficult decision. No matter how much time you are given, and no matter how much you may think you are prepared, the decision to have your limb amputated is not an easy decision to make.
18 years ago Connie was out in her yard when she tripped over an exposed tree root and hurt herself. At first, she dismissed her injury as just a sprain. No big deal. However, when it didn't seem to get any better, Connie decided it was time to go to the doctor. That is where her journey began. She learned that she had not sprained anything, but rather that she had fractured a bone in her foot. After months of complications, medications, and surgeries trying to repair the damage to her foot, doctors began to suspect that there may be an underlying problem keeping Connie from healing. It was then that Connie learned that she had Charcot Foot. Charcot Foot is a progressive condition that causes the bones and joints in her foot to weaken and fracture and can cause severe joint deformity. This condition is further complicated because it is accompanied by neuropathy, or the decreased ability of the nerves (specifically in the foot in Connie's case) to sense things like pain, temperature, or detect trauma (like a fracture).
Connie knew that she was in for a fight, but she wanted to hold on for as long as she could before going through amputation. Maintaining her independence and staying active for as long as possible was very important to Connie. She continued working for as long as she possibly could as a factory inspector which required her to wear steel-toe shoes and walk around all day on hard concrete floors. Eventually, this became impossible as it led to further fractures and ulcers that she could no longer feel or detect caused by her work shoes. For Connie, this was a hard reality to face. However, she could no longer deny that her body was beginning to succumb to the limitations of her condition.
For a while, Connie seemed trapped in the cycle of experiencing a fracture, trying to get it to heal, having it heal a bit, and then having the fracture or some other part of her foot break down again. It was frustrating to say the least. Then, one day while Connie was healing from yet another round of fractures and wounds, severe infection set in. Connie didn't know it at the time because the neuropathy blocked out any pain or any type warning signal. Unfortunately by the time that Connie realized what was happening, it was too late. The infection has spread to the bones of her feet.
To this day, talking about that moment where she had to face the emotional decision to have her leg amputated is still difficult for Connie. She admits, even though she knew it was coming, she was not prepared to hear that she would not only loose her foot, but she would also loose part of her lower leg as well. Fears rushed through her mind. "I'll never be the same again. I don't like people staring at me, and now people will stare at me." She feared that any hope of getting back to an active lifestyle would also be gone.
Every person's journey is different. Connie admits that she is a fighter, and the fears that she battled definitely played a role in why she chose to have surgery when she did. Looking back, Connie would offer this word of encouragement to others who may be in the same situation she was in not so long ago: "If you want any of your life back, you have got to do this because you will never be 'whole' again if you don't."
What gave Connie strength during her recovery process was holding on to hope and her faith. Connie also surrounded herself with people in her life that supported her, and one of her biggest supporters was her boyfriend, Bill. Bill was there to help motivate and encourage her as well as to push her to not give up. Connie also credited her visits with Tim from Optimus while she was in the hospital as being a source of inspiration. "He visited me in the hospital many times and reminded me that this [amputation] doesn't change me, doesn't change who I am." Connie realized during Tim's visits that amputation is not an ending; rather, it is just the beginning of a new and different chapter. That level of care and support continued even after Connie went home from the hospital and throughout her various appointments in the office. "Everyone here [at Optimus] has been so good and so kind."
Now, after receiving her prosthesis, Connie has a new lease on life and new goals to focus on. "I want to live life again normally! This [prosthesis] is the only way I am going to get that normalcy. I am a very active person by nature, so not to be active is like not being fully alive for me. My prosthesis also gives me my dignity and independence back." Connie is looking forward to being able to go back to camping and enjoying the outdoors again. We are so happy for Connie and are so honored to work with her. She has had quite the journey to get to where she is today, and we look forward to continuing that journey with her in the days to come!
Grace Norman WINS in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands - A lost suitcase and cold, rainy conditions couldn't dampen Cedarville University triathlete Grace Norman's spirits, as she prepares for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, set for early Friday, Sept. 16 on the streets of Rotterdam.
Norman arrived in Rotterdam on Tuesday, but the suitcase that had her team uniform is believed to be somewhere in New Delhi, India. But a new uniform made it out to The Netherlands in time.
"God works in many ways, and this time it was through FedEx!" Robin Norman, Grace's mom, said via email. According to Robin, the company that makes the Team USA triathlon suits - Roka - prepared a specially made suit for Grace on Tuesday and it arrived in The Netherlands on Wednesday.
"As for the suitcase; it is still on its own tour!" Robin Norman said.
On Thursday, competitors braved 53-degree weather and cold rain as they familiarized themselves with the running, swimming and bicycling courses. Despite the rain, which is forecast for Friday's race as well, the athletes swam in the frigid waters, and battled gale-force winds and slippery wet cobblestone streets.
Several paratriathlon athletes from other teams and Team USA donated items for Norman to use in the race, including a prosthetic sock for her running foot, and a pair of running shoes that happened to be Grace's size.
The International Triathlon Union-sanctioned event will have three full days of racing, with Grace's women's paratriathlon event scheduled as the very first race on Friday, Sept. 15.
According to Robin Norman, "Many of the Netherlands high-level government officials, and even the royal family for the Netherlands, plan to be present tomorrow morning for the opening event."
There appears to be a 6-hour time difference from Rotterdam, The Netherlands to Greene County, Ohio. With that in mind, the women's elite paratriathlon championship is scheduled to start at 3 a.m. Eastern time.
According to the ITU World Triathlon Series website, the events can be seen online at triathlonlive.tv as well as on the NBC Olympic television channel.
Photos and information courtesy Robin Norman, as well as the International Triathlon Union. Story written by John Bombatch.
Therapy Quick Tips
Activities for Prosthetic Training
The goal of "Quick Tips" is to provide helpful information and be a resource for those individuals helping patients fit with prosthesis learn to use them correctly in order to enjoy a better quality of life as an amputee.
This month's issue of Jim's corner we are going to look at how to teach a new amputee patient how to make a turn. Turning can be very frustrating, frightening and difficult for a new prosthetic patient. Also, if the new patient doesn't have a good ability to turn this will greatly increase the odds of the patient falling.
To teach a new patient how to turn I will educate them that when they are walking forward they are facing 12:00.
When turning to the right, step to 2:00, and this will become a new 12:00. Then take a step again to 2:00 and it becomes a new 12:00, take a step to 2:00 etc. Right turn:
When turning to the left, step to 10:00, and this will become a new 12:00. Then take a step again to 10:00 and it becomes a new 12:00, take a step to 10:00 etc. Left turn:
Figure "8" Walk with Cones or Cups
Once the patient has the concept as above we can then progress the patient to a drill that is working on performing a right turn and a left turn. So when performing the figure 8 drill, one turn will be with the prosthesis on the inside and the sound limb on the outside. The other turn will be with the prosthesis on the outside and the sound limb on the inside. The patient will start walking in a forward direction and will walk around 2 cones/cups/poles in the figure of 8 pattern.
Andrea Kinsinger, PT
Andrea Kinsinger has been a licensed Physical Therapist since 1986. Andrea has worked with lower extremity amputee patients throughout her career. She enjoys offering her expertise, advice, and support throughout the patient's rehabilitation.
Feel free to contact Andrea if she can assist you in any way at:
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