Gene Smith with Laura Klagstad, CPO
When did your amputation occur?
My above knee amputation was performed on September 30, 2017. I had struggled with constant
after suffering a traumatic accident 37 years ago.
Are there any details that led up surgery?
I had been struggling off and on with osteomyelitis for 37 years year. That, combined with
self-imposed isolation and depression ultimately led to the amputation.
Tell me how you were first introduced to Optimus Prosthetics.
What was your first impression?
I was visited by Amy Yates, CPO and Patient Advocate, when I was in the hospital after my amputation. She was extremely kind and gave me encouragement and hope when I needed it the most.
What has been the best/worst thing about being an amputee?
The best thing about becoming an amputee is that I no longer have to worry about the constant negative effects that my chronic osteomyelitis has had on my body for the past 37 years. The most difficult thing about being an amputee is that many people I've known for a long time now treat me differently. I want people to know that I am still the same person I was before the amputation. I have different challenges and it might take me a little longer to do something, but I will get through them.
Are there any opportunities that have presented to you since becoming an amputee?
When I was recovering at the skilled nursing facility, I had a chance to talk to many other patients and try to lift their spirits. I never realized how depressing these places can be for a great number of people. It made me aware of how lucky I was. I also got to meet a lot of great people, from the PT and OT staff at the SNF, to the folks at Optimus Prosthetics.
If you had one suggestion you could offer about the prosthetic process, being an amputee, and/or the surgery, what would it be?
Remember that the road can be long and there may be low times, but there will also be many victories. It is okay to feel as though you are failing, because whatever is getting in your way, you will eventually get past. When the doctor tells you that he feels you need an amputation, take your time to process the information and get a second opinion if you think it's necessary. Once you feel okay about the amputation, start getting on with your life and know that this procedure is going to improve your life.
What do you wish other people knew or understood about being an amputee?
That it can be tough and even normal activities and simple tasks can be very hard to complete because you can no longer do them in a simple and "normal" way.
What would you tell someone who is pending an amputation?
If you feel the need, get help from a healthcare professional; especially if it involves your mental well being. Don't be afraid to lean on your friends and family. You will find them to be more understanding and caring than you could ever imagine. Listen to your doctors and therapists - they know what they are talking about.
What advice would you give to an amputee that might be struggling?
I would encourage fellow amputees to talk to their healthcare professionals. They are not going to tell them anything that they haven't heard before. They can give you direction on where to go and seek guidance. If all else fails, setup a peer visit with a fellow amputee like me or the patient advocates. Aimee Eckert and Amy Yates at Optimus Prosthetics are two very inspirational human beings.
What has Optimus Prosthetics meant to you? How would you describe your experience with Optimus Prosthetics?
So much, that it is hard to put into words - but I'll give it a try. Sam at the front desk, with her welcoming smile and great attitude has always made me feel like I made the right decision coming to Optimus. Laura, with her "can overcome any obstacle" frame of mind and her knowledge and skill let me know that I couldn't be in better hands. The rest of the staff, from Glenn to Amanda to Aimee and Amy, have made me so comfortable that I knew I was on the road to success.