Emilee Lester:  Getting Back on My Feet Again
Written by:  Emilee Lester
On May 11, 2017, my friend and I were driving back to Tiffinfor our graduation weekend. We were driving on a road we were not familiar with due to our typical route being closed. All of the sudden while driving, there was something in the middle of the road, and I had maybe 5 seconds to decide to swerve to avoid the object or hit the object head on. I decided to swerve and upon trying to regain control, we hit another car. It was after we arrived at the hospital, realized that I had multiple open compound fractures and they took plenty of x-rays, that they told us they could amputate my foot then or do an external fixator on my ankle. We decided on the fixator, and then we were transferred to OSU Wexner Medical Center. They took more x-rays, did an exploratory surgery on my ankle to see what was going on in my ankle. After this surgery, they also decided we could do reconstructive surgery, which would be 10-12 more surgeries and might not work, or we could do amputation, which would allow me to move on with my life faster. They also presented me with research about the quality of life between people that went with reconstructive surgery and people that went with amputation.
Dealing with the process of deciding to amputate my foot was very hard. I am 22 years old and I never thought that I would have to decide to lose my foot. But amputation made more sense than reconstructive surgery because it would allow me to get back to my regular life faster. There were plenty of tears from the moment I decided to amputate my foot through surgery. We all knew that it was the best decision, but it was still a hard decision to come to terms with. After surgery, I already knew that I was in much less pain than I was before surgery.

Throughout this entire process, it really holds true that you need to be polite to the people who are taking care of you. Because when you are polite to your nursing staff, it makes your stay more enjoyable and it can make their day better. I have also learned that you just have to let your body heal itself. Along with needing the amputation, I broke both my tibia and fibula near the ankle joint in my left ankle and broke my collarbone. I had metal plates put in my left ankle and collarbone. After 
my ankle surgery, I was non-weight bearing for six weeks following surgery. That was the hardest six weeks because I am a very active person, and I do NOT like to sit still for very long. Not being able to just walk wherever I wanted or need to forced me to learn patience. I was relying on people a lot more, and I learned to let my body heal like it is supposed to. While I have had many accomplishments, I would have to say that my biggest ones include: standing up for the first time after waiting six weeks to heal, starting physical therapy, receiving my leg [prosthesis], and starting walking with no assistance after a week. Walking around Hilton Head, SC and walking up to my brother at his Marine Corps boot camp family day and graduation was my main goal, and I accomplished that. My most recent accomplishment was "graduating" from physical therapy on September 29th.

Getting my prosthesis meant that I could start walking with two feet again after three long months. It meant that I was able to start doing things for myself again and not always have to rely on someone else to go get things for me. It meant that I could start feeling like a normal person again after losing my foot. I could "blend in" with people more because I was no longer in a wheelchair or walking with a walker. This is very important to me because I could just get out of the car and go walk into the store. I could easily get in and out of a car and not need a wheelchair or a walker. Getting my prosthesis meant I was able to start getting back to myself before the amputation. I am now able to do almost everything by myself and not rely on people all the time.

While keeping a positive attitude is not easy, I feel that it is somewhat necessary. If you are constantly down about your situation, then it is going to make your recovery process even harder. I feel that I am a pretty positive person to begin with, so having a positive attitude just comes naturally to me. Being positive also makes going through recovery easier. Pushing myself through therapy helped me be positive because I could see the differences that therapy was making, and I knew that I wanted to keep going forward and be able to move on with my life. Knowing that I was going to be able to do almost anything I wanted helped me be positive and keep going.

Personally, I was terrified of going through with my amputation. In my head, I kept thinking that I am 22 and this was not in my plans. I definitely suggest looking at the overall picture as opposed to just looking at the situation as it currently stands. If the amputation is going to allow you to move on with your life and be able to do things pain free, then definitely choose to go that way. At the end of the day, it is your decision to make. It is a scary decision to make. There is no way around that. If doing the amputation is going to get rid of the problem that you are having, then I would suggest it. Before we did the amputation, the worst pain I was feeling was in my right foot. But after we went through surgery, that pain was gone. Also, talk to your family about what you are thinking and how you are feeling. This is not something that you should handle by yourself. Your family has to deal with the thought of the amputation as well, and they have opinions too. Talk things out with them and get their opinions. Having their support to go through with the amputation will help your decision and give you a sense of relief.

I would absolutely recommend Optimus. Granted, I hope that I never have to recommend them just because it means they are going through a similar situation that I went through, and I would not wish that on anyone, but Optimus has been with me through everything, from the time that I was in the hospital to getting my leg. They have been supportive of me through my recovery process, coming to see me while in the hospital and rehab, and supporting me with my physical therapy process. They have answered all our questions (even when I asked if I can go walk on the beach). If we had any concerns, they would ease our minds and make us feel better. I could not be any happier with the support we have gotten from Optimus. Whenever we go to an appointment, they are always super welcoming, and it truly is a very positive atmosphere. I would not choose another company to help us through this journey.


Employee Spotlight:  Laura Klagstad, CPO

Laura Klagstad, CPO
Ever since high school, Laura Klagstad (Hughey), has had an  interest in orthopedics.  She opted for an engineering under-graduate degree from Georgia Tech.  Halfway through her degree, she learned about the  MSPO (Masters of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics) program at Georgia Tech. " I realized I could combine my interest for orthopedics and engineering by pursuing a career in prosthetics and orthotics.  I did some shadowing locally at O&P clinics, then applied and was accepted to Georgia Tech.  The rest was history and here I am!"  
Laura has been working in the field of prosthetics and orthotics since 2013.  She began working at Optimus in July 2016.
"While amputees all have a commonality of limb loss, the approach to treating each amputee is individualized based on their needs and goals. I have so much fun working with my patients and finding solutions that suit their lifestyle and future goals.  I love working with amputees because it offers such a challenging, yet rewarding experience.
Everyone progresses differently after being fit with their prosthesis. For some people it takes a few days, and for others it takes a few months. The most important part to realize, however, is that it is possible.  Set small, achievable goals so you can see your progress, and use your successes as motivation to keep moving forward. Nothing brings a smile to my face more than seeing my patients walk through the doors for a follow-up!
Working in a smaller facility like Optimus Prosthetics has given me the opportunity to build relationships with my co-workers and with our patients."

Physical  Therapy Quick Tips
Activities for Prosthetic Training
Residual Limb Extension Exercise
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.
Andrea Kinsinger, PT

For this month's column we'll discuss an exercise to aid a patient in increasing their residual limb extension.  This particular exercise is a little more advanced. In past columns, I have discussed the importance of the patient's residual limb extension. Let's quickly review why residual limb extension is important:  
  • For proper prosthetic stance control by providing a pressure or a backward force on the back wall of the socket so the patient does not experience any unwanted prosthetic knee collapse.
  • For guarding against a premature stance disengagement. Premature stance disengagement is when the prosthetic knee buckles and can result in a fall.
  • To aid the patient in achieving terminal stance, to "load the toe," which is usually one of the requirements for proper stance disengagement for good prosthetic swing and toe clearance during gait.
  • For power of movement from point A to point B.
  • 10°-15° of hip extension is required for normal gait and a proper opposite limb step length.
Active Residual Limb Extension, Prosthesis On
To perform this exercise, the patient is to stand with their back in contact with the wall behind them. It is OK for the patient to perform with a stable object such as a walker for the required balance, assistance and safety. Attempt to place the sound limb heel against the wall, with the prosthetic limb foot slightly out in front of the sound limb foot. Place a compliant ball between the wall and socket and/or the socket and the prosthetic knee. The prosthetic knee will probably be slightly flexed. The patient is to push their residual limb backward into the ball and try to straighten their prosthetic knee as the prosthetic foot remains in contact with the floor for the entire time.
Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5-15 times. Do 1-3 sets.

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: akinsinger@optimusprosthetics.com.

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