When did you become an amputee?
I was first diagnosed with a degenerative small vessel disease called Buergers Disease effecting mostly my hands and feet in my early 20’s (I’m now 59) after losing a finger due to gangrene, and progressively losing several more fingers the disease started to progress to my toes.
Approximately 20 years ago I lost my big toe on my right foot and after a lengthy and painful infection I had a trans metatarsal amputation. The same thing occurred on my left foot several years later leaving me with both feet amputated at the arch. I was able to get around relatively well except distance would leave my leg aching due to my peripheral artery disease.
Fast forward several years and I went in one day to see a new family doctor who was very thorough and when I showed her my feet, she was amazed that the only orthotic aid I was using were socks stuffed into the toes of my shoes to fill the gap. She wrote me a prescription for both left and right orthotic device and this is how I started my relationship with Winnipeg Prosthetics and Orthotics and more specifically my only prosthetist since I’ve begun the journey, Eric Kuhl.
My first visit with Eric went very well and I was casted and fit with partial foot prostheses with toe fillers followed by leg braces which made a huge difference right away. The extra stability they provided improved both my balance and posture and gave me greater security.
Three years ago, I first developed an ulcer on my right residual foot after stepping on a bristle from a BBQ Brush, I removed it immediately but the damage was done, a second ulcer on the same foot started shortly after that when I stubbed it on the coffee table. After 2 years of all kinds of treatment and the ulcers still growing, I made an appointment with my vascular surgeon to ask about amputation, the pain was unbearable. My visit was on a Thursday, April 30th 2020 and after a brief exam my surgery was scheduled for the following Tuesday May 5th 2020.
The pain was unrelenting so my wife got the hospital to admit me earlier to get the pain under control before my surgery. All of this while covid was running rampant and no visitors were allowed. My wife dropped me off on May 4,2020 and on May 5th, 2020 I was a below the knee Amputee and by May 8th I was home and on my way to recovery.
What is a challenge(s) you have as an amputee? How do you overcome that challenge(s)?
One of my first challenges was getting around in a wheel chair, hopping with my walker to and from the bathroom and also getting the right fit on my prosthetic. The first year can be sometimes overwhelming with all the changes in your residual limb. First you have a great fit and everything seems to be going good and then that changes as the limb shrinks. Things like when to add socks, rashes that come and go and general discomfort. This is where a good prosthetist makes a difference. The loss of my independence can be tough but I was determined to do as much as I could on my own and quickly learned new ways of doing familiar things i.e.: driving, showering.
What are the benefits of having a prosthetic limb as an amputee?
I was casted for my first prosthetic 6 weeks after my surgery and received my artificial limb week 7. I personally could not wait to get rid of my walker and wheelchair. The sense of freedom and normalcy came right away. I drove my 50cc scooter, not a mobility one, 8 weeks after surgery. Little things like being able to stand up while using the washroom and being able to get out of bed and walk.
I learned to drive with my prosthetic and had to be re-tested for my drivers’ licence and past with flying colors. I waited about a year for my water leg but now I can swim, dive, climb in and out of the water using the ladder. Another bonus is standing in the shower. With my prosthetic leg there isn’t anything I can’t do that I was able to do with my natural leg.
Do you have any specialized prosthetics? If so, how was the process of getting one and getting comfortable with it?
Yes, I have a water leg so I can shower, swim and able to enjoy the water. The foot is obviously different then my day-to-day leg but adapting wasn’t really any challenge. The same process of casting and some adjustments prior and I was off and swimming. I purchased some water shoes and when showering or in the pool I make sure to wear one on my partial foot to prevent slipping or stepping on something that could cause injury.
My wife and I travel to Mexico yearly and both my prosthetics were designed with a Mexican theme (as you can see in the photos) which not only symbolizes my love for Mexico but that my leg was amputated on Cinco De Mayo (May 5) by coincidence so in mind the theme was set
What is it like being a patient at WinPO?
Winpo has been my only Prosthetic service provider as I have never had the need to look for an alternate. My needs have all been looked after and I have developed a great relationship with Eric. There were times when I would email him that everything was great only to follow up with another 12 hours later to say the fit was horrible, I thought at one point when it just wouldn’t fit right that he was going to send me elsewhere but that was never the case. Eric took the time responding to weekend and evening emails, studying photos I took or even calling in another prosthetist at WinPO for a second opinion. Eric and Winpo were there when I needed it most. When it came to issues regarding billing for my second leg and awaiting payment the staff were more then accommodating. I really appreciate the personalized and professional service as well as the location and free parking away from a hospital setting.
Do you have any advice you would like to give to other amputees?
One of the most important things I found was to be a patient with yourself and be your own best advocate. Ask as many questions as possible from all those involved in your care. Write them down so you don’t forget as things can get quite overwhelming. Never settle, if you don’t have a good fit let it be known, if you want a second opinion, ask. One of my biggest fears was rehab, make sure you go and follow direction and give it 100%, it will be well worth your investment, remember they have your best interests at heart. After my first visit I couldn’t wait to go back, I went twice a week for an hour at a time. Diet & exercise can be another important factor, I started eating properly and lost almost 60 pounds with the help of my wife. Surround yourself with positive people who aren’t embarrassed or inconvenienced to be around you and remain positive. When you fall get back up!!