Tomorrow I’m seeing the orthopaedic surgeon who amputated my right leg in October 2014. I saw him once after I was discharged but this is the first time I’ll see him now that I’m properly ‘healed’.
It took a while to come to terms with my decision to amputate and longer still to accept it once it was done and there was no turning back. I think I was in shock for a considerable time and it took a lot longer than I anticipated to recover, physically and psychologically.
Now that I have recovered for the most part, I have fully integrated my “stump” into my body image, which has always been quite healthy considering I have spina bifida. I can look in the mirror without thinking about what I looked like before. I no longer try and put a sock on a leg that isn’t there and it’s been a long time since I’ve grabbed at thin air, which happened daily for ages. That was pretty upsetting. Actually, I cried like a baby the first time that happened.
To begin with, I didn’t want to go outside or to see people because I was overcome with the idea that people might stare. That was such a foreign feeling. It was so difficult for me to comprehend, even at the time, that I might feel so self conscious. After all, I have always used a wheelchair to get around and people have always stared.
Eventually, I did start going outside more and people did stare, as they always had. It’s just that now I was noticing. I felt so exposed and raw in those first few months back home. Even that passed. I’ve gone back to not paying so much attention to people’s lingering gazes.
The whole process has been really a surprise from start to finish. I was amazed at how many different extremely strong pain killers I needed to be on considering I didn’t expect to feel anything much but feel it I did. When the drugs started to wear off and I was due for more, I felt like death. Pain management has come such a long way though compared to 20 years previous, the time of my last major orthopaedic (spinal) surgeries. For that I am eternally grateful.
So, with all of that behind me, I’ll be discussing with my surgeon the unfortunate fact that I’ve started having problems with the other leg now. I’m not sure that I’m ready yet for round two but at least if I have to make the same decision again I know now what to expect.
Chelle Hope blogs about stuff at To be perfectly honest ...
Thank you Chelle for sharing your experience of losing a leg and your subsequent steps of recovery (no pun intended) with the rest of the world.
My father lost a leg as the result of a hunting accident when he was a young man, so I grew up thinking that amputee-ism was perfectly normal. Being as selfish as most young children naturally are, I used to wish sometimes that he could have played sport and run with me like other Dads. Also he was very protective of me in the outdoors because of course he couldn't run after me if I took off unexpectedly.
As I grew older I not only felt ashamed for my selfishness but also came to admire how he did so many amazing things with no apparent effort - maintaining a big vege garden, mowing the lawn, riding a bike (while drunk!). Prosthetic limbs back in the 60s were heavy cumbersome devices, and even with a stump sock he would often suffer from chafing and blisters. Later on his heavy metal leg with a shoulder strap was replaced by a lighter model which eased a lot of his stump problems.
An abiding memory was the day he was mowing the lawn at our bach, Part of the section was slightly hilly, and one day he slipped and his leg came off completely, just as a group of kids wre walking past. Did they run a mile!
Have you by any chance been watching the excellent ABC drama series "The Time of Our Lives" that is currently showing on Choice TV? The patriarch of the family loses his leg after the car jack fails while he is working on his car, and it takes us through his rehabilitation including the reaction from his wife and adult children. You can catch up with previous episodes at this link (requires registration but is free).
Albany • Since Apr 2013 • 66 posts Report
Your description of your position is a valuable insight. Thanks Chelle.
Bleneim • Since Aug 2008 • 135 posts Report
I had been wondering how things were going with you. Thank you.
Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report
Russell Brown, in reply to
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I this is what Chelle does well – writes about experiences most of us will never have with such candour and clarity that we can start to understand them.
Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report
Sounds like a striking emotional experience. Thank you for telling us about it.
Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report