Interesting little-known facts and info (from my vantage point):
- My toes get cold....yes, the ones that are not there! Truthfully, it does feel as if the toes on my right foot are still there, sharing the love of our cold winters with the toes of my left, intact foot. AND, since there is less surgical pain now, I am starting to wiggle those invisible toes of mine.
- Phantom pain....happens. This has decreased significantly since the first week post-amputation, when I felt as if someone was squeezing my pinky toe with a pliers. Other sensations would include feeling as if a lighter is burning under my toes, and having an itch on the sole of my foot that I can't scratch. Luckily, these sensations have been short in duration (usually lasting fewer than 20 seconds.) Now the most common sensation tends to be a buzzing feeling in my foot which can get annoying, but is not painful. I continue to sleep well and symptoms usually do not keep me awake (this can be a problem for some amputees.)
- People DO stare. And that is okay. I know people are curious.....and I would be curious too if I were them. While we were grocery shopping the other day my daughter noticed that people were staring (I was oblivious). I asked her if she was embarrassed....she said "No. It's kinda fun actually." (Jade had fun pushing me in the wheelchair....which we take when we travel outside of the house. Too much snow and ice here in WI to take chances with crutches!)
- I kind of like my stumpy little limb. That might sound really weird, but from a [body] system perspective, it is like the part that requires a little extra TLC.....a massage several times a day, special attention to acknowledge when to rest, etc. Quirky....I know. I guess you could say that we're getting to know each other.
- Not all amputations are created equal. Every amputee's experience is different. It is tempting to lump all amputees into the same category, but truthfully there are HUGE differences based on surgery technique, levels of amputation, and folks' unique situations. I never realized this until I began to talk with other amputees, and lemme tell ya....the amputee world is full of folks with amazing stories!
- The new prosthetics are amazing.....but one does not cover all desired activity. Insurance will only cover a single "every day" prosthesis, and other (deemed) "non-necessary" prosthetics usually have to be paid for out-of-pocket. Insurance expects that that one prosthesis should last for three years, and (not unlike healthcare) bureaucracy is hard to deal with. So, realistically do you know what this means? It means that while most folks look forward to getting a new car every few years or saving for a really cool vacation, we'll be looking forward to getting a new leg so I can continue to run around with my kids. Yes....running prosthetics do run about the same cost as a new car. (While I plan to apply for a grant, these are not guaranteed.) So when you see us driving around in our 2002 rusted out SUV, remember this.
- The KNEE.....VERY important. Recently someone inquired about my situation, and in the conversation, made the comment: "Wow....and I thought my knee replacement was hard." I responded by acknowledging that the knee is a crucial joint, and not being able to use it is much harder than having an ankle injury. If you haven't had any knee issues, envision not being able to kneel or bend that joint when climbing stairs. It's hard. I'm lucky to have a good knee on my injured leg.....which is awesome. Now I just need to protect the knee on my sound side (it is tempting to hop and overcompensation injuries are common.) Furthermore, I have come to know folks who are above-knee amputees......a much more challenging situation in many respects (this touches upon how "not all amputations are created equal.")
- The amputee community is awesome. I learned this early on as I began to research my options. I would venture to guess that what makes the amputee community pretty cool is the visible nature of the disability.....and the absolute need for peer support. There are countless "issues" which arise with amputation, ranging from socket fit, to skin issues, to choice of prosthetic componentry, to coping with limb loss. Whatever a person's concern might be, there is always plentiful information to be found from others who have "been there." A HUGE BONUS is the fact that amputee humor rocks!!
- This list is by no means exhaustive. And I would invite others to share their "little known facts!"