Yesterday I had my two-week follow-up appointment with a recommended orthopedic surgeon. He is an older, seasoned fellow who got his start as an orthopedic surgeon working in Vietnam. He took a special interest in my case, since he has seen and performed a lot of amputations in his lifetime. Much to my surprise, as he perused my before and after BKA x-ray images, he shared that he was happy to see that I'd chosen to end the limb-salvage two-year purgatory experience. He noted: "You know, a lot of surgeons view amputation as a kind of failure. I've seen so many people become fixated on saving the limb that they lose sight of its purpose of function-ability...many times it had been lost long ago, but for some reason they don't want to amputate. The prosthetics out there today are amazing....good for you that you found this out early without going through years and years of heartache." I thanked him for his professional opinion, and explained that my experience had taken me to consult with lots of medical folks....some of whom did not share his same impression. He smiled and commented about how medicine has changed over the years, making these decisions much more complicated because of the new technology available.
The Upshot: Everything looks good. I developed a small hematoma (bruise) on the medial side of my incision shortly after the surgery, where my gastrocnemius muscle was pulled under and reattached. Apparently this is quite typical and nothing to worry about (it is just a little red and
|My x-ray: Note bone bridge between tibia and fibula with|
bone-graft material, and muscle padding at the end.
I've got another appointment in a little over a week
to have the stitches removed. This will mark three weeks post-surgery. Generally if all goes well, folks begin prosthetic fitting with a temporary socket / prosthesis between 6-8 weeks after amputation. (Timing to receive the permanent / definitive prosthesis varies and is greatly dependent upon changes in the residual limb. Obtaining the right fit is critical and it is always best to take plenty of time making sure all of the tweaking is done prior to getting the definitive socket.)
While leaving my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon, he brimmed like an excited little boy who was proud of something he had learned as he said to his nurse in the hallway , "Hey, I've seen an ertl done by Dr. Ertl. I studied the Ertl procedure a long time ago and had used the technique, but I've never actually seen the outcome of one of these done by one of the guys in the Ertl family." I commented that after talking with a lot of folks, I wanted to be as convinced as possible of the finality of the limb-salvage trial-and-error experience, and in the ability to move on and get my life back.
Recovering at home has been about as pleasant as one could hope for. Lots of good pain meds, family providing lots of comic relief, wonderful, caring people dropping by and calling, and loving meals prepared and brought over by so many thoughtful, compassionate folks. I have been overwhelmed by all of the support and encouragement that has poured into our home.
Pain-wise, I've had some post-surgical pain and cramping, as well as some phantom pain....although that has diminished substantially within the past week. (Phantom pain has consisted of feeling like a pinching of my [nonexistent] pinky toe, burning of the front of my [nonexistent] toes, and itching of the bottom of my [nonexistent] foot.) Often I will feel a sort of transitory "buzzing" feeling in what used to be my foot which is a little weird. The most noteworthy sensation in terms of my transition experience (from right limbed person to amputee) has been in my daily typical fingers-to-toes morning stretch. Imagine what happens when you try to point your toes that are no longer there with newly transected, surgically reattached muscle. Yeah....Owwww! I now try to do my morning stretch in a 3/4 body-fashion, in order to avoid major crampage and calf pain. (Dr. Ertl did mention this is also common and that it obviously hurts.)
I am deeply thankful for all of the encouragement I have received from people as I've shared this journey. Believe it or not, that encouragement helps to fill my tank and keep me going. I hope to be up-and-about by the time the snow melts. (Although here in Wisconsin, that could be as late as May.) Keep sending good energy!