Thursday, February 13, 2014

S0....what do they DO with the limb? (more interesting little-known facts)

Believe it or not, folks in my type of situation (undergoing what is typically called "delayed" or "elective" amputation) have the luxury and freedom of exercising some ownership over what happens with our amputated body part(s).   Conversely, when people undergo amputation after initial trauma (when timing is of-the-essence), where there is an infection or suspicion of contamination, the protocol is to send the entire limb directly to pathology before it goes to the incinerator.

I never really thought about it....(where amputated limbs go) until looking into this whole ordeal myself.  Trust me, it is a very strange experience.

At first I asked my little piggies which market they would like to go to, but none of them could agree on the same place.   Of course, the biggest one wanted to go to the market, but, as typical second siblings can be, the next really wanted to stay home.   After much deliberation I eventually came to an executive decision for all of them...but this required a lot of research on my part.  I tended to side with piggie #2 initially, but unfortunately, the prospects for bringing them home were not optimal..  
Our needing to travel was probably the biggest hurdle in attempting to come to a good plan for keeping the pigs, and I did believe it was pretty important for them to stay together.   (they're very connected and have always been extremely close....sometimes needing to endure extreme conditions that stunk, literally.)  Still, I learned that bringing them home would be a challenge...sigh.

Option #1: Crematamous de Parte
I did know of two women who decided to have their limbs cremated after their amputations.   This required some leg-work beforehand (no pun intended), eg., hooking up with a crematorium, settling on a cost, having the limb delivered, picking out a receptacle / vase, etc.  One woman shared that she needed to do some haggling over the cost, as a basic "human body" cremation typically runs around $2000.   Eventually the haggling came down to weight in lbs., and an amount was settled upon based on the weight of a 12 lb pet (coming to about $285).    Still, running (or limping) around haggling with funeral-dudes did not thrill me.  Neither did the prospect of keeping a vase of foot ashes on my dresser or the mantle.   

Option #2:  PediMortis vs. Appendigeous Insectus
 In discussion with the office staff prior to my surgery, I learned that there have been times when folks were given their amputated bones back.....completely intact after the soft-tissues were gotten off somehow (I wasn't sure how this was done.)   Really??  I asked....."So I can take my leg/foot home with me, bones and all?  From a curiosity perspective that would be really cool."   Yup....sure enough, I was told that I would basically need to inform the medical team of my desire to have the bones back, and that there would be some paperwork to fill out after the surgery.   I became excited about this possibility, mainly to see just how messed up my ankle was from a three-dimensional perspective (and it sounded more attractive than cremation).  

So on the morning of my surgery I brought this up ....and the Physician Assistant affirmed that lots of folks have taken home their amputated limbs.   "You can take the whole thing home if you want." She said.  "What?"  I asked... " Really...the whole ankle/foot....with the skin, bones, and all?  You're serious? What do people do with them?"  "They mainly store them in the freezer and stuff."  She answered.  "Wow...." I replied, "I bet that would totally freak out the airport security folks when they check my suitcase!   Mmmm, probably not the best idea." We agreed.    Although  frequently I stop to wonder if we might have had a total blast with the idea of flying my decomposing leg home in a suitcase. (My Criminal Minds / CSI friends will appreciate this sentiment). 

 I then mentioned the comment from the office staff, and asked about the possibility of getting my
bones back.  The PA said "Oh yeah....we have a place called Skulls Unlimited which can do that for you if you'd like.  I've even seen one guy have his foot mounted."   "Mounted?"  I in taxidermy mounted?"   "Yup....." (I pictured my Uncle Bob's deer heads hanging on the wall, but with a foot hanging there instead.)  "Uh....I wouldn't want to mount my foot....that's just strange.  Maybe I'll just keep it as the skeletal foot."   We then obtained the paperwork and website address to Skulls Unlimited, and called them to obtain more information.

In the phone call, my dear hubby learned all kinds of interesting things.  These people really love their work and go to great lengths to discuss what they do.   Apparently, the process we had been considering for my limb would entail the unleashing of flesh-eating, Dermestid Beetles  (no relation to the guys from Liverpool) in a tank of some sort where the little insects would go to town devouring the flesh of my foot for a week or so.   From what I hear they do a damn good job cleaning straight down to the bone.  (For more info about these little critters, click here.)   For the small price of $800 we could have my bright and shiny, insect-cleaned, bleached, and reassembled bones shipped right to our home within a two week time frame.   Such a deal, hey?     

Option # 3:  Limbis Incineramous
Suffice to say, the thought of millions of insects chomping away at my detached limb did not leave me with a good mental image.   I've spent many-a-summer avoiding bugs of all piggies were way too ticklish.    $800 was a bit steep as well, especially just to entertain my curiosity.

So in the end we just took the easiest incinerate the sucker.  To simply leave it up to the good doc and medical folks to send it on its way.   

Before putting our cat Dylan to sleep several years ago, the vet suggested that we could do a fur clipping in memoriam / as a reminder of him (I still have that little baggie in the bottom drawer of my jewelry box.).  For a half-second I thought that might just-as-well clip a few toenails from my right foot to keep in there too.....until I realized that this was getting just plain ridiculous.  

Sometimes the best option is the do nothing.   In the end we knew that this limb-o-mine would literally need to bite-the-dust....and functionally, it already had.   I now literally have one foot-in-the-grave..... 

.....and my piggies have gone off to the market for good.