This isn’t pretty. Attacking me for my very specific situation is not cool. Everybody is different and I answer this because it was asked directly to me.
It was much, much easier for me than for the people who are loving life one moment and wake up in a hospital amputated the next minute, from abrupt trauma. I am glad that I had time to adjust to the possibility of loosing a leg. I was pretty ok with it, I was alive, had both of my hands and no brain damage.
Getting hit by a truck on the back of a motorcycle, is abrupt but I did not loose my leg then. It was after 4 weeks of laying in hospitals watching it gangrene until I begged one night for the removal of my leg. The trauma surgeon was ready for me, he removed the guy who’s motorcycle I was on, the day after the truck ran the stop sign. He was in steady contact with that guy, who was forwarding my texted photos of the rotting leg for 4 weeks. The night I finally got to that trauma surgeon, before they put me out, he asked why I waited so long. The medical director at the physical rehab hospital did not agree with me that it couldn’t be saved. The entire staff was involved in watching, taking photos, LEARNING. On me, learning on me because they as a whole, never had a patient with such extensive wounds on my leg. I hated them people, I was and still am pretty certain that my knee could have been saved, had they let me go to the trauma surgeon weeks earlier. It was hell, they had me doing 3 hours, 7 days a week, of physical therapy, with a dead leg, a machine hooked up to the weeping bone 24/7 that i had to carry around as it collected the blood and they pumped more into me 2x a day until the end. I can say that it is odd to think that I don’t have a drop of blood that belongs to me!!
Have you ever watched a movie where the star is laying in bed after a leg amputation: the way that the blankets are perfectly tucked around the star, and the outlines of one leg and one foot are prominent? (one of my favorite movies/books has this exact scene, Lonesome Dove when Robert Duval is in bed looking at his blankets right after waking) (I do find this relevant, tho lengthy, to the question)….I swear that I woke up that sunny morning and my blankets were perfectly tucked and outlined the one and almost half legs, and one foot. I knew it was coming but I could have stayed in that moment a lot longer. Every single thought process escaped me, I was blank. All that was there eventually was, it looks exactly like in the movies when the star wakes up. I was worried that I might have hit my head after all, because in a moment like that, such a shallow thought seemed too easy.
Then I saw my trauma surgeon and another doc standing near, I didn’t notice they had woke me. It was almost 5am. That surgeon was there all night. He wasted no words telling me that We have to start thinking about my future right now. I of course was stoned out of this world and I was all ears. Ok, what? He said that I have to decide here & now: will you walk or sit for the rest of your life? (again, a lot of meds in my brain) I thought for a minute, understood the ultimatum and started to try to get out of bed to stand up. Whoe horsey! Doc watched me a few seconds and saw I was determined to stand up that minute and he actually busted up laughing and talked me back down. It is a moment that will live forever and that I return to when I need strength some days. without a body part. My medical team, after amputation, are the reason that I can hike all day or work under the hood of my big old 4×4, or even find the strength to climb up in that big old truck. They knew how to handle amputees post surgery (a lot of VA work is subbed out to where I was) They know the importance of trying to get a patient’s mind set started the minute they wake. No time for tears or bitterness—there is a life in front of you that only you can decide it’s direction.
I was hospitalized for 4 weeks from truck hitting us to amputation that late night.
I was hospitalized for SIX DAYS post amputation. Why? Because the physical rehabilitation hospital said that my state insurance wouldn’t cover my stay any longer. No limb, nothing to do PT on. I am not kidding, I have all the paper works showing all of the dates, along with a 358 photo diary of a rotting leg.
That part of my amputation was brutal. I was living in a new town all alone, had 17 stairs to get to my bedroom and the only bathroom at home, no vehicle and did i say that I was alone??? Six days. I was driven home to my empty (one roomie useless POS woman that I had no personal interaction with, she was decided on to move in while I was in PT hospital to help with rent)
I had, had to climb those stairs within the day, on one leg and crutches and no help. I take that back: the local Christian motorcycle club had read the front page news in all the papers about the wreck, and a lady rider came to me and was of great help a couple of days for months. But at the end of the day, I was (and still am) 110% alone. It is no way to be in that position (and still isn’t)
I had the Christian lady rider and one good local friend, both who got me to most doc appts, and I was back on a motorcycle within 3 weeks of amputation.
I did everything above and beyond directed by my trauma surgeon’s team, ie keeping the stump limber and stretches. I progressed faster than any AK amputee they ever has. But my scars on the stump were sooo slow to heal. These were from the bone clamps and such, so it all had to heal at the bone and outward.
3 months almost, and then one day i was on my friend’s motorcycle and we went to the 3 hour appointment to get my 1st temporary leg!!! It was one of the best days of my life. I rode back on his motorcycle, in my new leg!! and fell down maybe 6 times that day. I was in heaven—no damned crutches!!!
And then that early evening a call from my attorney came: was i aware that the motorcycle had no insurance? FUCK NO I was NOT aware. I was only newly antiquated with the guy, he picked me up from another hospital the DAY BEFORE the wreck, when I had surgery on my knee. He was from out of town and offered to help me out for a few days after that knee surgery. The next day I picked up my post op meds, laundry soap and whiskey as I was out of both at home. We had all that in his saddle bags the day after knee surgery when we got hit by a truck—-that had minimum liability.
All of that is very relevant to what its like to have an amputation. Because no matter how well you get to using your fake leg, it is still a bottom shelf, used parts, mechanical leg because the only insurance was the state insurance that I already recently aquired to get the knee surgeries ( because they did not happen at work either but by a pair of size 11 engineer boots jumping up and down repeatedly on them, the knees)
With real insurance, I could walk up stairs like regular people do, instead of one step each foot, one step, one step. Not foot over foot because nobody had insurance (basically) and I will never have a computerized knee that can be programmed to assist on stairs.
There is bitterness that can swallow a person whole, is what being amputated can be like. But funny enough, its not the physical side that causes the bitterness, it is the lack of money to do this right.
So far I’ve had 3 reconstructive stump surgeries due to not enough insurance to get into a higher quality leg. I am as active as a real amputee athlete but I am constantly injuring myself because my bottom shelf prosthetic cannot keep up, literally.
But I love life. I want my career back, I was to keep building old 4x4s like before, I want a home and I want to grow my tiny leatherworks business.
But being amputated with no insurance, has left me living alone on $733 a month and there is no way to get better prosthetic parts so I could do the stuff required to pick up my career; nor money to even up keep my daily driver truck even that right now is literally running on 6 cylinders because an injector bank wiring burned up and i cannot afford to buy it a new uvc harness or the injector rebuild kit because im at 350,800 miles on the original injectors ; home is a joke: right now I stupidly tried to move to the Seattle area to try to get more leather work but I cannot rent a damn simple room for the $330 a month that I can spend of the 733 a month. So I am in a deep scary quagmire in another strange city with only a few more days where I am temporarily staying; one of the legs on my work table is breaking off which will leave me no table for the sewing machine that sews 7/8″ of leather thick but can do nothing if not bolted down;
This is what being amputated can be like if the chips were stacked unfavorably from the 1st moment. It was 4 entire months before I was told that there was no insurance on the bike, I already knew that the guy in the truck (who was so in the wrong it was undeniable being the whole thing was caught on vidio from the store that it happened in front of). So there was that 4 months of optimism that this is going to be ok, just another step for a stepper. But with no money (no, no family left) it has slowly evolved into a hole that Im falling and am getting scared lately that I cannot see an end. The truck is loaded with thousands of dollars of my leatherworks business gear, I am too afraid of theft if I were to go to a shelter, it would be inevitable and disagreeing with that fact is foolish. The truck, is going to bust a motor mount if I keep driving it on 6 cylinders, its a diesel and I am killing the poor thing slowly Not because i cannot do the work, i most certainly can but cant buy parts. I could go on along this track but my point is that THIS is what being amputated is like, for me. I make no apologizes for this answer being it was a direct question asked of me here. I avoided it but decided to go on and bear it all, instead of playing like its all ok. It is far from ok. I have a huge lump growing on the side of my stump making walking a bit uncomfortable. My ankle blew open and I have it wrapped with strong cloth and string, to keep my foot from rotating on its own. My real knee busted something and has a ridiculously large soft lump off the outside of it (if you look on my facebook, photos of all of this is right there, I do Not exaggerate any situation.
I just want to get my sewing set up to build leather attire, motorcycle bags, I have plans. I really do. That are far from me. $733 a month and a truck that needs help asap. No end, i for the first time in my colorful and awesome life, cannot see forward. And that scares Hell of me.
Being amputated. It can turn your mind around to such strenth that you almost don’t know yourself! For who ever truly can say in advance that ‘oh yeah, I can rock an amputation’ ? People think they know themselves and I hope that nobody would have this opportunity to truly learn their limitations mentally, their strengths, ect. I did and I am glad to find that its not a deal breaker (life deal breaker). It can be done very reasonable IF IF IF you have structure to back your motivation and strength and belief in yourself. I am slowly and painful learning that NO, it cannot be done alone without financial structure.
I first started taking close notice of the ‘downtown peoples’ before I got my 1st temporary prosthetic. Those who linger around all day, some beg monies, some just sit in wheelchairs during (I learned from getting worried because I couldn’t cover rent) during the hours that the downtown shelter is closed off to the homeless. These people are there or in skid row room rentals, either way limited to that downtown life (or lack therefor of). I would drive by, one legged in my big old truck and say this out loud, that I have more stamina than to end up in a downtown room. I have a future even one legged i have sewing machines dammit!. Because I have sewing and a dream thats obtainable because i have faith and optimism and thats all so powerful that you cannot fail. …All of that while sitting at downtown red lights in my very beloved truck while (later) wearing my beautiful leg.
Before things started changing for me, the money cannot cover me and trying to maintain the vehicle and try to build the little business. That continuation of my true career is finally sinking in that is not an option on the legs I can get, not until I can go computerized and climb stairs right..
Amputation is becoming a nightmare for me but only financially!! Amputation is still a state of mind in how you will recover and move on.
If it is advice that is quietly wanting in the poster’s question. I say with whole heart that you MUST believe in yourself. No matter how bad it is in the beginning and I wont sugar coat this either: relizing as you go along those first few months, the things that are no longer an option in your new life, can make any person frustrated more than words can say. But the accomplishment that you Will feel as you learn how to do things again just differently, is priceless. Hope grows with each step and thats the things that you must first see. The new ways are not fun, but they are still getting things done be it open a can for a hand/arm amputee, or getting up the stairs to the bathroom for a leg amputee…I have seen so many AK amputees crawl up stairs. I would die before doing so, it would kill my pride. So i kept crutches at top and bottom of stairs. that way as i went, I only had to use one crutch and the handrail. It takes patience but in the end it kept me from ever having my ass down on a stair. Except the falling, in those cases I had ass and elbow and nose and toes hitting those stairs on my way down!! But I’m trained in how to fall, so it helped bigtime in never breaking anything falling. ….Its the little (yet huge) things like these that only YOU can do.
Believe and feel the strength as you learn new methods. If you sit in a chair, or sit in a hospital setting home being taken care of. You wont grow all of the new aspects of your mind and heart. You must choose: Giving In or Getting Tough. Be tough.
Next. Never forget that it can be worse. Thats my saving grace: I only lost my leg. It takes knowing the story to get this. The man with no socks is sniveling, till he sees the man with no shoes sniveling, till he sees the man with no feet, and on…I lost my leg past my knee. I was T-Boned on a motorcyle by a truck!!! I have nothing to complain about physically!! A hair to the left or right, if the bike tried to swerve away. Any of that would have turned our perfectly staged T-Bone with us getting squashed on one side and then flung up in the air as the bike broke loose of the truck. One little aspect differently would have put us and the bike Under the truck. under and 4 big tires to do the dead.
I lived. I have both of my hands, and my head did not touch the truck, bike or ground. I have a scar on my belly, from the tire of the motorcycle running over me on the way but the truck did not run us over.
there is no short answer to such a broad question, and i just wrote a short book i realize this, and i will not retrace a word of it.
This is what being amputated has been like for ME. Nobody will ever be the same yet no matter the amuptation we all share things that are not describable and are nobody’s business. How I pee or how I make love or not, or how it feels to be looked at like you are drunk because you walk funny when your stump is fucked up again, well those kinda things can be decribed but never felt by even the most emphatic.