There isn’t much like the feeling you have when you first learn that you will lose or just lost a limb. It can happen to anyone, young and old and is rarely planned for. The important thing to realize early is that an incredibly fulfilling life still awaits. There will undoubtedly be a struggle from time to time but with the right guidance, you can overcome these challenges. Take it from me, a lower leg amputee and certified prosthetist, who still has no interest in slowing down. These 3 tips will help you on your new journey:
- Care first for your mental and then physical health
- Be an active participant in your care to be fit correctly
- Learn how to wear and care for your prosthesis
The first hurdle is to heal, and it is one of the hardest. Healing takes time and everyone is different. Here are some physical and mental factors play into healing:
Mental state – Getting past the loss, planning for the future and following the care plan. Understanding current limitations, what are temporary, and which obstacles need to be overcome. Seek knowledge and don’t let prejudice, misconceptions or myths limit you. Amputee Coalition of America is a great resource for education, support groups and peer visits to learn and aid in your recovery.
Desire to ambulate and self-advocacy – How hard are you willing to work for your own well-being? Be involved in your own health, care and education. Ask “what can I do while I’m healing to get myself ready for a prosthesis?”
Cause of amputation and other health conditions- Amputation due to trauma, poor circulation, diabetes or cancer in combination of other health conditions will be factors for healing.
Support systems including healthcare providers- Physicians, Nurses, Prosthetists, Physical/Occupational Therapists in combination with caregivers, family, friends, support group and peer visitors are all part of your team. There are times when we all need help. Do not be too proud or afraid to ask help.
Resources for healthcare are factors to recovery – Insurance and ability to pay for insurance deductibles or spend downs and copayments. Understanding what your insurance coverage includes, excludes, limits of care and your out-of-pocket expenses allows you to plan how to get back on your feet. There are a number of resources to help financially in your recovery.
The second hurdle is getting a fitting and functional prosthesis. Your physician has removed the sutures and determined that the incision line is strong enough to go forward with prosthetic care. Shrinkers are used to reduce edema, shape the residual limb and promote healing. Shrinkers should be worn 23 hours a day, removed for showering and cleaning your shrinker.
The first prosthesis will consist of a semi clear socket, pylon, foot and other joints as needed. The components are aligned to your body to accommodate walking, standing and sitting. Once the prosthesis is for set up for height and basic ambulation, physical therapy is often recommended to increase strength, balance and endurance. A wearing or break-in schedule will be given to aid in prosthetic acceptance, build confidence and prevent pressure injuries.
Ply sock management is one of the few tools that you must maintain the fit of your prosthesis. Ply socks come in different thicknesses and are used to control volume fluctuations but are different than the shrinker that you used previously. Shrinkers are used when you are not wearing your prosthesis to maintain volume.
Dig it, you have a prosthesis!
The third and one of the most important hurdles: Use, care and cleaning of your prosthesis. The prosthetic socket size will not change but your body will. As you use your prosthesis more your residual limb will change size and shape. Muscles that were attached to what was removed will get smaller and the remaining muscles will get larger. You must be able to manage size changes. Schedule and keep regular visits with your prosthetist to adjust for fit changes.
Cleaning your prosthetic liner and sleeve are very important. Anything that touches your skin needs to be cleaned daily with the same soap you use on your body.
Precautions or things to be aware of are pain, red spots that don’t go away in a few minutes, skin irritation, blocked hair follicles or pores can all be signs of pressure. If you do feel pain or pressure, contact your prosthetist. Common areas of pressure at the front bottom end, front top or outside top of your residual limb.
With experience, you will learn about ply sock management in your activities of daily living. Other strategies include maintaining fluids, a diet that meets your specifications and proper exercise. Learning to walk again can be frustrating and nerve racking. The key is to take it slow and easy. Ease into your activities of daily living with your prosthetic and physical therapy treatment plan.
All of these hurdles have to be overcome to return to your activities of daily living, work and play. Call Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics for more information and to schedule an appointment (313) 870-9610.