Below is our panel of patients, we asked a set of questions concerning their expectations and experiences of surgery, being fit with a prosthesis and learning to walk.
Larry Robinson, 51 is a below knee amputee who had surgery in July of thisyear. Larry had elective surgery with the intent of having less pain and increased activity. He had a target of four weeks to be up and walking, and now believes he will be more active than he first thought. He was walking unassisted in just two weeks!
Larry experiences less phantom pain as time goes by and now has some discomfort but no pain. He quickly adapted to his prosthesis and has mastered sock fit with ease. He cites comfort as his favorite part of his prosthesis and would like to get more flexibility from his ankle to aid with his outdoor lifestyle of fishing and hunting. Larry also mentioned that he would like to have a prosthesis that lets his leg stay cooler.
Walter Lickliter, 57 had a right below knee amputation in July of 2004. Walter also has a left partial foot amputation. His main goal before surgery was to improve his balance and begin the process of learning to walk again. Within two weeks of being fit with his prosthesis, Walter said “I am encouraged by my progress from wheel chair to walker. I have not had any pain since just after the surgery”. He learned quickly through experimentation how to use socks to obtain a correct fit and does not feel his prosthesis limits him. “I like the comfort of my prosthesis and just being able to walk again”.
Tony Freeman, 50 is an above knee amputee who was fit with his first prosthesis in 1999. He said that after surgery the pain was “excruciating, but now I just have phantom pain that is annoying”. He expected to walk with a cane but after his initial fitting he thought he would have to work harder to be able to walk. Later during rehab, his target was to “just walk as normally as possible”. On the subject of learning the correct fit, “I just let my pain tell me what to do”.
“The thing I like most is my mobility, just being able to walk, although I would like to be able to go up stairs step over step”. Since rehab, Tony now cycles regularly and is able to run. Tony also said he would like a more flexible ankle, some rotation and a lighter prosthesis.
Sarah Ammons underwent surgery for a below knee amputation in 2002. Sarah said “I expected to have less pain, as I have a great deal of phantom pain”. She did not expect to be walking unassisted immediately, “I expected a long rehab”. Although undergoing a second surgery earlier this year, she is walking without assistance.
“I am still learning to get the correct fit with socks” says Sarah. I would like to be able to walk longer distances without pain and to be able to go into the ocean. Also as a keen gardener, I would like more flexibility on uneven ground”. She also wanted it to be cooler and lighter.
Sam Crosby has a left below knee and a right partial foot amputation. For Sam, a former college quarterback, rehab went very smoothly. “I just expected to be able to walk and I pretty much did. I knew I would be able to walk without crutches”. Sam reported that he never really had any pain and that learning sock fit was easy.
Sam is active, he plays golf and bowls. “I can pretty much do anything I want to”. “My favorite part of my prosthesis is the air pump that acts like a shock absorber”. Some of the improvements Sam wanted to see were a leg for swimming and a machine washable suspension sleeve.
David Fischer became an above knee amputee just a few months ago in May. David says he wasn’t really sure what his expectations were prior to surgery as it happened so quickly. He said of his expectations upon receiving his prosthesis “I didn’t expect I would just get up and walk. I had a pretty good idea about the rehab process”. After initial fitting and physical therapy, David says he was more confident of being able to return to normal mobility. He has suffered from some phantom pain “but I’m managing well”.
He quickly learned correct sock fit and gave some thought to the question of things he would like to be able to do. “I would like to be able to stand in the shower”. Like many of our panel, being able to walk is one of his favorite things about his prosthesis. As for improvements he would like to see, he agreed with several members of the panel in wanting to be able to get the leg wet and to have a lighter prosthetic foot.
A note from Tom:
Thanks to our esteemed panel for their time and thoughtful responses. Hopefully our panel’s shared experiences are relatable to most of you.
These comments will only help us to provide better service. We will also relay this information to our component manufacturers to address the needs of the people we serve.
Some of our panel had some questions for us, so we decided to do a little research.
Here are some statistics you may find interesting.
- Approximately 2 million people are living with the absence of a limb in the U.S.
- Approximately 40% of amputees are female compared to 60% male.
- There are 150,000 amputations every year in the U.S. of which 82,000 people are diabetic.
- 1 out of every 185 people diagnosed with diabetes undergo amputation of a limb.
- The Midwest is the second highest region in the country for amputation. The South is the highest, followed by the Midwest, then the West with the Northeast being the lowest.
- There are almost 10 times more below knee amputees than above knee.