Amputee Corner - Brave, Braver, Bravest
Part of initial amputee consultation always include the question what was the cause?
And it can be summarized (I am going to use layman’s terms and examples) as the 3 D’s. The Dead limb, the Deadly limb and the Damn nuisance.
Dead – the limb does not function anymore due to circulation or infection or earlier trauma. Deadly – gangreen/ snake bite. Damn nuisance – no function and in the way of daily activities.
Of course it can be categorized more elaborate but for this purpose I’ll simplify to the above.
More important is the story of what actually happened for example motorbike accident. This gives you insight in to the actual length and severity of the trauma the patient had to endure for better insight into their current state of mind.
I thought that I’ve heard it all but was not prepared for the following.
From Zimbabwe Sarah Todd limped into my reception on a cloud, with a painful ill-fitting prosthesis. Sitting in my reception radiating love and hope to staff and patients none of us could ever imagine the degree of trauma that Sarah has overcome in her life. Her story started on the 17th of April 1988 when her life was changed in a matter of 5 seconds.
She was 23 and driving home after supporting her husband in his fishing competition when her car skidded on a dirt road and rolled numerous times before coming to quiet and deserted halt in the long grass next to the road.
It was only during sunrise the following morning that the first people came across the accident scene – she had spent the night under a tree in front of the wreck. “I felt no pain, but I thought I was having a nightmare from which I would eventually waken”. Little did she know that her nightmare was only starting.
After the initial examination by trauma surgeons upon her arrival to the largest hospital in Zimbabwe, her injuries seemed minor with the only visible trauma being her broken ankle. However, the severity of her injuries only became evident a few days later when she was admitted to ICU. Multiple drains in her stomach, damaged liver and kidneys, two fractured vertebrae, a fractured collarbone, three fractured ribs, a blood clot on her brain, 13 units of blood and two resuscitations later it was clear to everyone that Sarah was a fighter. By some miracle she was alive but her ordeal was nowhere near over.
Gas gangrene had set in on the wound on her ankle and her surgeon was left with the difficult but inevitable task of amputating her leg through the knee in order to save her life that she had already desperately been fighting for. She was devastated but the fighter in her heart was still there and she pulled through.
“People have asked me how I cope with life, saying they’d never be able to live with something like my disability. My answer is that everything happens for a reason, I truly believe you find the strength to handle so many of the obstacles that life throws at you. It’s not easy, and I still have moments when I feel sad at all the things I’ve lost.” The second Sarah walked into our office she radiated bravery, strength and love and we will forever stand in awe at the way she overcame the immense loss of so many things in her life.
We first truly understood the magnitude of Sarah’s loss when we learnt that at the time of her accident she was 7 months pregnant with her first child and that her baby had lost her life when she saved Sarah from fatal internal injuries.