Learning to Live With Amputations

Since my aortic aneurysm in 2003, I have had repeated vascular problems. This necessitated amputating my left leg in June 2011 and my right leg in January 2012. After both operations I was a patient at Magee Rehab in Pennsylvania and received excellent care from the occupational therapists (OTs) and physical therapists (PTs). They taught me (and my wife) how to do transfers with the Hoyer lift. They also worked on my balance and strength so I could do the transfers. How to balance without legs takes a lot of energy and practice. They obtained a motorized wheelchair and showed me how to use it safely. Driving a powered wheel chair can be challenge (look out for walls).

Upon discharge from Magee, I have been receiving OT and PT at home. Since my release from Magee, the therapists have me getting up and out of bed and into a motor wheelchair without the aid of the Hoyer lift. Both the OT and PT in Magee and in the home are continuously giving encouragement and praise for every achievement. It makes you try harder during every step of your rehabilitation. As a result of their encouragement and support I have made significant strides in mobility. For example, they did not think I could get into a car but we tried first the front seat (very difficult) and finally settled on getting into the back seat which is a little wider and closer to the door than the front one. That is a major achievement because I can make short trips with my lighter transfer chair. The back seat is also safer because I can use my hands to push against the front seat if there is a sudden stop. 

Being a double amputee requires a whole new way of thinking on your new situation. PT concentrates on building strength so you can handle the new demands on your body. PT thinks of ways to expend minimum amounts of energy. The OT concentrates on getting you adapted to your new problems and how to solve them so you can return to as much of your former life as possible. I thought OT was to help with your assembly line work. But my OT is incredibly inventive in using and adapting items in our house so jobs are doable for me.

However, the single most important thing you must have is a desire to try everything they propose. They know what you are capable of. Finally, be cheerful. You will happier and so will the OT and PT.

Jaydee Miller