It was a Friday morning when my surgeon pressed me for a decision about amputation. He had an opening in his schedule on the following Monday. I had already been thinking about the possibility of losing my left leg below the knee, so the need for a quick decision wasn’t all that overwhelming to me. The surgery happened, and before the end of that week, I was an in-patient at West Park for post-surgical rehab. There wasn’t a lot of waiting, and not a lot of time to wonder what might be next. For now, what was next was right there waiting around the corner.
It wouldn’t stay that way. I went home for a few weeks to wait for my residual limb to shrink enough for the training prosthetic. I had my iWalk and I was getting around. It was exhausting, but I was happy to be out and about and the Wi-Fi was much better at home.
About a week or so after casting for my first socket is when the waiting, the wondering, and the worrying started to overcome me. How long was this leg going to take? Will my incision be healed enough? Will I be able to go back to work after my short term disability runs out?
I was now technically an outpatient, so there was no jumping the queue to free up a bed. I was waiting, as patiently as I could, for this to move forward. I wondered a lot about what it would feel like to walk on the prosthetic. I didn’t have a lot of pain and was starting to wonder if all the pain came with using the prosthetic leg. I was worried about how well I would be able to walk with a prosthetic.
I would say I was nearing depression if I wasn’t already there. I felt forgotten, alone, and I wasn’t up for reaching out for any support. I had people close to me that I could talk to, and I did to a point, but it didn’t take away the anxiety of it all. The notion of the Amputee Coalition of Toronto (ACT) wasn’t even on my radar at the time, and I have a hard time asking for help as it is. To some degree, I felt guilty that I wasn’t in any pain, and that I had no complications. I almost felt silly for feeling anxious. So I just suffered through it and I very much regret having done it that way.
I was at my wit’s end, but the call eventually came for me to head back into West Park. My leg was ready and it was time for more rehab, this time to learn to walk with a new leg. I chose to be an inpatient again to try to get things going quickly. I worked hard and left West Park soon after, walking unassisted.
Somehow I avoided most of the physical pain that so many others experience, but the emotional roller coaster took its place. It’s important to talk with someone, anyone, about what you are going through. Don’t try to carry the weight yourself. I joined ACT, took a peer visit from one of its founders, Todd, and started hearing the stories of other fellow amputees. I started taking part in our group meet-ups and have had a lot of fun. There’s still some waiting and wondering going on, but a lot less worry these days. I still have those tough days, but the group has made a big difference.
If you find yourself waiting, wondering and worrying, just know that you aren’t alone. If you haven’t already, join ACT and request a peer visit. When you are ready, come out on one of the group meet-ups!
Blog Submitted By: Michael Armes
Amputee Coalition of Toronto welcomes all amputees in Toronto and the surrounding GTA to join our support group for more information on monthly meetups, upcoming events, and a safe space to share your journey. We’re in this together!