Pirates are known for missing body parts. Think about it: eye patches, wooden legs, and of course the hook. Arr. These items weren’t merely meant to accessorize a pirate’s wardrobe; they were made to compensate for or cover up parts of the body lost in battle, or possibly due to disease (a pirate’s life couldn’t have been that healthy aboard ship). And, despite the romanticizing of pirates in contemporary culture (quick—name your favorite pirate character!), this aspect of their lives—amputation—is hardly something people want to go through today. But, the truth is that amputations are sometimes necessary in order to save a life, or the remainder of a limb.
Amputations may be necessary for a variety of different reasons. Your foot may be crushed in an automobile accident, and be irreparable. Or, the tissues in your foot can be badly damaged or even killed by frostbite or burns. You might have a tumor, or an infection that won’t go away or that is so aggressive that removing the affected limb is the only way to protect the rest of your body from it. You could have a wound that won’t heal, often associated with poor circulation from diabetes or smoking. Or, a scurvy dog could have come at you with a cutlass. Whatever the cause, amputation is often the last option, the one that doctors turn to when all else has been tried and fails.
Preventing an amputation from happening in the first place can be possible, depending on your situation. If you have diabetes for instance, keeping your blood sugar under control can help you avoid the damage to your nerves and circulation that can lead to necessary amputations. If you smoke, you should give up smoking to prevent further damage to your circulatory system. (Poor nerve function and lack of circulation can make it hard to feel injuries to your foot, and can make it difficult for such injuries to heal.) If you do have nerve damage, be sure to check your foot daily for signs of injury, and see a podiatrist regularly. And if you develop an infection, see your foot doctor immediately. (If you’re a pirate, try to avoid any cutlasses.)
If you do end up needing an amputation, you’ll need to take care of your surgical site carefully, and you’ll need to learn how to move in a different way. For the first few days after surgery, your stump will be bandaged, and you or someone helping you will probably need to change the dressing as instructed by your doctor. Keep your eyes open for warning signs of infection or other problems with the surgical site, such as red streaks going up your leg, an increase of redness in the area, swelling or warmth, drainage or bleeding that starts up again, a fever of 101.5 or higher that happens more than once, or if the skin around the wound begins to open or pull away or turn dark or black.
Even if you avoid complications, your surgical site will probably feel painful for several days. Medication is available to help with the pain of course, but talk to your doctor if the pain becomes worse, or if it isn’t being managed well with your medication. If pain persists after your wound has healed, you can try tapping your scar gently, or rubbing it with a soft cotton or linen cloth.
It is vital that the remaining portion of your foot heal in order to prevent the need for an additional higher amputation. If you have sufficient blood flow to the remaining foot then the postoperative period should be uneventful. Make sure you follow your podiatrist”s instructions and then maintain a regular visit schedule with him or her and you will stay on track.