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Life After Amputation

Thankfully your life has been saved with the removal of the infected toe/foot.  Literally, you have changed.  Your way of moving from one place to another will probably change as well. After your surgery, you’ll want to practice moving from your bed to a wheelchair, and from there to the toilet and back. Walkers may also be used. However, it’s very important that you don’t put any weight on your affected limb until your doctor tells you to. You’ll likely need to wait at least two weeks before doing so. Don’t even touch your affected limb to the ground until your doctor clears it. Once your wound has fully healed, you may be fitted with a prosthesis, which will aid your mobility.

You will need to avoid soaking the wound, including swimming or taking a bath, until it’s completely healed. In order to keep circulation to the site working well, you’ll also want to keep your surgical site above the level of your heart when lying down, and avoid crossing your legs. Because the joint nearest to the amputation can stiffen, your doctor will give you exercises to do to keep it mobile, and he or she may also have suggestions about sitting or reclining positions that will keep your joint from freezing up.

Some people experience phantom limb sensations after an amputation. This is when you feel as though your amputated limb is still there. It can feel prickly, hot or cold, or numb. You may even feel as though your missing toes are moving, or that your missing limb is getting shorter or is in a strange position. You may feel pain in the missing part as well, like a burning sensation, shooting pains, or aches and cramps. Generally these phantom sensations fade over time, although you may experience them indefinitely. Sometimes moving your leg, or even just keeping it warm can help. You can reduce swelling in the area (which sometimes contributes to phantom sensations) by wearing an elastic or compression bandage on your stump, or a shrinker sock.

Many people who have had amputations choose to wear prosthetics to maintain mobility and appearance. Fortunately, prosthetic technology has come a long way since the days of piratical wooden limbs and hooks. Many people with prosthetic limbs are able to participate in rigorous physical activities (although you should always discuss such activities with your podiatrist before getting started) like hiking, skydiving and even running marathons. You can also obtain special prosthetics for dancing, skiing, and cycling, among others. Talk with your doctor about the best prosthetic option for you.

Dealing with an amputation can be difficult, and the emotional toll of the surgery may be greater than the physical. If you need support for sadness or depression, there are numerous groups you can turn to, both in person and online. Your doctor can help you explore options to cope with any emotional pain you may be experiencing. However, with a hopeful, positive outlook (and if you continue to do your best to keep up your health), you can have as fulfilling and satisfying a life as anyone else.