I will be coming home from Boston this week just in time to celebrate my eldest son Ravis’ 12th birthday on the 12th of July! My surgery was only delayed five days due to covid and took place on May 27th. My unique circumstance proved to be a wee bit more of a challenge than expected, even for Dr Carty, and I ended up having a total of five surgeries and spending four weeks in hospital.
The plan with the above knee Ewing amputation that Dr Carty has devised is to take three sets of muscles from below the thigh and reattach them in the stump. This allows for a host of benefits over a typical amputation. All other amputations are essentially using the same technique they used in civil war days. I will get into the details in a later blog. Because of the damage 31 years with an open wound had done, when Dr Carty cut me open he discovered that my foot muscles were very obviously shot, so he did not attempt to move them up. He did move both other sets of muscles and reattach them, but it looks like only the uppermost pair actually made the move intact. This is by no means certain and the middle pair could at some point miraculously come to life as they are set up in place if that were to happen.
Because of my venous issues etc. Dr Carty was unable to close me up as normal and had to put me on a wound vac and do three debridement surgeries to combat skin die off and other complications. After that the wound was finally ready to finish the attachment of nerves to my muscles, and close the leg up with a skin graft taken from my right leg. Due to the unfinished nerve work, I got to experience the joys of phantom pain, something many amputees deal with regularly. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced. It felt like my foot was in a vice grip and it was always being tightened. I would instinctively grab for my foot to soothe it but it wasn’t there and I would grab at the bed in vain. The best government heroin could do nothing to assuage it because of course it didn’t exist, supposedly it was just in my imagination. Thankfully in the last surgery Dr Carty performed, he did something only three surgeons in the country are presently doing, and he attached the nerves to my muscle and the phantom pain has been gone ever since.
I spent one more week in hospital, attached to a wound vac and various other things as we hoped the skin graft would take for the first time in my life. Third time’s a charm in this case, and I was able to be wheeled out of hospital four weeks after walking in. My parents have been taking care of me in an apartment we rented in Boston for the last few weeks.
At first I was moving around on a walker and feeling very weak and wobbly after 4 weeks in bed, but I have been eating well and am now feeling confident on crutches, and have been taking longer walks, and doing a little upper body strength training. One of the most common issues post amputation, especially in the middle of the night, is momentarily forgetting you don’t have both legs, and falling, but so far my memory of the missing limb is pretty good! I don’t miss my leg as I had plenty of time to say goodbye before this happened, but it is still a mental and emotional adjustment to realize it really is gone, and I have to depend on man made parts to move around without hopping. I have been continuing my practice of finding things to be grateful for and letting the thankfulness sink in. Aside from my family and friends who have been amazing throughout this whole ordeal I am also incredibly grateful for Dr Carty.
Barbara, a PCA who worked most nights at the hospital and would take my vitals every few hours, told me one night that after Dr Carty came and saw me (which was most days) he would talk to the nurses, and even the PCAs, and ask their opinion on how I was doing. This struck her as a good sign of his character which is why I think she shared it with me. I couldn’t agree with her more. It shows a humility that many people at his level of expertise rarely exhibit. He still knew he didn’t know everything, and anybody, no matter how far down the hospital hierarchy, could have an insight that could help. These are the type of experts I want to surround myself with in every area of life.
All of these apparent roadblocks and hurdles have made it even more obvious to me how blessed I am to have been forced to search out and find Dr Carty. If I had just taken my hometown surgeons’ advice and let him cut my leg off, almost 2 years ago, it probably would have been an unmitigated disaster. It is likely he would not have had the skill to deal with such sensitive and problematic veins and tissue. It would have been a miracle if he had got me closed up at all, and I would be experiencing phantom pain, and not have the extra bulk of muscles for protection and possible future benefits in my stump. By finding one of the top reconstructive surgeons in the world to take care of me I am now looking forward to a quality of life I have not known since that copperhead snake bite 31 years ago!