I clearly remember all of the thoughts that danced through my head in the 3 weeks I had to wait for my amputation surgery. It seemed so overwhelmingly sad and I knew I was going through a natural process of grieving. No, a limb is not a person, but it is normal to grieve the loss of a limb, even before surgery.
I remember thinking that I was a nurse, so I should be able to handle this. Not one of my physicians or caregivers ever mentioned any type of counseling or emotional support, so I assumed I shouldn’t need any. Multiple re-constructive surgeries to my lower leg following a car accident had been futile. Nearly a dozen trips to the operating room, pain clinics, physical therapy, hardware exchanges, bone grafts from my hip…none of that mattered now. I thought that, for the most part, life as I knew it was over. I didn’t know how to prepare myself mentally for this new journey I was about to take. I re-lived each surgery I had undergone in the two and one half years since the original accident. So much pain and suffering with each one…but this was the outcome. I was fully aware that the destroyed bone I had been left with was keeping me from moving forward in life, but the thought of losing it was still devastating.
I suffered in silence, not wanting my family to see my fears. I had to be strong for them, I thought. My son, then 15, had been so great through all of it. Helping me endlessly with anything I needed. What kind of mother could I be now?
I realized one day that I was looking at this totally wrong. Although I initially thought of the amputation as the “end of the road” of life as I knew it, the end of my happiness, the end of my nursing career; it dawned on me that it was, in fact, just the opposite. The amputation wasn’t the problem, it was the solution! The problem, I eventually realized, was my shattered leg with pieces of dead bone that would never heal. Amputation wasn’t the END of the road; it was the BEGINNING of a better one! Having that belief didn’t lessen the physical pain or make me heal faster, but it contributed to my attitude toward the whole process. I still had down days, but not as many of them. Most of all, I had hope that my life would only get better from now on.
Carolyn McKinzie, LPN, BKA January 2014