January 7, 2014

    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             

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