My name is Karen and I am here to tell you how impossible could turn into i’mPOSSIBLE. I was born with a right clubbed foot and had trouble walking without rolling on my ankle A LOT. I had my first surgery to try and straighten out my foot at the age of 26 years old. Following surgery, I was put into a soft cast for what seemed like a long 3 weeks. Then, when I went back to the doctor to get the soft cast removed and have the stitches taken out, the orthopedic surgeon came in the room and he told me that my foot, unfortunately, did not come out as straight as he had hoped that he had gotten it in surgery. I was then provided with a walking boot for several weeks. Later, an Ankle-Foot Orthosis (AFO) brace kept me from rolling on my foot. After spending a few years in the AFO brace I then, after about a year, moved to Utah. I found an orthopedic surgeon in Utah who was able to help me figure out my next step. He told me that surgery to straighten out my foot was not an option because it did not work the first time. The 2 options which I was given by the doctor at the time were either to use a new brace or to have an amputation. I then went home and did a lot of research and I realized that amputation was the route I wanted to and needed to take.
Due to the fact that COVID-19 hit, my amputation surgery then became an elective surgery. Sores had begun to form on the bottom of my foot from the AFO brace. They had gotten so bad that I could not bear weight on my foot at all. I called my orthopedic surgeon and he wanted me to come in quickly so that he could look at my foot right away. When he saw the sores, he decided my surgery was going to be a priority, not an elective surgery, in order to prevent infection from the sores. In order to have the surgery, I then had to quarantine during the wait time for surgery for one week, which I spent in my bedroom at home. One week later I was approved for the surgery and fortunately, I tested negative for COVID and I was ready for my life to change. On May 18, 2020, I had a right below-the-knee amputation. Following the surgery, I spent a couple of nights in the hospital for recovery and then was able to do the rest of the recovery at home. A couple of weeks later I got my stitches removed and received a prescription to receive my first prosthetic.
I believe that it is of the utmost importance to get a really good, experienced prosthetist to help you on your journey to begin walking again. That is because it is quite a process to go through, but it does and will work for you as long as you work with your prosthetist closely.
I began from using crutches with my first prosthetic leg to walking with no assistance at all. It took a little bit of getting used to standing and walking and especially balancing. In order to get used to walking, I had to remember that the temporary socket was heavy and that I had to remind myself to pick my leg up to walk or I would trip and fall over my own leg.
I believe that both the pandemic and the amputation taught me a lot of patience, which I really needed to learn. As far as my walking with my prosthetic goes, I did not have physical therapy. I began by practicing walking around my kitchen so that I could get balance, stability, and confidence. I then advanced myself to taking the stairs to going outside for appointments, and to taking walks with the family in the early mornings. About a year later I moved back to Southern California. I began pondering over my situation and a thought occurred to me, “I wonder if I will ever be able to find more friends like myself?” Sure enough, I was able to find non-profits, adaptive sports, and social groups, and more, and made a lot of new adaptive friends all across the country! One of those friends has taught me that the word ‘can’t’ is not an option, because as an amputee I simply, can. So as I joined further and encountered an adaptively abled challenge I actually challenged and pushed myself to greater heights beyond my norm.
It may be hard at first, but with encouragement and with the right will and mind power anything is possible. I went from having trouble with steps and hills and grass to overcoming those obstacles as well as furthering my walking distance. I recently discovered that I can even jump! It takes a positive mind, body, and soul to do what you are capable of doing. It is okay to not get it at first, however, with the right amount of practice you will get there. MOST of all please be patient and kind to yourself through your journey. It is like that saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Lots of practice and hard work pays off and you will get to see that in the long run. Your world will open up more to bigger possibilities. Are you ready? You can also go from being impossible to i’mPOSSIBLE along with me!