Losing part of a limb can be a very traumatic event. It raises all sorts of questions and creates a number of practical problems, not to mention feelings of pain, grief, anger and isolation.
Talking to others who have experience of life after amputation can often be of great value to those facing surgery. There are a number of groups that offer peer support and more information. Some of these are featured in our resource section and the hospital should be able to recommend others.
The following pages are aimed at giving those that are waiting and preparing for an amputation an outline of the process as well as sharing some advice on the mental and physical preparations.
“I suppose it's a bit like the days prior to an exam - you know you can't do any more than you've done, but still you are distracted by other things and you find it difficult to concentrate. I only hope that, in the same way it does when you get into an exam, my mind will clear and focus.”Preparing for surgery, an extract from Jim Bonney’s diary
Don’t be afraid to talk also to the medical staff, both before and after surgery. Many countries have multi-disciplinary medical teams, whose role is to support and help amputees to achieve the best possible outcome after surgery. This might vary from simply getting people back on their feet to regaining their confidence in walking and in the longer-term, perhaps even running.
These teams are usually made up of surgeons, prosthetists (people who specialize in the design and fitting of artificial limbs), physical and occupational therapists (who help amputees relearn how to use their muscles and walk again, and who offer practical support with everyday activities such as preparing a meal, taking a shower or driving a car).
Although amputation is still major surgery, modern techniques mean people can be operated on successfully, even those that are very ill. Then the recovery and rehabilitation process begins, which may involve the fitting of a prosthesis - an artificial limb.
As recovery progresses many people are able to take up most of their former activities and enjoy a good quality of life.