It’s a situation no one expects. Maybe it was an accident or an ongoing health condition, but it prompted the doctors to say those awful words: “We’re going to have to amputate.” It may feel like your world is coming to an end. But humans are tenacious. Even when we don’t know what to expect from life after amputation, we keep living. And you can too.
Getting a Prosthetic Limb
You can get a prosthesis after the wound has completely healed. Typically, this takes at least two to three weeks, if not longer. When choosing a prosthetic limb, you must consider several different aspects:
- How much of the limb you have lost
- Range of mobility of your residual limb
- The skin condition of the residual limb
- Whether you want the limb to look realistic
- If want to do activities like sports or driving
Your occupational therapist can work with you to help you make a decision that suits your level of mobility and needs.
Adapting the Home
If your goal is a high level of independence, you may be eager to push yourself to do things like you used to. But pacing is important, and there’s no sense in making life more difficult than it has to be. Rearranging your home will help you take your first steps toward mobility. Consider:
- Installing hand bars in the bathroom by the showers and toilet
- Moving furniture to create larger walkways
- Moving to a downstairs room if stairs are challenging
- Moving things to lower shelves
- Putting things you regularly use in easy-to-reach places
You should also keep your future transportation needs in mind. Driving is still a possibility for amputees, but you may need to look into buying a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Otherwise, look into resources in the area that may be available to you.
Taking Care of Emotional Needs
You and your doctor have probably discussed a plan about how to take care of your physical health. But amputation is a traumatic event with potential repercussions for your mental and emotional needs. You will likely experience PTSD or go through the five stages of grief. This is natural, and it’s something you should expect during your life after amputation.
Give yourself time to experience these emotions and look for healthy ways to process them, such as journaling or counseling. Build support systems you can lean on to discuss your feelings. But even as you process feelings of hopelessness, take time to read stories of those who have survived amputations and thrived. Don’t use this as a way to pressure yourself, but to give yourself hope that life doesn’t have to end here.