Imagine for a moment that you are at your job going about your daily routine when you suddenly feel like you are coming down with the flu. No big deal, right? For George, that was far from the truth. Within 24 hours of experiencing his first symptoms he had been care-flighted to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumococcal phneumonia, an airborne bacterial infection.
Pneumococcal pneumonia hits without warning and is often fatal for older adults. It attacks the body's nervous system and can cause massive hemorrhaging (internal bleeding). When George contracted it, he was 51, so the odds were not in his favor. Within 1 week, he ended up going through 4 amputation surgeries, losing both of his arms below his elbows and both of his legs below his knees, his kidneys began to shut down, and he was put into an induced coma. However, against all odds, he survived.
George vividly remembers waking up and his wife telling him what had happened. She told him not to worry, because although the doctors did have to amputate his limbs, he was going to get new ones. This gave George something to focus on during his long recovery.
"My biggest question was: will I be able to walk again?"
As a retired Marine, George had enjoyed an athletic, healthy lifestyle before being hospitalized, but facing the uncertainty of his situation was difficult for him. George clearly remembers laying in his hospital bed thinking about his amputations and saying to himself, "This is about as bad as it can get, and you are gunna have to decide what you are going to do."
He thought about this for several days, and in the end, "I decided to fight my way out of this." Since that day, George has not looked back. He admits that not every day is going to be a good day, but his personal mantra is "Don't quit! Keep going!"
After nearly a year in the hospital and various rehab centers, George was finally able to be fit with his first set of prostheses, and before he knew it, he was not only up and walking again, he was able to feed himself, dress himself and even drive! Now, 18 years after losing his limbs, there is little that George can't do. He credits his success to his family and community support, his wife most of all, as well as the team of medical professionals, including all of us at Optimus, who continue to help him stay active and independent.
George's prostheses helped him to feel whole again. They gave him the opportunity to be independent again and were a source of healing for him physically, emotionally and mentally. "I just want to be a regular person."
He acknowledges that when he is out in public, he sometimes wonders what people are thinking when they see him. Some have approached him and said that he is their hero and an inspiration to them. Others have a negative reaction, George continues to share his story with everyone and live his life to the fullest in hopes that he will continue to inspire others to overcome any challenge they are facing and take nothing for granted. He has certainly inspired all of us at Optimus, and we are truly honored to work with him.
In my role as patient advocate, patients ask me lots of questions about how I am able to adapt to and how I handle different life obstacles. I am always happy to share the little tips and tricks I have picked up over my 18 year journey as an amputee. However, please bear in mind that these tips are what I have come up with and what works for me. Some may work for you, some may not, but the most important thing of all is that you are doing things safely. Please do not attempt any of these methods if you feel you would not be able to do so safely.
With that being said, now that the weather is finally warming up, many people are thinking of summer trips and vacations. While many people are worrying about their "swimsuit bods", many amputees are more concerned about how they will even get to the beach or pool to enjoy the swim suit season! So, I want to help offer some suggestions with the upcoming swim season.
As a bilateral below the knee amputee, I have learned to maneuver around my home with my "legs" (prostheses) off and putting volleyball knee pads on my knees and simply crawl around my home. I took that same concept and applied it to when I am at the pool. Most swimming pools have a hard, concrete deck which becomes extremely painful to crawl on when trying to get into the pool. My knee pads saved me from scraping up my knees or relying on someone to carry me to the pool and put me into the water. After seeing how well my knee pads worked at a pool, I got to thinking, and I realized that I could use this same approach at a sandy beach! I knew I just had to try, and you know what? It worked beautifully.
Now, when going to the beach, there are some things you need to take into consideration. First, you need to account for the sand. Sand can be pretty uncomfortable (to say the least) if you get it stuck in the wrong places. Second, you need to have a plan in place to rinse off any salt water that may come in contact with your prostheses, liners, etc. Salt water is very corrosive and can damage prosthetic parts, so it is important that you protect your prostheses!! Third, BEWARE OF SUNBURN! Trust me on this one...you do not want to learn this the hard way. The skin that is covered by your prostheses and your liners is very prone to burn because it has not been exposed to the sunlight in a very long time. You need to go overboard protecting your residual limbs. Take it from someone who made the mistake of not doing so...walking around on sunburned residual limbs is EXTREMELY painful.
Here is the step-by-step process I complete when at the pool or beach:
- Prepare: As I arrive to the pool or beach, I make sure I have the following items with me: Volleyball knee pads, 2 beach towels, 2-4 large trash bags and some bottles of fresh/tap water (or if you have one of the camelback type backpacks that has a water bladder in it, that will work too as long as the water is not salt water), sunscreen (VERY high SPF for my residual limbs), and tube socks (think 1980s gym socks).
- Getting to the Water: Walking on the beach in the sand can be a very tricky obstacle, just take your time and use those assistive devices or family member for assistance as you travel through the uneven, sandy terrain. When you reach your destination, take one of your beach towels and place it on the beach, pool deck, or lawn chair as you would any other time.
- Sun Protection: Next, I take a seat and start the removal process of my prostheses and liners. Then, and this is extremely important, be sure to put sunscreen on your residual limbs!! While I am at the beach, I usually put long tube socks on my residual limbs as another precaution from the sun and to help with crawling around the sand. Whatever you do, make sure that you do NOT get sunburned.
- Storing Liners and Prostheses: Next, I take the trash bags I have packed and gently place each prosthesis in separate bags and tie them off to keep sand and water from harming the components. I do the same thing with my liners, especially when at the beach because removing sand from gel liners is a very tricky and very time consuming task! It's always earlier to plan ahead and take a few extra minutes to prevent issues than it is to have issues come up which could cause painful sores or other issues.
- Knee pads: Next, I put my volleyball knee pads on and crawl to the ocean or pool and enjoy my time!
When packing up to leave the pool or beach, here is what I do:
- Clean up: After getting back to my towel and belongings, I start to remove the knee pads and socks. At the beach, I use the bottled water (or any fresh/non-salt water) to pour over my limbs to remove any sand. I use the second beach towel I packed now because it is the only towel that does not have any sand on it, and I use it to dry off my residual limbs before donning my liners.
- Re-Donn liners and prostheses: Then, I gently and carefully remove each of liners, one at a time, out of the trash bags and don them just as I would any other time. Then, I remove my prostheses from the trash bags and put them on while sitting on a chair (if possible). Look at your surroundings. Some beaches may have picnic tables, a big rock, etc. I recommend scoping out at place before hitting the water.
- Done: Now that you have your liners and prosthesis(es) on, you are ready to pack up her remaining belongings, and head home!
Please feel free to take these suggestions and tweak them to make them fit you and your needs, but remember, the most important thing to remember, no matter what you do, is that you do things safely!
We would like to thank everyone who helped support this year's Get Up Stand Up 5K. We were able to raise $5400 for the Amputee Coalition's Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp. A special thank you to our sponsors Freedom Innovations, Ottobock, Ossur, Bulldog, Willowwood, Foot Focus, DayAir Credit Union, Medi USA and Ability Dynamics.
It was a chilly day for a 5K but it was a great success. We look forward to next year's event and hope to see you all there!
|Grace Norman Breaks the World Record in the 1500m!!!|
Saturday the weather was perfect and the atmosphere filled with excitement. Several months had gone into the preparation of this particular track meet, and the day had finally arrived. Grace Norman set the Paralympic World Record last summer in the 1500m in Indianapolis, but had to run that race by herself as no other paralympic athletes in her class want to race that distance. We knew that something special would happen if Grace had the opportunity to run that race with competition. Roger Bowen of Vandalia Butler High School was willing to trade out the normal 1600m distance for a competitive 1500m to be contested during the Annual Butler Track Invitational.
Grace arrived ready to compete, and the other schools were excited to be a part of something that usually doesn't happen during a high school track meet. Many officials and spectators were on hand to watch the race. Many of these people had seen Grace grow through the past 4 years during high school track.
Once the gun went off, Morgan Giganti of Tippecanoe took a quick lead, Grace and Emma Bryant from Vandalia Butler traded back and forth for second position. Grace established a solid, fast pace from the initial lap. Then as she crossed the line to start her final lap, she punched the pace up a notch. Leaving Emma behind, she took off in a blistering 400m and began to close the gap on the leader. She crossed the finish line in 2nd, and with a new World record in the 1500m of 4:52.16. She had cut over 6 seconds off her previous time set last year.
Grace was extremely excited about the race, and said that the crowd in the stands cheering for her had really made the difference! As she passed the stands, she said the wave of enthusiasm had carried her to crank up the pace! it was a really awesome event to share with so many people who have watched and cheered for Grace over the years!
Friday, April 29th Grace will go after her 800m World Record at the Wayne Invitational!
|Jim Scharf, PTA|
The goal of "Jim's Corner" is to provide helpful information and be a resource for those helping patients fitted with prosthetics learn to use them correctly in order to enjoy a better quality of life as an amputee.
Last month we were discussing the importance of the earliest intervention for the amputee patient with patient education on the prevention of contractures. Remember what has been stated "contractures are the most common preventable complication that can impact outcome!" Yes, I am totally biased to the value of therapy throughout the entire spectrum of care for the amputee patient and it starts right after surgery.
Proper Positioning for TFA/AKA Patient
Avoid hip flexion & hip abduction! Try to lie with pelvis/hip in a neutral position with no pillow under the residual limb or the adjustable mattress elevated into residual limb hip flexion. If the patient is able, sit multiple times for shorter periods & NOT sit in a chair for long periods of time and frequently change the position of hip & residual limb if able to. If the patient can tolerate, encourage prone lying with hip neutral or slightly extended.
Proper Positioning for TTA/BKA Patient
Avoid knee flexion, hip flexion & hip abduction! Try to lie with pelvis/hip in a neutral position and the residual limb knee extended, no pillow under knee, or the adjustable mattress elevated into residual limb hip flexion or residual limb knee flexion. Sit multiple times for shorter periods with the residual limb supported with the knee straight (with a knee board if available). If the patient can tolerate, encourage prone lying with the knee straight and hip neutral or slightly extended if patient can tolerate.
Jim Scharf, PTA, Prosthetic Assistant/Gait Specialist
Jim has been a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant since 1988. Jim has worked with lower extremity amputee patients throughout his career. He serves as a Gait Specialist and Liaison when prosthetic patients are meeting with their therapists. Feel free to contact Jim if he can assist you in any way at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
5/10 12:00 PM Liberty Nursing Center of Colerain
5/11 12:00 PM Victory Park Nursing Home
5/24 12:00 PM Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital
5/25 12:00 PM Clovernook Health Care Pavilion
5/9 12:00 PM Wexner Heritage Villiage
5/17 8:30 AM Traditions at Stygler Road
5/18 12:30 PM Westminister-Thurber Retirement Community
5/12 12:00 PM Laurels of Norworth
5/19 12:00 PM Eastland Care Center
5/10 12:00 PM Franklin Woods
5/12 12:00 PM Select Specialty Hospital Victorian Village
Our new Cincinnati office opened its doors April 11th. It is located at:
4623 Wesley Avenue, Suite B
Cincinnati, OH 45212