Calling All Amputees: Information, Please

Vacations are good, but it’s always great to be back home where things are comfortable and familiar. Some lessons learned on vacation have made things back home even more comfortable.


Take my favorite chair, for example. Since the below-the-knee amputation of my left leg in November, I’ve been able to get into the chair just fine. Getting out, however, was a different matter and often had me panting and sweating before I managed to get my tush back on the scooter seat. As a result, I’d avoided snuggling into the chair and put up with sitting in an uncomfortable scooter or dining room chair.

But after managing to hop, heel-and-toe, and do whatever else it took to get from a scooter into a vehicle bench to take a “safari ride” through the jungle in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in Florida, I figured if I could do that, I could get out of that chair. And so I can. Quite easily, too, I might add. I guess I hadn’t realized how much upper-body strength I’ve gained: One hand on my scooter seat, one on my chair arm, a little assist from my right leg and up I go.

Now I need some information from any of you who have had a leg amputated. What is the “discomfort” level on learning to walk with a prosthesis? I was told it would be “uncomfortable” at first. What I’m experiencing is pain — and I have a high pain threshold — and that’s lots of pain, along with swelling and bruising.

I did run into another person with a prosthetic leg on the cruise and talked to him a bit. He’d lost his leg several years ago in a farm accident. What he told me was that he experienced about two months of pain before he developed the necessary calluses.

But what is his pain threshold? What is pain to him may just be discomfort to me. And he doesn’t have diabetes. How do I reconcile having diabetes and the need to avoid traumas to my skin to the need to develop the toughness to endure wearing a prosthesis?

Maybe the prosthesis needs readjusting. I do have an appointment with the prosthetist today and will ask him about that. My therapist seemed to indicate that what I was experiencing was more than expected.

I do want to stand up and I want to walk. This may sound crazy, but if I can just stand up to get dressed, I’ll be happy. If you don’t believe me, you try getting dressed without standing to pull up your undies, pants, or skirt. Or getting yourself readjusted after going potty.

So, seriously, if you’ve been through an amputation and adjusting to a prosthetic leg, please let me know what I’m facing. I can put up with most things if I know what to expect.

As far as the diabetes went, it was OK. I’ve been on enough cruises that I don’t go overboard on all of the food. As usual, right when I needed my continuous glucose monitor the most, it decided not to work, but I don’t believe I went too far out of range very often. I was over 300 once when I checked but, for the most part, was between 80 and 140.

Now that I’m back home, I’m battling lows again. So here we go with adjustments. Again.

At least one thing about diabetes is constant: It’s never boring.

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  • Deb

    I don’t know anything about amputations, but when I was in rehab after an operation which led to an extreme fibromyalgia flare, I learned how to dress myself on the side of the bed. It took a while to get into the routine at home, but now it’s simple. I pile my clothes up in reverse order: pants on the bottom, then shirt, socks, and panties. I take off my sleep top, apply deodorant and put the day shirt on, then take off sleep pants, pull panties up as far as they’ll go, pull pants on over them, put socks on, then shoe and boot for my bad foot. Then I stand up and pull up panties and pants.
    When I’m at massage, I can’t put the boot on because the table’s too high, so I position my rollator (with brakes on) so that I can do all the above except the boot and pulling up panties and pants, pivot on the good foot, sit on the rollator to put on the boot – or in your case the prosthetic – then stand and pull up the pants.
    I set up my clothes the night before so everything’s ready to in a pile go on my dresser, which I can reach from the bed. To get ready for bed, I reverse the process.
    I, too, would love to be able to just stand and dress, stand and take a shower, but, like a lot of other things I’ve lost, most days I’m okay with it, and the longer it lasts the less it hurts. I’m betting that all these things that take such planning and grieving now will come to be second nature in less time than you expect.
    We may not have life in the fast lane, but like you say, it isn’t boring.

  • jim snell

    Column dead on about the dressing and standing and all that fun when one has difficulties.

    As you stated diabetes is never boring.

    I finally got my CGM working great and one woluld think in glorious american mentality – problems solved and all easy.

    Well sneaking up on my backside was my pancreaas on faster and better exercise – more insulin – type 2. Suddenly my tight diet and this nonsense started causing hypoglycemia on pills I used for years.
    full 120mg starlix and man did I have lows as atype 2. Cut in 1/2 slightly better.

    So here I am going thru full meds and modifying – metformin doses and starlix,diet,snacks to get back to stability.

    Humolog 75/25 21 units in am works till lunch no sweat and no starlix in am.

    So– pump time here we go.

    the other night had liver dump to 259 at 9:30 pm as stomach completes digestion and on starlix.

    Watched and used humolog to get back down.
    My pancreas kicked into gear and nailed down 57 units off BG in 2 hours waiting for humolog to hit. Added 6 units of 75/25 and that dumped 72 units and by am back to 140.

    good luck and best wishes. Glad you had great holiday and change.

  • Wayne Renardson

    Hello Jan:

    Let me suggest you subscribe to AMP-L, a listserv for amputees housed at the University of Washington. There you can ask questions and see what subscribers have to say about a given situation.

    AMP-L was created in December 1995 by fourteen people who wanted a forum to discuss ideas relevant to amputation. Originally hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, it moved to the University of Washington in December 1998.

    To SUBSCRIBE to AMP-L visit

    Subscribe to Amp-l by filling out the form. You must include your FULL name. Failure to do so will result in removal. You will be sent e-mail requesting confirmation which prevents others from gratuitously subscribing you. AMP-L is a hidden list, which means that the list of members/subscribers is available only to the list administrator for the sake of privacy.

    You will receive a confirmation notice which requires you to reply, insuring you are indeed subscribing from the address sent.

    Only subscribers are permitted to post messages to AMP-L and may post ONLY from the subscribed address.

    Let me know if I can offer you assistance.

  • Richard Saunders

    As a BKA left leg, if you have very much pain the socket on the prothesis is not configured correctly.
    You did not say what suspension system and foot you are using; there is a lot of difference.
    I am using a gel liner and a Flex foot with a shock absorber. Have since amputation 16 years ago due to trauma. Am now diabetic because of liver damage due to steriods used after my accident to save myn life.
    I recommend the resources available through Amputee Coalition of America.

    Contact me if I can be of more help.

  • Jan

    To bring you up to date, I met with the prosthetist on Tuesday and the upshot of the meeting is that he will meet me at my therapist’s on March 1 to do some assessments that will assist him in making adjustments to my prosthesis. Hopefully, that will take care of the pain problem. I don’t expect a lack of any discomfort, but pain is ridiculous.

    Right now, I have a temporary prosthesis. I do use a silicon liner. I have no idea what suspension system it has or what kind of foot. I know that the foot acts like a “real” one, in that I can walk on it like my right foot: starting with my heel and ending on my toes. I’m right at the beginning of my learning curve on this. Something new to play with!

    Thanks, too, for the advice on support groups. I’ll check ’em out.

    Jan Chait