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Living with amputation - Interview with Heinz B.
Heinz B. had a lower leg amputated due to an accident and a medical error. In an interview he tells us how he deals with it.
How long ago was your amputation?
It was about 30 years ago.
How old were you then?
What amputation did you have?
I was amputated just below the knee due to an accident and a medical mistake.
What rehabilitation measures did you receive at the time?
I came home straight away after six weeks in hospital (there was also my first aid with a prosthesis and some physiotherapy) and didn't have any rehab afterwards.
What helped you In what way?
In my room in the hospital there was still a 22-year-old man who had just been amputated and thanks to him and his friends I actually had a good time with good conversations in the hospital despite the amputation and the operations.
If you didn't get this, would you have wished it?
A little, because I would have liked to have a walking school and other affected people to exchange ideas, since everything was quite difficult at the beginning and I couldn't really talk to anyone or ask questions except for the time in the hospital.
Are you still getting rehab today?
Due to another operation on the stump (inflammation of the bone) and a mistake during the operation, I had my first rehab three years ago.
Would you like that?
It depends on the type of rehab facility, but in principle I would welcome it because of the deterioration.
How long did it take you to “accept” your amputation?
This was actually pretty quick. I think it's easier when you're younger.
It's weird at the beginning, because you always want to stand on your leg until you notice, oops, something's missing. Actually, I didn't think it was that bad myself, it was more the reactions of the people around me that made it difficult.
Has your group of friends changed as a result of your amputation?
Yes, my circle of friends (soccer clique) said goodbye pretty quickly back then.
Has the amputation changed your relationship with your partner?
I wasn't in a relationship at the time of the amputation. It wasn't easy in the first few months because I was initially quite insecure. After that, relationships developed normally. It is clear that the amputation was / is an issue from time to time, but this played a subordinate role for both my partners and me.
Has your amputation changed your job?
At the time, I was about to train as a retail salesman, the company refused the training after the accident became known. After about a year I found another apprenticeship and have now learned a few professions. In the beginning I wanted to prove to myself that I can do almost anything that I can do. After two to three years, however, it became much more important to me that I have a job that I can identify with.
Is there anything that your amputation prevents you from doing?
Actually, I could still do a lot - for example backpacking trips around the world and light sports. What no longer worked was actively playing football and climbing or mountaineering in my club.
That was often the case in the first few years. In the meantime I only miss a few things. I have some other hobbies as an alternative. Unfortunately for the first few years I didn't dare to go swimming in public. I missed this very much. But for some time now I've been a little water rat again.
Is there anything you started after your amputation that you didn't do before?
Actually nothing special. I was 16 at the time and in this phase of life you learn a lot of new things and try out a lot, with or without amputation.
Are you looking for contact with other people with amputation?
Actually, I have only met amputees more often in the last few years and have a more intensive exchange with them.
Are you a member of a self-help group or something similar?
Has not surrendered so far and I got along pretty well so far.
Only in the longer rehab three years ago did I have more contact. Especially with new amputees. Thanks to my many years of experience, I was able to provide them with advice and assistance and help them to cope better with the situation.
What were the health / physical consequences of your amputation?
Actually, I had no problems for many years, if only in a very slight form. Normal things, like one or the other pressure point, which I always had pretty good under control. Luckily, I also never had any weight problems or phantom pain.
Do you have any concomitant / secondary illnesses?
Only for three to four years. First I got inflammation in the bone area at the end of the stump. This was operated on. Then it turned out that my blood vessels (only on the amputated leg) had become very thin - until three years ago I always had a prosthesis with a thigh sleeve - and now a longer inoperable vascular occlusion has developed. This means that a subsequent amputation will have to be carried out in the next few years.
In addition, my "healthy" leg is groaning more now - due to the long-term overload. Meniscus removal, knee dysfunction, and not to forget the back (herniated disc with nerve irritation in the "healthy" leg).
This is not that easy, as I am more and more often without a prosthesis, but this is also more difficult because the other leg no longer works. That's why I've been using a wheelchair at home and at work for a few months. I have also been taking pain medication for the first time in a few months. Overall, the situation is already burdening me. I try to find a balance between stress and relief.
Do you sometimes have problems with your prosthesis, for example when it is hot and the residual limb becomes infected?
I used to have few pressure points that didn't cause me any major problems, except now and then on my backpacking trips.
Since the last operation, the stump has become much more sensitive, both when I'm sweating and when I'm straining. That's why I wear the prosthesis less often.
What tips do you have on how best to deal with such problems?
As I said, I hardly had any problems with it until three to four years ago. I have always taken good care of my residual limb and made a lot of exercise. As a result, things went quite smoothly for almost 30 years. A good orthopedic surgeon and a good orthopedic mechanic are definitely helpful. However, the problems can certainly not be avoided completely and it also varies greatly from person to person.
What are the negative sides of your amputation?
After the amputation, I certainly had problems with my self-esteem and my body. But this has largely subsided. In the meantime, I tend to miss my mobility, which is now severely restricted by the "late effects".
Despite the amputation, my life was actually quite normal and I believe that through the disability I have experienced, experience and can give more depth and sensitivity in relationships and dealing with people.
What advice / tip / wisdom can you give to newly amputated people from your experience?
I find this question very difficult and I find it difficult to give any general advice or tip as every amputation is different. I think the circumstances are too different and therefore general advice often sounds more like phrases to me.
I can only say of myself that after I had learned to live with the ups and downs that are caused by disability and also to accept them, it became a lot easier. This is often difficult in the beginning and takes time. I have learned to allow the loss of the leg more intensely in some phases. These phases are important to me, they don't drag me down, but help me to deal with some things more consciously.
It was / is very important that I haven't lost my sense of humor. It was only enriched with a pinch of "black humor".
Another great advantage was that I had good prosthetic fittings and that I quickly tried to get to grips with the prosthesis.
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