Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Part Two: How I got there from here

I tried to walk a little further every week. Along with light jogging on the treadmill, I forced some movement in the near-rigid ankle joint with various sadistic stretches. I peaked at about 2 miles of very slow running - my dead granny could walk faster - on the treadmill and couldn't go much further. A bit later I started hurting more on the inside of the ankle joint with an occasional sharp pain radiating down my foot and up the leg. I kept at it but finally had enough.

I saw Dr. Ohlson this January (09) and we talked about joint distraction and again about a tibial osteotomy...I finally cornered my courage and asked: "What about amputation...I know I can run again by losing my foot." It was good - and a relief - to hear him launch into a description of the Ertl procedure. This is important as some surgeons are not properly trained to do this specialized amputation. Dr. Ohlson mentioned the possible complications like neuromas that might require some revision but that the Ertl amputation should actually be a little easier to recover from than the prior surgery.


Initially I talked to an orthotist he recommended who suggested I try a custom brace in order to save the foot. I knew this wasn't going to work and was dejected by another delay. I felt like the orthotist did not really understand me as a runner. The cost of the custom AFO (ankle foot orthosis) was not trivial, and I hated to throw money at something that my research (including email with the manufacturer) indicated had nearly a zero chance of success. Still, I set up a fitting for it while thinking this just wasn't the right approach to my problem.

At this point I made an appointment with the company who made my orthotics in the past. I met with Larry Wiley, CP, Jared McNeill, CPO and Ricky Miller of Floyd Brace and in a short order felt a huge relief and surge of hope...they understood what I was talking about in getting my life back as a runner. I called and canceled the other brace fitting.

I contacted Amy Palmiero-Winters who answered my questions and concerns from an athlete's point of view. I also got a lot of questions answered by others...all in all the Prosthetic and Orthotic industry and community are a very helpful and caring people. I know they are proud of what they do.

So now I am waiting for my surgery on Tuesday April 14, 2009...a week from now I should be an amputee and hopefully with an epidural and feeling little to no pain with a new chapter of my life opening.

Ironic, isn't it, that I have to lose a foot to be able to run again? For me the choice, although not easy, is the only one I have. It's not about being brave or courageous or anything that lofty, it is about having my life back. I am extraordinarily lucky to live in a time when this is possible and I thank all those who are giving me this chance.

I would like to thank two I've not met, but whom I greatly admire: Jan J. Stokosa, CP, and Bill Barr. I read the book "Whole Again" and it made me appreciate how far we've come in the past few decades, from something with near-medieval suffering to bringing lives back with little or no limitations.

Yes, I know there can be complications and for some this is not the thing to do. But for anyone who has a passion in life and that passion is killed...what would you give to get it back?

An arm and a leg?

I want and will have this back. Me 'n Jen at the races

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