What are some things you wish you would have thought about in preparation for coming home from the hospital that first time after your amputation operation, that now, thinking back, could have made your new way of life so much easier to adapt to? Surgery, for anyone, is always a scary event which is then followed by the recuperation and healing period afterwards. In this situation though, a new amputee now has to figure out how to adapt to the same world as before but in a whole different way. As much as one tries to prepare for all possible scenarios beforehand, life is about learning as we go. It would be easier on those entering into the early post op stages if others who have come before them could point out the obstacles they encountered and what they did to overcome them or adjust to them. Obstacles are not all physical either, remember that as you read through the advice below because you are in luck, this very subject was actually discussed in support forums recently so let us review the multiple ideas and pointers that were given by now seasoned fellow amputees.
Initially, the most obvious modifications that are focused on right away are the widening of doorways to allow wheelchair access and the renovation of the bathroom with handrails in the shower and around the toilet in order to create a safe and secure environment for showering and using the facilities without the need for assistance. Reminders were given to pull up rugs to prevent wheelchairs from catching or tripping on crutches from occurring. Repositioning of furniture to provide ample space to move around the house and situating everyday items lower to be within reach was quite appreciated by those not being able to reach high anymore.
Rewinding, just for a minute, to pre-surgery times, there was the idea of going to meetings for Amputees in order to begin the process of building a support team with those who have been through the surgeries already and have experiences modifying their old way of life to adjust to their new way of life. Engaging in group discussion and preparing the mind for what is to come can help to lessen the anxiety, stress and fear that may be building up within.
Right after surgery there is the need for pain relief. Many folks do not like the idea of relying heavily on pain medications so they wanted to have alternatives handy in the area. To aid in the more common phantom pains most suggested making sure to stock up on ice packs and lots of pillows to keep the limb elevated for the first week after surgery. Acupuncture and gently massaging around the area was helpful as well to some commenters.
For a new amputee, developing and practicing patience and independence is a must. Try not to allow loved ones to do everything. Work needs to be put in to start settling into this new way of life as soon as possible. Though that is not to say push everyone, and their offer of help, away. Try first then ask for help. Grippers for reaching and picking things up seemed to be a necessary item to avoid dropping things and trying to get up to get them which could result in possible injury. Make sure to think about retrofitting your living quarters with ramps and bars where extra assistance lifting yourself up might be of use.
If you are a family member or friend reading too, this is for you; work to keep conversation as normal as possible and not project feelings of being sorry for the person while acting as if they are never going to be able to move past this event or that it is “the end of the world”. It is not. Be supportive, be their rock, lend an ear to listen to them, treat them like you have always treated them to help build up their confidence and will power.
This is only the beginning and there will be hurdles and opportunities for growth all along the way. Hopefully addressing these things early on and learning from others will ease the transition period and get you back on the path of living a full, happy life. Please do remember that all ideas mentioned above are for health information only. As always, speak with your physician for any and all medical advice.