I started a blog in 2015, just prior to my elective amputation, and am slowly replenishing it on this website. Thank you for your patience - please check back for updates.
I can now say I’ve literally and figuratively been through Hell.Read More
2015 Highlights (10.30.15)
I've had many wonderful experiences since my amputation 6 months ago. One highlight was being interviewed by Sydney, sophomore at our local high school, who reached out to interview me for a journalism class assignment after reading about my experience in the Chicago Tribune. Sydney is a talented writer and delightful, lovely, and wonderful young woman!
Running After 34 Years! :) (10.29.15)
Last night, 4 months post-bka, and after 34 years hoping and dreaming I would run again someday, I ran! It's been one of the most incredible 24 hours in my life. I cannot believe it! After over 35 limb salvage surgeries stemming from an accident 34 years ago, I decided on amputation. Dr. Jan Ertl did my bka 4 months ago. Prosthetist Dave Rotter, his team at Scheck & Siress, and a running blade donated by Ottobock helped my running dream come true last night. Today I went back for coaching, and the frosting on the running cake was running with Melissa Stockwell, Paralympian, Iraq War Veteran, World Champion Paratriathlete, Prosthetist, and amazing. It was wonderful to meet Nick DiTomasso, Ottobock rep and thank him and Ottobock for donating a running blade which gave me the opportunity to run!
I spent the day at my prosthetist's office and am making steady progress. My prosthetist, Dave Rotter, and his team are devoted to what they do, and prosthetics is truly an art form. Their office is a community, and I continue to meet people there who are inspirational!
My Surgeon, Dr. Jan Ertl, has an article featured in InMotion Magazine this month (9.18.15)
My amputation surgeon, Dr. Jan Ertl, is an author of an article featured in InMotion Magazine this month. InMotion is a bimonthly publication produced online and in print by the Amputee Coalition, the leading non-profit providing information and support for amputees. I researched and spoke to many surgeons and prosthetists prior to choosing Dr. Ertl to amputate my leg. I had the luxury of choosing amputation, and researching amputation procedures, and believe the Ertl lower limb amputation procedure is far superior in terms of opportunities for the best outcome compared to traditional amputation procedures. If you know anyone facing the decision of lower limb salvage surgeries or amputation, please share this article, which is on page 34 of the current issue:
Random Acts of Kindness (7.23.2015)
I got back on the train today for the first time since my surgery last month and experienced many blessings. The last time I'd gone downtown on the train was the week before my surgery, to volunteer at Imerman Angels, a cancer organization that provides mentors for those with cancer. I had some concerns about my residual limb (a bump and a bone fragment that shifted out of place), and had called Dr. Ertl’s office last Friday, and left a message. I got a call back from Dr. Ertl’s wonderful nurse, Michelle, that Dr. Ertl would be in downtown Chicago this week and I could meet him downtown to have a look at my leg. I was able to meet him this morning downtown at Palmer House. (this was truly ironic to me as the last time I went to Palmer House it was to see my original surgeon, Dr. Lyddon, who salvaged my leg).
I got off the train at Union Station to walk to Palmer House, and ran into a genuinely nice person I know, Jim. I serve on the Western Springs Plan Commissioner and Jim is the Chairman. I enjoyed a great conversation with him as I walked to Palmer House, & Jim to his office.
I got to Palmer House, and met with Dr. Ertl. Dr. Ertl is the kind of guy you could sit next to in a bar, have a great conversation, and he’d never tell you he’s a world-renowned trauma and amputation surgeon. You’d just think what a great guy. Dr. Ertl looked at my residual limb and said I’m ok to get fitted with my temporary/first prosthesis next month. We’ll take care of the bump and bone fragment after I’m in my first leg in an outpatient procedure. This was good & bad news, as once I get my leg I don’t want to turn back. Dr. Ertl & I talked again about what I did before my accident, running, dance for 15 years, playing golf. Though it will take awhile, running is attainable, and golf... Back to reality, first goal is walking!
I walked back to Union Station and got back on the train to return to Western Springs. And if you are wondering, yes this was more walking/crutching than I’d done in entire weeks. I was very tired when I got home. After the train left Union Station there was an announcement that for 3 of the stops (which included my stop in Western Springs) only the front car would let passengers deboard, so anyone getting off at those stops needed to go to the front car. I knew I couldn’t safely walk to the front car on a moving train. I looked around for a conductor but didn‘t see one. A lovely woman sitting across from me saw my obvious disability and looked at me with concern. I asked her if she could see a conductor. She told me she didn’t see one either, but would go find one, which she did. I told the conductor I couldn’t make it to the front car & he made sure I was able to get off the train from the car I was on. The kind lady who helped me almost missed her stop in Brookfield by helping me! I’ve experienced so much kindness from family & friends and this random act of kindness from a stranger-well, I have another angel in my life. I am grateful to her and didn’t have a chance to say much more than ‘Thank you so much!’ before she had to get off at her stop, so I didn’t get her name. And also a thank you to ‘Kel’, the Metra BNSF conductor who helped me with a smile.
As a neighbor used to say when I’d thank her, ‘We’re all in this together’.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (7.09.15)
As is the case with some major life events, things don't go as we hoped. I had hoped amputation surgery would be 'one and done'. Unfortunately, when I went in for my post op check in July, x-rays showed a bone fragment had shifted. My surgeon, Dr. Jan Ertl, advised we wait until I was fitted with my test/first/temporary prosthetic before scheduling surgery to remove the bone fragment, in case additional revision was needed-better one revision surgery than possibly needing another after I was able to try walking. I was anxious to get the bone fragment removed but realized it was wise to wait.
I was fitted with my test/first/temporary prosthetic end of August, and my prosthetist quickly named the bone fragment 'Lucifer'. It reeked havoc in my test socket, and God Bless my prosthetist and his team for adjusting, adjusting, and adjusting again so that I was able to take some encouraging first steps even thought they knew we'd be starting over again after the bone fragment and revision was done. It was exciting to take some first steps yet disheartening to know I need another surgery, need to heal again, and start all over walking in a new leg.
copyright 1981 Deborah SmithRead More
Sleeping like a baby (6.13.15)
Sorry I have not posted much since my surgery. I've been on a sleeping marathon. I am worn out, and don't think I've slept this much since I was an infant. Hopefully my body and mind are doing a lot of growing and healing.
I read about 'phantom pain' prior to surgery and now understand what it is. I don't know why it's called 'phantom' though because it sure feels real!
During one of my awake moments today I took a walk around the block with my dear friend Amy. Hurray! One step, one block at a time!
Blog up & running again (my blog, not me ;) (6.11.15)
Thanks to all who let me know they couldn't access my blog, and for your emails & texts of encouragement! I think I've solved the problem and it should be up and running now.
Back to the Future (6.04.15)
Good news from yesterday is that only one surgery was needed. I have a wound vac which is helping relieve swelling, and 3 IV antibiotics in case there is any osteomyelitis hiding out.
Today is my first full day of being an amputee. When I woke up from surgery yesterday, not seeing my foot was not the shock I thought it might be. I felt calm, and believe it is a because of the encouragement and positive energy from family and friends. I’ve received so many kind emails which are the best medicine ever. Thank you all for sending positive energy and faith my way!
Today has been a tough day. Dr. Ertl told me the pain would be intense and indescribable-and it is. I’m reminding myself it is pain towards progress. Physical therapy started today. I was able to walk a very short distance using a walker.
Dr. Donald W. Lyddon Jr., was my orthopedic surgeon after my accident in 1981. Dr. Ertl remarked today that Dr. Lyddon had foresight and courage to even attempt to save my leg. Dr. Lyddon took x-rays and photos of my leg to orthopedic conferences around the world to brainstorm with other surgeons on how to tackle some of the unique aspects of my case. My leg x-rays and photos have travelled to more places than I have! I used to joke with friends that I was an international leg model. I thought it was funny as my leg was noticeably disfigured. I guess yesterday marked my retirement.Read More
Onward & Upward (6.03.15)
Just arrived at Indiana University North Hospital, and now in pre-op. Beautiful hospital, and very kind staff. Good start to what is likely to be a long day.
Here's a description of my procedure: Ertl Amputation Procedure described by Dr. Jan Ertl. Dr. Ertl may be doing a 2 step procedure, due to my having had osteomyelitis (bone infection). I may have wound vac and not be completely closed up after today's surgery. This way if the osteomyelitis rears its ugly head again it won't be trapped.Read More
It is surreal to know I’ll be waking up from surgery in less than 48 hours without one of my feet. A foot and leg I’ve fought for almost 34 years to keep. I’ve had over 40 surgeries in my life (over 30 have been on my leg), but this week’s will certainly be unlike the others. This is letting go of something I thought I needed to be whole, but realized is an obstacle to who I can be. I’m trying to stay curious about it, but it is overwhelming. I’m reminding myself I am taking a big step towards a new life, though I’m having moments I feel I may dissolve into a puddle.
Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Indianapolis, in preparation for surgery Wednesday with Dr. Jan Ertl at Indiana University North Hospital. My parents will be with me, as they were after my accident in 1981. I’m blessed with supportive family and friends. I’m grateful for the many great people in my life, which now includes new friends I've met on my quest to learn about what my new life will be like as an amputee.Read More
Reclaiming is by definition the act of retrieving, recovering, or restoring something previously lost. I’ve done a lot of salvaging in my life, trying to make the best of challenges I’ve been presented with. What I’ve learned is that reclaiming doesn’t mean trying to save something that will never function better or harms other aspects of life. Sometimes reclaiming means giving in to what is, and letting go in order to move forward-accepting that in losing something we thought was essential we may gain new freedom.
I’m having a below knee amputation Wednesday, June 3. I’m writing in order to keep in touch with family & friends, and in hopes of helping someone else facing the difficult choice of amputation or persevere through other challenges I've experienced.Read More