Archive: My story – the amputation

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 5 March, 2007

Well, looks like I didn’t get around to putting up that extra blog post last week 😛 Apologies for that, the weekend turned out to be pretty busy, and I didn’t get around to doing some training on the boxing bag either 😛 I’ll definitely have to get around to doing some leg stretches the next few days though – my form will be particularly crap on Wednesday if I don’t.

So, today I thought I’d get started on telling how I lost my leg. Hopefully it’ll prove interesting, and I’m not sure if this will take a single post, or a couple to get through, so we’ll just see how we go. Unlike a number of amputees, I lost my leg when I was still a baby – I was about 3 months old when they chopped it off, actually. Telling how this happened is a little tricky, as I was obviously too young to remember, so I’ll be reconstructing this using the collective memory of what my parents have told me since then.

My Mum noticed that after birth, my left leg seemed a little swollen compared to my right, and brought it to the paediatrician’s attention, who didn’t seem too concerned with it. A few weeks later (maybe a month?) the swelling hadn’t gone down, and Mum always tells how she noticed things were getting really bad when she felt behind the knee cap and noticed I was bleeding out the back of it (as opposed to sweating, for example). Given this wasn’t exactly the ideal condition you want your child in, she took me to hospital to get it checked out.

I had a “strawberry birthmark” on my leg as a baby, also known as a ‘hemangioma’. These things seem to be relatively harmless in most cases from the stuff I’ve read, excepting the cases where they’re near, say, and eye or another organ. I’ll admit ignorance here, so I hopefully haven’t offended anyone with that broad generalisation, ’cause I have heard where they have caused some serious problems. Anyway, this is where my understanding gets fuzzy of things – it was a particular hemangioma that caused the problems with my leg. The resulting swelling saw my left leg balloon to this crazy degree – my folks have some pictures of me when I was in hospital as a kid, and my left leg looks at least 30 – 60% larger than my right leg, is all swelled up and is bright pink and purple from the bruising. Crazy stuff.

I’ve been told that the swelling got so intense that it literally crushed the bone, which in turn caused the leg to turn gangrenous. Compounding this, an air bubble formed in the blood in my lower leg, which has the capacity to shut down the heart if given the opportunity to travel through the bloodstream. So, in short, the leg was in a very bad state, and I was accordingly in a very bad state, teetering on that ethereal threshold between life and death (not that I would have used those words as a 3-month-old baby, but oh well – I’m an Arts student, I’m trained to use flamboyant language!). It was really serious stuff, and my parents went through a helluva lot during that period.

In total, I think I was in the hospital for a couple of months I think… like I said, over the years my encapsulation of the thing has thrown it out of whack in my head. This of course poses the question – if I was in hospital for so long, why did things get so bad? Well, it certainly didn’t help that we had an arrogant sonnovabitch as the doctor in charge of me. Given he’s apparently quite a prominent physician in the grand scheme of things, let’s refer to him as Doctor Evil, ’cause I don’t want the lawyers after me. I was thinking of other silly names, such as Doctor Doom, Doctor Dingbat, Doctor Putz and Doctor Headuphisarse, but I’ll stick with Doctor Evil for now. Anywho, Doctor Evil, given his prominence and standing in the medical community, assured my folks of being the one to take care of the situation, save the day, and so on, and then proceeded to do nothing. When it got to the point where I was so sick I was nearing death, he finally decided to do something about it. Yay, go him 😛

So anyways, apparently my Dad finally got him to agree to amputate the leg in order to save my life, but instead of organising something urgently (this was late in the week, maybe a Friday?), he wanted to fly someone over from Melbourne to take care of it the week after. This wasn’t all that practical, given the state I was in. After more ‘discussions’, he finally conceded and a local doctor, whom we shall refer to as Doctor Tenshi (or maybe that should be Tenshi-sensei, if we’re going for the Japanese thing), came in and saved my life. Literally, it was his work on me in the operating theatre that saved my life. He’s awesome, uber, golden, all that – the name’s quite fitting: Tenshi is the Japanese word for spirits that are kinda like angels in the English language – Wikipedia gives a nice definition here. I was all of three months old when this happened.

In the aftermath, I’m told a number of things took place. Doctor Evil apparently was reluctant to supply the photos of the ‘before’ shots to my Mum of the state of my leg, who wanted them so I could see what my legs looked like when I was a baby and understand the situation I was in when I was older (apparently there was fear of a lawsuit in there, hence why there were issues with getting them). I’ve had… 11 or 12 operations on the leg since the initial operations over the years – skin grafts, clean-up jobs, I’ve had the growth plate removed, and the last two operations were in 1994 and 2001, both of which were due to a bone spur protruding from the end of my stump on the left side thereof (both happened at the same ‘site’ on the bone). Given the base of the stump has to deal with the weight/impact of walking, these were somewhat inconvenient – the first case was annoying in that I’d only been in hospital three months earlier to have my appendix out, and the latter caused issues as I had the operation a few weeks into the first semester of Uni that year. This meant I had to reduce my study load to a single subject, couldn’t work for over three months, and couldn’t walk for almost the same period of time. Oh yeah, and it was bloody painful 😛 I mean, you wouldn’t think chopping off a small chunk of bone would hurt that much, but by slicing open all the muscles at the end of the stump, working on the bone, and then tying it all back up again… damn, it hurt.

And that pretty much sums up my amputation. I was three months old, so the lucky bit is that I only had to learn how to walk once, and can’t remember any of the painful stuff. I’m generally not phased with having to go to the hospital for any reason because I used to be in there so much when I was growing up, and I’m grateful to all the medical staff who looked after me as a kid, and for the great people who have built my legs for so many years. I might have to see if I can get this site passed along to one of the guys who looked after my artificial legs since I was a kid – I reckon he’d be stoked to see how things have come along, considering he’s known me since I was so young.

I’ll post something else up during the week, probably before Wednesday in prep for training, followed by a general post-training blog on Thursday or Friday if I can squeeze it in before the end of the week 🙂 So yeah, I hope you enjoyed the story!!

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