November 19, 2002
Optimism, enthusiasm help Brandon psychologist walk again after amputation
By Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
BRANDON, Miss.—Susan Dees was nervous about an upcoming operation to amputate her left leg below the knee and uncertain how she would cope with the loss of a limb.
She needn’t have been.
When doctors discovered a blockage in the flow of oxygen to Dees' foot, they feared if the lower portion of her leg wasn’t soon removed, more damage would occur to the rest of her body.
“I wasn’t happy about it and I wanted to know more about what was going to happen to me,” said Dees, 56, a trained psychologist. “The idea of losing a limb is hard for anyone to cope with.”
After her surgery, a friend introduced her to Chris Wallace, director of the orthotics and prosthetics division at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. In turn, Wallace introduced her to coworker Brad Kennedy—a certified prosthetist and an amputee himself.
“If I could have met someone like Brad before my surgery, everything would have been different,” recalls Dees. “The whole ordeal would have been a lot easier for me.”
That’s partially because with a computerized, state-of-the-art leg, Kennedy still runs, jumps and lifts weights every day. “I wanted her to know that just because we were fitting her for a prosthetic leg, that didn’t mean we were limiting her in any way.”
Kennedy’s enthusiasm and optimism helped make the process of being fitted for a new limb and learning how to walk again exciting for Dees.
“I had these awful ideas of what it was going to be like. I was afraid that I would have a peg-leg like in the old pirate movies. But when I met the staff at Methodist Rehab, Brad was sitting in a chair wearing Bermuda shorts. I could see his prosthetic leg and the American flag design he had on it and I thought to myself, ‘I want a leg like that.’”
Lack of credible information about prosthetic limbs is a problem in this growing field, said Wallace. “The work we do is slowly being recognized, but right now there just aren’t enough of us in the field to go around educating potential patients and physicians. There are too many patients like Susan who just don’t know what is available to them after an amputation or severe injury.”
In Dees’ case, staff members like Kennedy make a big difference.
It’s an advantage Wallace is happy to boast about. “There are certain things that no amount of experience or education can make up for and having a staff with members who are not only knowledgeable about prosthetic limbs, but who are also amputees is a great help to our patients.”
Dees’ new leg gets her up and down stairs, in and out of cars and, most importantly, back behind her desk at the Mississippi State Hospital.
When she was learning to use her new leg, she went through physical therapy at Methodist Rehab’s outpatient rehabilitation clinic. “It worked out great, because if my therapist had a problem with the leg she could call Brad next door to come over to help adjust it,” Dees said.
Dees now walks without a cane or any other assistance. She attends football games with her husband and after one long day at the mall, is no longer fearful of department store escalators.
“I feel like life is pretty much back to normal now,” she says. “It’s a slow process, but when you see some of the other patients and realize how lucky you are, it becomes easier to deal with. I don’t feel limited at all in what I can do.”
The orthotics and prosthetics staff at Methodist Rehabilitation Center will demonstrate the latest computer-assisted design technology and the most advanced microprocessor-controlled artificial limbs at an open house at the hospital’s east campus in Flowood on Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Call 601-936-8899 for more information about the open house.
For more information:
Prosthetics user spreads the word | The Clarion-Ledger