It was early February. Vickie Joseph was at home when she accidently bumped into a cedar chest, cutting her left foot. After about a week, the wound still wouldn’t heal. She tried to manage it at home, but started experiencing chills and decreased appetite. Three of her toes were also discolored.
Concerned, Vickie’s daughter drove her to the emergency room at UPMC Pinnacle Community Osteopathic Hospital. Following an extensive exam, doctors determined her second and third toes needed to be amputated. Complications set in and she was transferred to UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg Hospital. Further testing revealed Vickie had blood vessel blockages. Vicki’s surgeon gave her a few options. Concerned with the possibility of recurring infections and additional surgeries, Vickie chose to have an above-the-knee amputation.
After 10 days in the hospital, Vickie transferred to Helen M. Simpson Rehabilitation Hospital for additional healing and recovery time. When she arrived, Vickie required assistance from three clinicians to safely transfer from bed to a wheelchair.
Vickie was scared, unsure of what her new normal would look like. She feared falling as she reoriented herself to life with limb loss. Before surgery, she’d worked full-time for E-Z Pass, cared of her two cats, Chloe and Zoey, and never gave a second thought to grocery shopping and running her home. Her biggest goals were to get back to as many of those things as possible and to get better for her daughter.
A physician-led team of nurses and therapists put her on regimen of occupational and physical therapy for up to three hours a day. They began to teach her how to transfer to multiple surfaces and led her through strengthening exercises, wheelchair mobility and management and cooking.
She practiced cooking chicken corn soup from scratch while seated to learn wheelchair management in smaller spaces. She repeatedly practiced transfers from the car, bed, toilet, recliner (which she has at home) and bath using a tub transfer bench.
Her nurses and therapists also focused on wound management. They taught Vickie wound care hygiene and pre-prosthetic care to prepare her for eventual fitting of a lower extremity prosthesis.
Vickie came to every therapy session with a positive attitude and willingness to try anything the therapists threw her way. Vickie’s daughter and rehabilitation team were huge sources of support and encouragement throughout her stay.
“My daughter has pushed me and encouraged me by just the little things that she does or says,” said Vickie.
After 18 days, Vickie went home and was looking forward to reuniting with her cats and adjusting to her routine.
Vickie achieved all her goals including independently transferring to and from a variety of surfaces. She gained strength and confidence in her ability to care for herself and was no longer fearful of returning home.
Vickie’s advice to others is to not give up. She said, “Sometimes it seems like you’re not going to get there; but, if you keep trying, you will.”