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What caused my amputations?
Life as a quadruple amputee woman has been a challenge, to say the least. The amputee phantom pain alone has been extremely painful. My hands and feet were amputated due to the sepsis I developed from a flesh-eating bacteria. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. Without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. In my case, my kidneys started to shut down. When something like that happens, your body goes into overdrive to protect its failing organs.
The blood from your extremities works to support things like kidneys and then it leaves your hands and feet. When that happened to me, they were able to save my life but not my hands and feet.
Dealing with amputation: Nerve sensation
Amputation is the removal of those body parts that are no longer useful. My main point today is that when they removed my hands and feet they sealed off my vessels and nerves. That forces your nerves to rewire. In many cases, you can still feel pain in a limb that is no longer there. It’s a bizarre sensation.
Before I go into my amputee phantom pain experience, I want to explain that since the nerves are sealed off, it causes severe pain, regularly. I’m sure you’ve seen those commercials for fibromyalgia where the nerves look like they are on fire. Now, I do not have fibromyalgia, but when I see those commercials it reminds me that maybe the pain that I feel daily could feel similar to someone who does have it. I don’t know. However, what I do know is that I require pain medication so that I can feel somewhat normal and live a healthy life.
In my case, my pain medication comes in the form of an opioid patch. Our skin acts like a sponge which makes it possible for medication to be absorbed through it and into the bloodstream to alleviate pain. In my case, the medicine is released slowly for 72 hours and then I need to replace it. My patch basically takes care of everything, with the exception of amputee phantom pain.
Dealing with amputation: Amputee phantom pain
Amputee phantom pain is a pain in the part of the amputated limb that is gone. It’s difficult to picture if you don’t experience it. However, if I walk a lot, I sometimes feel achy in my ankles. I don’t have ankles. Weird, huh? Most of my amputee phantom pain occurs in my feet. Which brings me to the last two nights.
As I was sleeping, I was feeling this sensation. It starts with a very small area of my foot that hurts but it’s a very big pain. The feeling is like someone has hit the side of my foot with a hammer. But it comes fast and hard and it’s very, very painful. After several seconds, the pain subsides. Every minute or 2, the hammer comes back and hits again. I sleep without prosthetic feet on, so there’s nothing there. There’s nothing to massage. The painful part of my foot is missing. I sleep through this but I don’t know how long.
Eventually, I wake and then I get to experience this in real life. The only way to alleviate this is through additional medication. I take another opioid as well as ibuprofen. I found that taking them together works best. My doctor makes sure I have a prescription for what she calls breakthrough pain. Amputee phantom pain is definitely a breakthrough pain. As I wait for the pills to work, which takes about 2 hours, I pray. That’s all I can do. The Lord knows my situation so I talk to Him about it and ask for Him to remove the pain. He always does.
I don’t know how long it usually takes to feel better because later on, I wake up and its all over. My phantom pain doesn’t happen very often and it doesn’t always happen at night. I’ve been unable to determine what causes the pain. I know that I get achy in my arms when it rains a lot, but I haven’t been able to determine the cause of the foot pain. Unfortunately, though, I’ve been awakened the last two nights with amputee phantom pain. It has been raining. I’ve decided to start keeping track in my journal. I’ve started watching the barometer pressure but so far, it doesn’t seem like the culprit. It would be great to figure out the cause of the pain but all the googling I do does not answer that particular question.
Solutions for amputee phantom pain
Googling solutions to amputee phantom pain doesn’t help either. Recommendations include things like acupuncture or mirror therapy. I don’t consider acupuncture mostly because of the infrequent nature of the pain and at the moment its happening, I’m not prepared to run off to a specialist. Although in my ignorance of that therapy, it probably works differently than that.
Mirror therapy is another suggestion. The way that works is to place a mirror between the legs and to rest the healthy leg next to a mirror and to imagine the painful leg is whole. This method will trick the brain into thinking there is no pain in the amputated limb. However with both legs amputated, I don’t see how that could work.
Massage, removing the prosthetic and elevating the leg are all other suggestions for pain relief. However, I haven’t found anything to be very effective.
Prayer is the only thing that works
As you can see, the challenge for pain with amputation is very real and dealing with amputation can sometimes be a struggle. My best and only solution at this point is my faith in the Lord and prayer. I know that through God, I can get through anything. I know that waiting on the Lord puts my healing on Him. It’s a test of my trust that He is able to take care of my pain because ultimately He is the only one who can. All the medicine in the world won’t work if it’s not in His will. Would you pray for me as well? I believe so very much in the power of prayer. I am alive today because of the prayers of my family, church family, and good friends around the world.
If you are interested in more information about my life as a quad amputee woman, you will probably enjoy 10 things I can’t live without as well as Amputee life: 5 things I do differently than you do. Obviously, I rely on the Lord for strength, guidance and comfort.
If you have any questions about phantom pain or life as a quad amputee woman, feel free to comment below or look me up at my One Exceptional Life Facebook page.