Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Surgery Six Scheduled

The Cookie Monster will make sense at the end of this post.  Word-smithing magic.

On Friday, June 14th, 2013, I will walk into Georgetown University Hospital with two legs and leave it a few days later with one.

That's in only 38 days.  I've got a growing to-do list before the gauntlet comes down.

Next week I've scheduled appointments with a pain management specialist, Dr. Netsere Tesfeyohannes, and my family physician, Dr. Didace Kabatsi, for a physical.  I know, it's an alphabet soup of doctor names.

I still have not locked up a prosthetist.  I spoke with Dr. Attinger's nurse, Kathryn, today on the phone to go over some questions I had.  While we were talking she reminded me that finding the right legman is important.  It's like a marriage.  Dr. Jeng said the same thing in March.

No pressure.  It's just the single most important decision I will ever make (behind marrying my wife, of course, and whether or not I should wear those jeans again).

"We use nine dimensions of compatibility to find your dream prosthetist!"

Finding "the right" prosthetist is a challenge.  I have no idea what the red flags are to signal a "bad" prosthetist marriage.  What I need is a dating website for amputees and prosthetists.  I posted a message on the Amputee Coalition of America's Facebook page to ask other amputees if they had recommendations for how to meet Mr. Right.  Because I have no idea what I'm doing.

Based on the responses I'm getting, I've noticed amputees will drive long distances to see a good prosthetist.  Several people, including Kathryn, recommended Elliot Weintrob at Orthotic Prosthetic Center in Fairfax, VA.  I'll schedule something with him tomorrow.  Amputees apparently fly in from around the world to see him.

But back to the surgery.

When I show up to the hospital in June, Kathryn confirmed I'll get my pre-game epidural.  Then, on Tuesday, we'll lop off the leg.  Once my pain is managed with oral medication, I'll be discharged and possibly admitted as an inpatient to the National Rehabilitation Hospital nearby where I will continue to learn I no longer have a right leg.  This will help reduce the likelihood of accidents when I return home.

Whether or not I'm admitted depends on how well I rehab.  And my genetic clumsiness.  I mean, we're here because I snowboarded into a tree.  When the Vegas odds-makers draw up the accident lines for me, there's no way they'll favor a clean record.

The amputation will be about 16cm below the knee.  Here's a picture to help put that into perspective.  This appears to be halfway, but it's actually much closer to the knee than you think because the foot is further away in this picture.

Okay, so this was a terrible picture to use.

One of the biggest items on my to-do list has been the oh-so-simple task of a total lifestyle change.  My wife and I started working on this in December when I finally decided I had had enough with this ankle.  In December I was a svelte 225 lbs.  For a guy that's 6'3", my body fat percentage was creeping past 27%.  That's several miles safely within the borders of obese territory.

My diet was awful for someone that had such a hard time working out.  I devoured all of the carbohydrates and processed food I could get my hands on.  The diet worked for me, so I thought, because I didn't have to spend too much time up on my ankle cooking.  Just throw in a box of frozen burritos into the microwave and enjoy life!

But all the weight I gained had the opposite effect.  My back pain, already bad because I can't push off with my right leg, got worse.  I stopped biking and lifting.  I began to worry I was stuck in a vicious cycle.

I lost hope of ever snowboarding again.  Instead, I was apparently training as Cookie Monster's backup, ready to come up off the bench at a moment's notice to eat frozen burritos (word-smithing achievement unlocked).

My wife and I drastically changed our diet in December.  And it's a permanent change.  Our new diet has a name, too.  Paleo.  I cook regularly and dominate at it.  And it's amazing how much better it tastes than that bean burrito in a box.  Many of our meals are vegetarian.  Since starting the diet, I've dropped 21 lbs.  My goal is to be around 195 lbs for the amputation.  This will make sure the prosthetic fits comfortably on my residual limb.

I also started working out again last month to ensure my core, legs, and upper body are all ready for the amputation.  I've been telling people that I will be in the best shape of my life after an amputation -- not before.

Getting an amputation has been the easiest decision I've ever made.  It's made the importance of diet and exercise more immediate and real.  But I'm not dumb.  I suspect this will be a hard decision to live with.  It's going to be really painful.  I know that.

But it will be worth it.


  1. Okay Tony, I was already aware that you and Brooke are impressive people, but completely revamping your diet is SUPER impressive. Cooking from scratch is such an easy way to keep extra weight from creeping on. (I give myself all the credit for keeping Nick under 170 for the past ten years. I'm convinced it has nothing to do with all his running...)

    Good luck finding your leg man! :)

  2. And you'll also lose a couple pounds when they chop off the leg. Another excellent weight loss plan! -otter

  3. Ok this is sappy but im not gunna lie. When i saw tht title i may or may not have got a little chocked up. I am so very happy for you tony. Really. I know what that feels like. I know what you are going through now. The final push to get it all in before d-day. When i was in mine i found you. I wish i could give you a real hug instead of just wishing i could right now but its the thought that counts.
    Sure there are going to be red flags and stuff you should educated yourself on finding a leg maker but there is also the ever reliable gut feeling. When i met the mighty mighty heroes at our fave stop and chop ankle surgery facility i KNEW they were who i wanted to work with. If what youre saying is true then you need somebody you mesh with, somebody that understands you, and somebody who wont mine making guest appearances on your blog. I get shopping around, i do, but dont over think it too much. Go with who makes you feel safe, who listens, and who can turn you into the badass 1/4 robot you will soon become.

    I know you want updates on me, well, im almost half way through and im having a bit of a harder time than first thought. I may have to make a pilgrimage to ankle mecca because one of the unlocky strut thingies is hitting the top before i get to 90 and thats making the achilles monster unhappy. Hilariously i have what i have made to be your voice in my head telling me to walk when i can, movie the thing, and to remember the good its doing. I mean yeah my trainer and my pt are awesome but they know know what its like. You do. I warned you this was going to be a sappy comment. Speaking of sappy, is there a way i could privately message you? Like facebook or something? Totally okay if you dont wanna give that out to a total stranger just wondered, because youre cool and im cool and its important to have cool people to talk to and that we stick together. But yeah no big, just thought id ask.

    Ok ill stop now. But man this is awesome news. Im so exicited for you. Really and truely. Even if i know the insanity you are going through with all you have to do before this, its the best news.

  4. Good Luck with the op! :)

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  6. You are an inspiration!.
    I lost my finger a couple of months ago and I Will never forget the pain from severed nerves after the operation so I can only imagine the pain you must have gone through.
    You have a brilliant attitude to it all. Hope you one day get to snowboard again thanks for sharing your story.
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  7. You are an inspiration!.
    I lost my finger a couple of months ago and I Will never forget the pain from severed nerves after the operation so I can only imagine the pain you must have gone through.
    You have a brilliant attitude to it all. Hope you one day get to snowboard again thanks for sharing your story.
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