Amputation finds its way into people’s lives due to a variety of causes such as traumatic injury, disease or congenital defect. In the case of Westcoast Brace & Limb patient Chris Wantlin, the decision whether or not to have an amputation was left to him.
In 1986, when Chris was 12 years old, he incurred a traumatic injury to his foot when a lawn mower ran over it. After multiple surgeries over the years, he still lived with chronic pain and was limited in the amount of activities that he could do. Many surgeons advised Chris to have an amputation to alleviate the pain, but he said he couldn’t wrap his brain around the idea of losing his foot.
After meeting with a fifth surgeon at Wake Forest University, Chris finally elected to have his left leg amputated below the knee nearly 27 years after his initial accident. “The surgeon told me that they did a study of patients with chronic pain who elected to have amputation surgery, and 98 percent of the patients wished they had the surgery much earlier than they did,” he explained. “I’m now definitely in that 98 percent.”
Prior to his elective surgery, Chris met with Westcoast Brace & Limb president Greg Bauer, LPO, CPO, and the rest of the Westcoast team for a consultation. Chris’ surgeon also made him interview two amputees prior to the surgery so he could ask questions about how his life would change. “I was able to ask personal questions like how will I shower,” Chris said. “We also discussed the pros and cons to life as an amputee.”
No matter what the cause of amputation, Chris highly recommends talking to other amputees. “If you can do so before your surgery, it really prepares you. If you have an amputation due to an accident, talk to someone as soon as you can,” he added. “It’s not as bad as you may think. It’s really a mindset that you have to conquer.”
It took six weeks for Chris to recover from the surgery and to be fit with his first prosthesis. He walked on his new leg for the first time in March of 2015. “Westcoast has been fabulous. The team has taken great care of me. They made it so easy for me to get up and go,” Chris said. “If you have chronic pain and an elective amputation is an option, you need to get the right team together. It was life changing.”
The amputation drastically improved Chris’ quality of life. With two children, ages 9 and 11, Chris is kept busy and now he can enjoy those busy days. “We can go for walks and do all kinds of things that weren’t in the cards before,” he said. “I have so much more mobility now. Before my amputation we would go to Disney and I could only walk for a few hours. Now I can go all day.”
He also recently ran in the Get Moving Tampa Bay 5K Run/Walk with the Westcoast Brace & Limb I Will Inspire team (see article). He completed the race with his family, which made it even more meaningful. “My goal is to eventually run a half marathon. This isn’t something I ever dreamed I would be able to do. The amputation has inspired me to get up and do it,” he said. Chris hopes his story can inspire others to get up and do what they want to do too.