A Seemingly Impossible Decision

In the back of my mind through all of my foot and ankle troubles, amputation was never off the table. Now, after almost a year and a half of ankle surgeries and physical therapy, we’re actively discussing it. It’s not a foregone conclusion, but it’s looking increasingly likely.

Around the middle of October, my functional progress from physical therapy stalled out, and my therapists suggested talking to my doctors about surgical options that would get me back on track.

After talking to several doctors, my physical therapists, and some below-knee amputees, and spending hours doing my own research, amputation appears to be a valid option. This next week is full of appointments for additional tests and opinions that may change that outlook, but it doesn’t look likely.

The alternatives to amputation are to do nothing or get an ankle fusion. Neither option guarantees that the pain will go away or that the joint won’t have further problems with age. They only guarantee continued functional limitations. With the fusion, it’s even likely that further surgeries or amputation would be in the cards down the road, and recovering from additional surgeries ten to fifteen years older doesn’t sound fun.

That brings us to amputation. From my discussions and research, the most common regret with amputees is that they didn’t amputate earlier. In some cases, they spend well over a decade trying to salvage their limb before considering amputation. Even five years dominated by surgeries sounds terrible.

Over the last year and a half, the combination of surgeries and physical therapy have presented countless challenges. The idea of continuing to pursue surgeries that at their best will only reduce pain and not improve functionality feels like the equivalent of putting life on hold for a pipe dream.

With 3-year old and 2-month old daughters, being mobile enough to stay strong and healthy to keep up with them is a huge priority. (And the 2-month old is already almost as fast as me.) Just as important, my incredible wife doesn’t need to be repeatedly dealing with running our family by herself every time we face another surgery and the resulting physical therapy.

Maybe another option will present itself. Maybe it won’t. Here’s to hoping the next couple of weeks bring good news. Regardless, if there’s anything I’ve discovered facing this decision is that it’s difficult to find relevant stories of others’ experiences to shed light on the decision. Hopefully sharing this journey can help someone else going through a similarly challenging time. Better yet, hopefully sharing the story prevents someone from ever facing the same challenges.