Kristen Ribble of Hamilton will never forget the day her leg was amputated below the knee.
“Before the surgery, I started experiencing pain in my left leg that made it difficult to walk,” recalls Kristen. “Sometimes I couldn’t even wear a shoe because it hurt so much.”
Scans revealed that her pain was caused by ischemia, which is a lack of blood flow and oxygen delivery to certain parts of the body due to dysfunctional blood vessels. This can result in severe and irreversible tissue damage.
Amputation and prosthesis
Kristen was referred to Hamilton General Hospital, where she consulted with specialists in vascular health, thrombosis, rheumatology and podiatry.
“The cause of the ischemia was a real mystery and they’d never seen a case like this before,” says Kristen. “Unfortunately, the ischemia had done extensive damage to the tissue in my leg. I know they did everything they could, but the best option was amputation.”
Although this was not the outcome she was hoping for, Kristen was quick to accept the necessity of the procedure, as her ischemia would only worsen without action.
“The specialists at Hamilton Health Sciences helped me get back to my life so I can make the most out of every moment.”
“I accepted the reality of my situation the best I could and moved on. I consciously focused on how lucky I was in life and how I could continue moving forward.”
After being discharged from The General, Kristen was fitted for a prosthetic limb through the Prosthetics and Orthotics Program based out of Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre, where the specialized team serves patients of all ages. She returned to the clinic regularly for adjustments, as the shape of the stump tends to change after an amputation due to swelling and the growth of new tissue.
“I began an intense program of outpatient physiotherapy at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre,” says Kristen. “They taught me how to walk with my prosthetic leg, first with a walker, then with canes. In a few weeks, I had enough strength and balance to walk on my own.”
Today, Kristen leads an extremely active life that includes regular workouts, swimming, bike rides with her daughter and lots of travel for work.
“I feel like I’m in better shape now than ever before and I won’t let my amputation slow me down. I’m determined to live in the present rather than dwelling in the past.”
The journey continues
Kristen regularly visits the vascular team at The General for monitoring to ensure that her right leg does not develop ischemia, and follow-up appointments with her prosthetist continue for any necessary maintenance or adjustments to her artificial limb.
“I’m grateful for the amazing care I received at every point of my journey,” says Kristen. “The specialists at Hamilton Health Sciences helped me get back to my life so I can make the most out of every moment.”