By Emily Turk
Facing the prospect of limb amputation can be confusing and challenging for patients and their families. At MedStar Health, we’ve created a system of care to help you all along the way. We’ve pulled together the best resources and a team of experts to provide patients with seamless and comprehensive care, tailored to each individual.
Our team of medical experts provides a continuum of services from inpatient to outpatient care. The team works collaboratively to help ensure your successful journey to recovery—and your return to an active life. Effective rehabilitation following your surgery is a very important part of that journey and at MedStar Health we are committed to providing you the best in rehabilitation care. This typically begins as a stay in the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, and continues into your outpatient care through one of MedStar Health Physical Therapy’s outpatient locations.
Inpatient Rehabilitation at MedStar NRH
Howard Gilmer, DO, is the director of the MedStar NRH Amputee Program. He is a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician who works hand-in-hand with the team of rehabilitation experts that includes nurses; a psychologist; physical, occupational and recreational therapists; a nutritionist; case workers; and the prosthetic team.
At the beginning of your stay at MedStar NRH, Dr. Gilmer and his rehabilitation team will conduct a thorough mobility assessment and create a plan of care tailored to your needs. The goal is to help patients deal with the multiple effects of limb loss, learn how to tackle daily life activities, and build physical strength and endurance.
While it varies from person to person, patients will stay at the hospital for approximately one to two weeks. During that time, you will engage in a daily regimen of physical and occupational therapy, learn how to care for your wound to prevent complications from surgery, and talk with a psychologist to help adjust to your new reality. Your functional activity level will also be assessed using a unique tool called AMP Pro.
Prior to being discharged, Dr. Gilmer will arrange with the social worker to coordinate a follow-up appointment with your surgeon for suture removal.
Your surgeon will remove your sutures when your wound has healed—timing varies from patient to patient. If your surgical wound has healed, the surgeon will re-evaluate you for prosthetic fitting, and prepare a written order for the prosthetic team to begin the process. Your Amputee Care Coordinator will continue to provide support and answer any questions who may have.
Outpatient Therapy & Prosthetic Rehabilitation at MedStar NRH
Many patients return to MedStar NRH for outpatient physical therapy and prosthetic gait (walking) training. Therapists who are experts in prosthetic rehabilitation are located at MedStar NRH outpatient centers throughout the Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland region. These therapists conduct thorough mobility assessments and create plans of care tailored to each patient’s needs.
Your Amputee Care Coordinator continues to work with you to coordinate your prosthetic fittings, adjustments and serve as a liaison with your therapists. The prosthetic team’s staff of certified prosthetists design, fit and manufacture customized prostheses and educate patients on the most advanced technology available.
The length of outpatient training in the use of your prostheses and the amount of continued therapy varies—age, physical condition and other health issues play a role. For many patients, the relationship with MedStar NRH is long-term and they continue to rely on its expertise when they require modifications in their prostheses, a replacement limb—or other adaptive equipment to improve quality of life.
Services for Continued Quality of Life
A number of patients take advantage of MedStar NRH’s active Adaptive Sports Program--and of the Amputee Support Group, which provides an opportunity for patients to share experiences with other people with limb loss.
In addition, your Amputee Care Coordinator can help pair you with a trained peer mentor—someone like you who has experienced limb loss and who can help you navigate life after amputation.
All amputees are encouraged to attend Dr. Gilmer’s Six-Month Amputee Assessment Clinic. It’s an opportunity to determine if you are satisfied with your mobility, comfort, and independence.
If you received your original amputation surgery at a MedStar Health hospital, you will receive a “report card” on your personal progress—a unique service that MedStar Health offers its patients.
For more information go here - Amputee Program
Cookbooks for Amputees
Amputees, like many people with disabilities, continue moving forward in their lives, often learning new skills along the way. Former MedStar NRH patient and 2010 Victory Award® recipient Cheryl Douglass, a quadruple amputee who lost her legs and arms from a hospital acquired infection, has thrived with her prosthetic limbs and enjoys a full and rich life. One of her favorite things to do is cook. Last year Douglass unveiled this cookbook for amputees, which features some great recipes for any meal and any occasion. You can find it by clicking here -The Bionic Chef: Cooking With or Without Hands.