If you ask an amputee about their biggest physical fear, most likely they will state losing the sound limb or having to amputate the next highest joint on their prosthetic side. Infection, falls, and trauma are variables that can strike an amputee without warning, sidelining activities and necessitating medical intervention. During the past week I have heard from four amputee friends who have been hospitalized because of infections.
All amputees who rely upon a prosthetic are susceptible to sores and infection on the residual limb. Sensation has been compromised making it difficult to feel small sores or pinch cuts. This is only exacerbated for the diabetic amputee!
Before I go to bed, I conduct my nightly limb check. I have a small mirror by the bed that I use to examine every inch of my stump. Doing this allows me to identify any potential sores, ingrown hairs or small cuts that may be a catalyst for infection. Some nights I wish I could just slip into bed without another thought, but I realize that the health of my limb necessitates the preventative checks.
In addition to thoroughly examining my leg, liner care is imperative to maintaining a healthy limb. My liner is against my skin for upwards of 18 hours a day. This dark, moist environment can be a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. I wash my liner every night, using my regular face soap. Once a week I will rinse it with a vinegar water solution. Considering the amount of dirt and sweat that accumulates on the liner, it is surprisingly easy to clean!
I often encounter one of my biggest amputee annoyances in the middle of the night. I hate getting up to use the bathroom or to chase away monsters and being forced to stop to put on my liner and leg. When I'm tired and want to return to bed quickly, I resent the few extra moments that it takes me to get up and walk.
I admit that, on rare occasions, I have slept with my liner. Typically this happened when Robby was sick, and I knew that I would have to put the vomit bowl under his little mouth at a moment's notice. Except for these rare circumstances, I never wear my prosthetic or liner when I sleep. The skin on my limb needs a chance to "breathe" after being confined and covered all day. Although I hate putting on my leg in the middle of the night, I won't compromise my residual limb health by sleeping in my liner.
Everyday I am reminded of the possibility of infection when I examine my stump for sores and cuts. Some nights I am so tired I would prefer to simply take my leg off and fall into bed. Instead I force myself to go through my routine. The health of my limb and my ability to walk are both worth this extra time!