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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Phantom Pains

I am frequently asked about my experiences with phantom pain and how I deal with it. I must begin by admitting that while I have flare-ups, my experiences with phantom pain definitely fall into the "mild" category. Many of my friends suffer debilitating  pain issues, so compared to them, I am extremely lucky!

Research is confirming what I have suspected to be true for awhile. The severity of phantom pain is strongly correlated to the circumstances involving the amputation. Mine was planned and completed within a controlled environment with a prescribed protocol to minimize nerve damage. The surgical precision used to remove my limb reduced the frequency and severity of my phantom issues. Those who lost their limb from a traumatic incident, such as a car accident or gun shot wound, tend to have more intensive phantom issues. 

Despite knowing how my friends suffer, it is difficult to remember that I am fortunate when I am in the throes of a phantom episode. Although I remain thankful that they only occur a handful of times a year, I am miserable when it is happening. My recent limb issues have resulted in increased phantom pain incidents.

What does phantom pain feel like? Although it manifests differently for each amputee, mine always feels the same. Imagine that your left toe is being squeezed in a vice and twisted in a clockwise direction. Simultaneously somebody is pulling the toenail off while darts are being thrown into the heel. The outside of the ankle is being struck by a hammer, just below the joint bone, and the entire foot will go into a cramp (just for good measure). Looking at my leg it is easy to see that this torture is not actually occurring. Yet despite the absence of my leg, these strong sensations often last for hours.

Sometimes massage helps to eliminate some of the pain. I've also found heat and soaking in the bathtub to be somewhat beneficial for short periods of time. Unfortunately, when the pain is at its worst, the only thing I can do is try to occupy my thoughts and remind myself that it won't last forever. I realize that I'm lucky, but it is certainly difficult to remember when it feels like my foot is being subjected to Taliban style torture.

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