Monday, March 11, 2013

Trying Week Part 1: If You're Ever Faced With Gangrene or Amputation

This past week has been a tough one. My dad has been in and out of nursing homes and hospitals since last year with rarely a visit home. I really don't think he wants to go home to stay at least, given his current condition and the inability for anyone to be at home with him 24/7. At least in the nursing home he's made friends, he's never alone and has someone to look after him around the clock. I've veered off course, so let me get back on track and bring you up to speed.

My dad is a diabetic. Diabetics don't heal easily when they're cut our otherwise wounded or bruised. Last year sometime, my dad got his toenails clipped. He says that the guy who clipped his toenails cut too deeply and things seem to have taken a turn for the worse from there. His toe never completely healed and my dad developed gangrene. I guess it was not easy for him to see how bad things had gotten because he had a stroke and isn't so mobile. To make matters worse, infection set in on his other foot as well.

I don't know if it was a routine check or one done because of the complaints of his feet hurting, but it was found that he had gangrene. I heard that it was dry gangrene and that doesn't really spread, so i'm thinking it wasn't really a big deal. This is not something i've heard much about, so since a big deal didn't seem to be made by the medical staff, I assumed it was okay. Until I started hearing talk about how bad his toes started to look. Things seemed to be getting worse.

The observation was made that my dad had blockage somewhere in an artery which was preventing blood-flow. My dad was scheduled for an angioplasty on one side and told that if that side didn't work, the other side would be done weeks later. Anything that gets near the heart can have you on edge, but thank God everything went well. It was also discovered that the plaque problem was beneath the knee. Not a big deal right? Well since my dad isn't in the best of health, the doctor thought of it being to risky to go in and try to remove the plaque. Plaque can become dislodged and end up causing blockage that can be life threatening.

Next suggestion? Amputate. My dad said they wanted to amputate up into his thigh area. I, wanting to trust that doctor knows best, figured that's what would have to be accepted. It's hard to imagine my dad without legs. The same dad who I remember coming and going as he pleased and even dreamed of walking again from time to time since he had a stroke over 10 years ago. But if that's what it would take to save his life, then so be it.

My dad was given one week to decide what he wanted to do. Tough pill to swallow for such a life altering decision. My mom, who is no longer with my dad, was insistent that we find other alternatives. They may not be together and things between them are rocky, but my mom is full of heart and wanted us to research because there just had to be something else that could be done. After just a little research, here is what I found and if you're up against amputation as your "only" option, please pay close attention, because there may be hope for you yet:

If things haven't progressed to far, you may have hope if the infection is in it's early stages in revascularization. Upon researching, I found out that even with medical advances, doctors are quick to suggest amputation and somewhere around 85 percent of amputees could avoid amputation if they knew there was an alternative. This procedure had been successfully used for at least 10 years.

This is made possible by the use of lasers that are used to dissolve the plaque to restore the blood flow. My dad's doctor tried to discourage me from seeking anything further to be done. Perhaps out of not knowing. Perhaps out of missing out on a referral bonus. I don't know, but he was not very supportive nor did he offer hope of any thing  else possibly working out. I know you can't trust completely trust everything you read on the internet, but Do Your Research anyway. Also, Take advantage of a second opinion even if your doctor doesn't think anything else can be done. I guess out of three main arteries only one had blood flow which itself is limited. My mom insisted that we do all that we could, so I did go ahead and set up a consultation with I doctor I found through a site called spectranetics.com. He was scheduled to see the doctor two days later. My sister and brother in law saw him to his appointment and this doctor offered hope. He feels optimistic that this procedure is going to work out for my dad.

He did want to know why my dad waited so long. Time is really crucial in such a matter. As a result of action not being taken sooner, my dad did end up losing all of his toes. The doctor still has to go in to do the laser part of the procedure, but it had to be delayed because the gangrene was spreading and they wanted to prevent it spreading through his body which could have proved fatal. For now, we're waiting to see, while we hope and pray, but at least we were given a bright ray of hope and in the chance that it doesn't work, we know that we tried.

Do try to take care of your health. This is a challenging thing to see my dad going through and we have no other choice than to take this step by step. Try to stay at least somewhat active. If you can squeeze in 10 minutes a day of something as simple as walking, every little bit helps. If you have diabetes, try to be sure and keep it under control. I've heard that cinnamon is great for helping to keep your sugar under control. Lastly be sure to keep fiber incorporated into your diet. None of this information is meant to take the place of talking to your doctor, but I hope that in taking time to put this post here, there is someone, somewhere that will benefit from this.