Here at LIM Innovations we pride ourselves on the feedback from users. With such a diverse group of users, we invite you to join one of our amputees for an in-depth look at their story and how our Infinite Socket has affected their lives. Irene Blum’s prosthetic journey focuses on how she overcame her battle against cancer successfully to make huge strides in becoming the healthy and active amputee she is today. Irene’s story is truly inspiring.
Before I got sick, I was a busy young adult. I was a 20-year-old single mom and full-time college student. I’d run after my son at a playground in the afternoon and pull all-nighters to finish essays due the next morning. I was healthy, active, and able to keep up with my son and schoolwork. Toward the end of 2013 through early 2014, I started feeling fatigued and had very bad pain below my right knee. I couldn’t keep up anymore, I didn’t want to get out of bed. The pain would be so excruciating that it would wake me up in the middle of the night and I would have crying fits because nothing would relieve me from that. After many doctor appointments and tests, they had an explanation for everything I was going through. It was a lesion eating away at my tibia bone. In May 2014, I was diagnosed with a pediatric bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.
My protocol involved a year of chemotherapy and limb-salvage surgery that involved removing half of my femur, my knee, and half of my tibia and replacing that with metal, plastic, and cadaver bone. I felt so lucky that surgical techniques have improved so much that amputation for bone cancer was no longer necessary and they’d be able to save my leg! Well, I was wrong. After surgery, my leg was completely numb and limp. I couldn’t move my foot or toes. I became extremely depressed because I thought I would never be able to function normally again because I had a dead leg that I couldn’t control and that always buckled beneath me.
A few weeks after my limb-salvage surgery, chemotherapy started again. The type of chemo I was on wiped out my immune system completely so any little infection I caught would be life-threatening. A few months after my initial surgery, I noticed my incision re-opened on my knee and it began leaking pus and the skin was necrotic. The doctors thought it was a superficial skin infection so I was treated for that. My leg was still leaking pus but I was told it would stop because of the antibiotics. I guess my body just couldn’t fight it though because almost a week after being released from the hospital for my skin infection, I started developing very intense pain deep in my knee. It was literally the worst pain of my entire life. Worse than labor, worse than child-birth, worse than an accident that resulted in 2nd and 3rd degree burns all over my torso and leg, and worse than the cancer eating away my bone.
I could not get out of bed, I was dripping in sweat, I could not move because any little movement would result in screams and cries. I was on heavy duty pain medications that weren’t working when a home visiting nurse came to my house to check on me. She looked mortified. My pants were wet from leakage from my leg, I had a 105F temperature, my heart rate was 180, and my blood pressure was 70/40. She called 911 and when the EMTs tried to move me, I screamed bloody murder because of the pain. They injected me with some more heavy duty pain medicine that did not help at all. They said they could have sedated a horse with the amount of pain medication I was on. THAT is how much pain I was in.
They rushed me to my local hospital where it was determined that I had gone into septic shock. I was then sent to the cancer hospital where I would be treated. I overheard the doctors tell the paramedics that they didn’t believe I could keep my leg.
In December 2014, my leg was amputated above the knee. And honestly, thanks to my prosthetist Leah Brickner and LIM Innovations, I have so much more quality of life now than when I had my limb-salvage surgery. Initially, I had a traditional socket which I absolutely hated. My stump size was always changing so I would have to compensate with socks or not being able to sit all the way in the socket. It was heavy, clunky, and awkward. Leah decided LIM Innovations’ Infinite Socket would be perfect for me and it was. It allows for fluctuation of the stump because of its open design. I can easily adjust my socket strap. As my body changes, I don’t need to compensate with socks because I can just make it a little tighter when I need to. I don’t need to wait around for new sockets to be fabricated because my prosthetist and I can make quick and easy changes to the socket I have.
Another personal advantage of the Infinite Socket is that because the struts are far apart, the heterotrophic ossification that formed on my femur sits in between my two front struts and it isn’t irritated at all. Also, I was born with club foot and have issues with my remaining ankle. I had a small procedure done on it and heavily relied on my “good leg,” or my prosthetic leg.
Since I have only been in remission from cancer for 4 months, I am still in the beginning stages of being a healthy and active amputee, but every single day I make huge strides. So far I have been able to walk again, walk up my flight of stairs to get into my apartment, drive, hit softballs in a batting cage, dance salsa, catch a bridal bouquet, play pranks on my friends, show off my “robot leg” to sick children in the hospital, walk around the mall with my girlfriends, and go on vacation. One day I want to run in a childhood cancer fundraising race. Because of how awesome my leg is, I am sure I will be able to. Most importantly though, I am chasing after my son at playgrounds in the afternoon and am pulling all-nighters to finish essays due the next morning again. Leah Brickner and LIM Innovations helped me take my life back.