In the middle of recovery, Doug just found out he must go back in for surgery on 1/8/17. We are facing the hard truth it will be be many, many more months before Doug is able to work! We would love to hear your thrifty ideas and suggestions of how to survive and maybe even thrive during these ongoing difficulties. Any stresses relieved would be a big help at this point!
If you already know about Doug’s accident, just skip down to the “UPDATE AS OF 12/17” section. If this is new to you, please begin reading here:
SUMMARY OF DOUG’S INITIAL INJURY: On September 25, 2015 Doug Vinson fell off his metal roof at home when his fall protection got jammed. Thankfully, though, the fall protection did slow his fall and kept him upright, so he actually landed on his feet. The bad news is that he was on an incline and his left foot (which was uphill) suffered extensive damage as it was forced three inches up into his leg.
He had four surgeries in the next month:
#1 (9/26/15)- emergency surgery to relieve pressure from a very rare compartment syndrome presenting in his achilles heel (CS usually occurs around the shin on the front of the leg), and install an external fixator to hold Doug’s leg in place while he waits for swelling to reduce
#2 (9/28/15)-remove one of the drainage tubes inserted in #1
#3-(10/1/15)-remove the other drainage tube inserted in #1;
#4-(10/14/15)-remove ex-fix; reconstructive surgery which left him full of hardware and void spots where bones were missing (they’d been pulverized from the fall)
In late November 2015 Doug started Therapy and was making progress. In December he began bearing minimal weight on his foot with the aid of crutches. He continued therapy and gradually increased bearing weight through January. We were hopeful he would return to light work late spring.
However, x-rays taken February 2016 revealed a screw in Doug’s leg had broken! This meant the bone was not healing properly, and Doug was instructed to revert to zero weight bearing. The doctor gave two bleak options:
#1-bone grafting would be about a year to fully ‘take effect’ and would leave his foot with limited mobility and chronic pain, as well as require surgeries about every 5 years for the rest of Doug’s life
The surgeon arranged for Doug to meet with an orthopaedic doctor to get information about the two options. After careful consideration we decided amputation would be the ‘quicker’ and more complete option, with the least amount of future worries. So on March 16, 2016 Doug’s leg was amputated about 3 inches below his left knee. The surgeon discovered a hairline fracture the full length of Doug’s shin. He also found the bone had died, which means grafting would have been impossible.
Doug was on crutches until mid-June, which was the most taxing period out of everything Doug had been through. He got his first prosthesis, which was full of mixed blessings. Everything was progressing until October 2016 when he got a new prosthesis. The next few months Doug got progressively worse with increasing pain, and in February 2017 x-rays revealed how Doug’s severed bone was aggravating tissue. It was decided he should be in a different type of prosthesis, which solved many of the problems and relieved pain. Things were progressing until July 2017...
UPDATE AS OF 12/17: DOUG WILL HAVE SURGERY ON 1/8/17 DUE TO COMPLICATIONS IN HIS LEG.
...Doug has been experiencing complications with his leg since July 2017, when he suddenly developed a bursa sac near the bottom of his stump (PC term is “residual limb”). It grew quickly to 4cm x 4cm x 1cm and remains that size. The bursa causes problems with the way his prosthesis fits, and brings him excruciating pain when the bursa ‘rolls’ and pinches an unbearable nerve near the base of his severed bone. A couple weeks ago the bursa sac began to change from soft and pliable to hard (and more painful).
Doug’s orthopaedic doctor and prosthetist closely monitored his progress for following months, all the while trying to deal with the problem by modifying the prosthesis. With minimal results, the doctor warily recommended a surgical consult. The surgeon took one look at the x-rays and quickly identified the problem(s): Doug’s calf muscle (which was wrapped under the stump and attached to the front of his leg at his amputation surgery) has come undone and is hanging down. Without the extra padding the muscle provided at the front and bottom of his bone, the banging of the bone against the socket, and the friction from the rubbing/sliding around created the bursa, which has also prohibited progress with Doug’s prosthesis. For months he’s been forced to slow way down again, and there are times he can’t tolerate any weight on his leg. The only hope of things actually improving for Doug is surgery.
The surgeon will attempt to repair several issues during the surgery:
1-Reattach the calf muscle to the front of Doug’s shin: Dr. will drill holes in Doug’s tibia and sew permanent sutures through them to attach the muscle to the bone
2-A bone spur developed on the bottom/edge of Doug’s cut bone, and it occasionally scrapes against a very sensitive nerve (the one near his severed bone), so the surgeon will file that smooth.
3-Attempt to locate said nerve and raise it above the edge of the bone and secure it out of the way
4-Drain the bursa sac if possible, and stabilize the anatomy so another sac cannot develop
5-Remove excess skin on the surface and wrap his leg more tightly together
As you can see, there are several issues going on. Doug is eager to get them resolved so he may resume progress towards total shrinkage of all swelling, reduce pain meds, and ultimately get into a “permanent” sized socket (there will continually be prosthetic changes/modifications throughout the rest of Doug’s life, so nothing is permanent). He’s also looking forward to increased mobility and endurance!
However, having surgery will considerably postpone Doug’s overall progress. He will be starting all over! Post-surgery his leg will be extremely swollen, and is expected to take 3-4 months for the swelling to reduce enough to wear a prosthesis. During this time he will be reliant upon crutches to get himself around. He was able to get forearm crutches this week, and already appreciates the improvement! At the point that swelling has sufficiently reduced (hopefully 3-4 months from surgery) he will be recast for a new prosthesis, and thus start that process all over again. His current prosthesis will not fit at that time due to swelling and shape changes. It will be about 9-12 months for the swelling to reduce to its current size, which still has a ways to go as it is!
Since we are asking for ideas, advice, financial and/or material donations, we want to share how things are going:
First off, as many of you know Cora and Doug were doing furniture refinishing (Llama Lacquer), but with the move, and now not having a good shop/space, we must put the business on hold until that is built. Doug continues to be unable to go back to work due to pain and fatigue. His ‘good times’ are sporadic when he has low enough pain to tolerate standing in his prosthesis for any length of time. In the last 1½ years he hasn’t been able to do anything but small side jobs, but even those have been fewer and farther between due to his worsening condition. This year the older kids have offered to pitch in with bills, so we are dividing expenses 5 ways. Cora is also unable to work right now (due to an injury which caused nerve damage in her right arm), and the other kids have been applying for jobs. Nothing official yet. From May-November they were able to do seasonal jobs such as hay-baling, various jobs at Camp Tadmor, and helping with a friend’s pancake catering business. Also, in case any of you are wondering, we had a talk with the older kids about Angela possibly going back to work, as she was very willing to do so. However, everyone unanimously decided she would be the most help at home with the little kids, continuing to teach homeschool and prepare the kids for state testing.
Government financial assistance is deficient. Lots of people ask about disability, and here are the issues we’ve encountered with it: Doug checked into disability in 2015 and was told he had to be disabled for a full year in order to apply. So he waited until September 2016 when he checked again and was told they would start counting from his amputation date NOT his accident date (the amputation was 6 months after the accident). So he waited another six months, and then discovered that a one-legged amputee does not qualify for disability assistance (if Doug had lost both legs, then he would!). Unemployment coverage is only for those who are NOT disabled, so that doesn’t apply. The accident happened at home, so workman’s comp assistance doesn’t apply. Doug’s union’s disability coverage ended March 2016 (just after the amputation). He has asked his prosthetist, doctor, and his amputee support group about available assistance for amputees and everyone just groans and hangs their heads in disgust because there really isn’t any except for veterans (which Doug is not). They have all admitted this is a grossly overlooked demographic of people in need of assistance.
We continue to follow leads to their conclusions, whether they are jobs or assistance. Of course, some are applicable and others are not. In an attempt to make $ we held two 4-day garage sales over the summer, and recently had to make the hard decision to sell our 2015 transit van which had been gifted to us by Angela’s parents after Doug’s amputation. Because of that we are finally and completely current on bills, but have nothing to spare once cars are repaired.
As stated in our Christmas letter, we continue to discuss, marvel, and appreciate the myriad of ways God is providing during this difficult time. For example: some of you have blessed us with gift cards (we just got some for Shari’s pies!); some have donated items to sell in the garage sales; we’ve had bags of pop cans dropped off (which can now be redeemed for 10 cents each!); and you’ve blessed us with meals and clothes, and helped fix our house. We can’t thank you enough for your concern and support in so many ways.
While we are bracing for Doug’s surgery, we really would love to hear any ideas you have to help make it through the next several months. We continue to need help, and if you are led to give, everything is truly appreciated!
Doug, Angela, Cora, Victoria, Fred, Sam, Walter, Al, Charles, Henry, Madeline, and George
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