When diabetes and prosthetics combine to present a two-pronged challenge, it takes a hero to fight back.
Diagnosed at an early age with type 1 diabetes, Pravin Bhana is one of our most inspirational patients. He thought, growing up, that he had already faced the greatest challenge to his health, but little did he know that the ups and downs he’d endured with his blood sugar would eventually lead to the bilateral amputation of his legs below the knee.
Diabetes doesn’t have to be a debilitating illness and can be very well managed with insulin medication, regular exercise and careful attention to nutrition. It can, however, still have a few nasty surprises up its sleeve. It’s no secret that sufferers can experience delayed healing of diabetic ulcers and impaired blood flow to the extremities, and consequently they are urged to take exceptional care of their feet.
In October 2014 Pravin had developed dry gangrene as a complication of his diabetes. Surgeons had to amputate both his legs and most of his fingers in order to avert a life-threatening condition. Dry gangrene is more common in people with diabetes and other autoimmune diseases, and usually affects the hands and feet. It develops when blood flow to the affected area is impaired, usually as a result of poor circulation. The affected tissue dries up, turns from brown or purplish-blue to black, and often falls off.
The shock of losing most of your extremities all at once can be severe and can affect your spouse and family even more drastically than you as the patient. But for Pravin and his wife, the prospect of life in a wheelchair was out of the question. Both of them are eager travellers, so they were determined to get him walking again so they could explore the world, meet new people and learn new languages without anything holding them back. With his wife’s support, he persisted with his rehabilitation, which was ultimately successful.
Looking at him now as he casually strolls into our office every now and then, we are in awe at how quickly he rehabilitated. His prosthetic legs walk almost as well as his own legs did, and now with a spring in his step.
“I was walking without crutches within six months after the amputation and I am already researching our next holiday destination.” The excited tone in his voice lets us know that we have succeeded in giving him back his life and his independence – and that’s what we ultimately aim for. Pravin has given us great satisfaction as prosthetists and we can’t wait for photos and stories of his latest travels.
Heinrich Grimsehl is a prosthetist in private practice and a member of the South African Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (SAOPA). email: email@example.com