Rehabilitation is a team effort and prosthetic rehabilitation is no different. It all starts the moment the decision is made to amputate a limb.
Amputation is life-changing and the need to learn how to navigate this new, changed life is of cardinal importance. Adapting to life as an amputee has many facets, each with very specific goals and dedicated professionals trained to help you reach these goals. The prosthetic process essentially starts with the surgeon.
Nursing staff help nurse you back to health and prepare you for the rehabilitation process. Specialised rehabilitation centres have integrated therapy programmes and professionals who focus on patient rehabilitation and excellence. An amputee should not feel rushed to get up and walk as soon as possible.
Key aspects of rehabilitation must be carefully selected and structured to ensure the amputee has the very best chance of continuing with life as normally as possible. It is important to take the time to ensure every step of the rehabilitation process is done properly.
A new amputee will encounter many different professionals during their stay in a rehabilitation facility – physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, medical doctors with a special interest in physical rehabilitation medicine, and prosthetists.
Pre-prosthetic therapy properly prepares the amputee for prosthetic fitting and the use of a prosthesis. Communication between all the members of the multidisciplinary team is essential.
Regular (daily) check-ups with both the prosthetist and other therapists ensure the treatment protocol is followed daily.
During the prosthetic fitting process, the therapists and doctors constantly communicate with the prosthetist and the patient to ensure all the needs of the patient are met. During prosthetic training the amputee is fitted with the prosthesis and participates in several physical and occupational therapy-training sessions.
During these sessions adjustments are constantly made to achieve optimal socket comfort and patient function. The team works together to improve the quality of life and functional abilities of the patient.
I have often met amputees for whom certain aspects of their rehabilitation process were neglected in some way or the other. What is dismaying about this scenario is that complications occur that could have been avoided with the appropriate rehabilitation protocol.
Today, short cuts seem often to be the rule rather than the exception. If some procedures can be done faster and more cost-effectively, all parties benefit. However, if it translates into wasting money and gambling with the quality of someone’s life, short cuts offer no solution at all…
Heinrich Grimsehl is a prosthetist in private practice and a member of the South African Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (SAOPA). email: email@example.com