Life without a limb doesn't have to mean the end of your life as you knew it. Nancy Naeve Brown heard from one amputee who says the Avera Prosthetic and Brace Clinic helped him to find a new normal.
Tom Hildebrand says, "When Dr. Tommy (Reynolds) opened me up he said I have 2 minutes, 2 minutes. It was that close. "
Tom Hildebrand survived something very few people live to talk about. An aneurysm he didn't know he had in his abdominal aorta burst in August 2009. Our abdominal aorta is the largest artery in our body. It's about the size of a garden hose so when it bursts most people bleed to death in a matter of minutes. Tom survived after a 13 hour surgery at the Avera Heart Hospital, 4 months in the hospital and a below the knee leg amputation.
Tom says, "My foot and ankle looked like I'd been climbing on Mt. Everest, it was all black. The clot formed beneath my knee and cut off circulation because of the sudden blood loss."
In January of 2010, Tom started coming to the Avera Prosthetic and Brace Clinic on the Avera McKennan campus where an interdisciplinary team would work together with him on learning how to walk and live with prosthesis.
Dr. Mark Drymalski is a physiatrist, a medical doctor who specializes in physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pain medicine. He's with Avera Medical Group Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation says, "Interdisciplinary means we have all the disciplines seeing the person at the same time. What's nice about that in this clinic is first of all they don't have to go to the therapist, prosthetist and then to their doctor all on different days, different appointments. We see them at the same time that way the providers can share ideas and come up with a solution at once."
In 10 months Tom went from a walker to a cane to walking independently. Dr. Drymalski, Physical Therapist Staci Wietfeld, along with Prosthetists Mark Swanstrom with Prosthetic Laboratories and Tyler Clementson with Orthotic & Prosthetic Specialties in Sioux Falls all watch Tom walk and run through balance exercises to make sure everything is working the way it should.
Tom says, "The Avera folks from the Heart Hospital to McKennan, they baked the cake. These people (rehab) put the frosting on it to give you the tools and skills to get back to living again. To a lot of people it sounds like the end of the world. There is nothing you can't do because of an amputation, nothing. If people want to get back to normal they can do it."
Tom has adopted the creed "new normal" and is living up to it. He says life with a prosthetic leg is a great life because it's sure better than the other option he was facing. Plus, he knows he has a whole team here at Avera supporting him every step of the way.
Tom is an avid golfer so at the beginning of therapy his goal was to get back on the links. We are happy to report he has a special prosthesis designed for sports like golf and he is now shooting 18 holes under 90.
Tom has also started an Amputee Support Group in Sioux Falls. They meet every other month at the Avera Living Well Center meeting rooms which are at 33rd and Minnesota Ave. For more information on that call Tom at 605-857-0078.
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