The journey to freedom (tools to support a leg amputation)
After Glen’s birth, he was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis. He was born with a deformed (bend) right lower leg (Tibia) and because of his condition, the chance of his bones growing together after they break is very small.
When Glen grew up he didn’t look normal because of his bend leg, but he was able to do everything he wanted. When he was about 11 years old, he still played hockey in the local hockey team. At about 14 years old, he started to get more problems with his leg, because his tibia became more bend and his right foot side turned more outwards, he was almost walking on the inner knuckle of his right ankle. He walked on crutches for about 2-3 years before he got an operation to his leg. We decided to wait as long as possible with an operation, because Glen was still growing and because his chance of his bone growing together after an operation was very small.
During the period when he was on crutches, we spoke to a surgeon at Starship hospital, who said that it was better to prepare Glen for an amputation first and not to perform an operation before he can accept an amputation as a possible outcome.
We worked with Glen towards accepting this possibility through art therapy and Interactive Drawing Therapy (IDT). This therapy helped Glen to become self-assured in the process of his leg amputation, giving him a broader future perspective, which ultimately allowed him more mobility. It helped Glen to be able to own his decision.
Glen also visited an amputee so he could see what it all was about and talk with him about it. This was also very helpful for him.
When Glen was ready, we planned the operation. At that time he was 16.
The operation didn’t exactly go as we expected and after months of exercise and visiting hospital for check-ups, the metal plates in his leg broke and amputation was the only option left.
By this time, Glen was ready and he was tired of not being able to walk properly. For Glen the amputation was like a celebration, because he knew that it wouldn’t be long before he would be able to walk again and look like everybody else.
Before the amputation we made an imprint of his foot in a concrete tile. This process helped him to move through the farewell process. We also talked about what he wanted to do with his amputated leg to help him in the process of saying farewell and to give thanks to his leg, which has supported him for so many years, so he could move on and accept the amputation. He decided to have it cremated and to spread the ashes.
When Glen was 17, he went to hospital for an amputation. Glen was very nervous and scared. We got piles of magazines and asked him to cut out all the pictures of things he would like and be able to do again after the amputation.
He cut them all out and together we glued them all in a book, so every time he felt the fear, he could open the book and look at all the things he would be able to do again. This helped him to focus on the new possibilities for his future instead of focussing on the pain, loss and fear.
Glen had his right leg amputated below the knee.
We will never forget the moment that we were told that the operation had been successful and we were allowed to go to the recovery room where he soon would wake up.
When we came in the room we were quite shocked. It is hard to describe the feeling, but it felt like a bomb had exploded within him. It was as if his body was in such a shock, that the trauma of this shock filled the whole room. Because of this field of energy around him, I wasn’t able to come closer than two meters away from his bed. That his body is in shock is quite logical, because many energy lines (so called meridians), which support several organ functions, move through the leg. Therefore an amputation has a major effect on many functions of the body. It takes 24 hours for the body to adapt itself to this change.
We strongly believe in alternative ways of healing. For some people the next part might be challenging, but it was of great benefit to Glen. Through practicing shamanic healing we knew that the level of trauma created by an amputation can cause soul loss. Soul loss occurs as the result of shock or trauma. The more severe the shock or trauma, the more severe the Soul loss such as in war, abuse and surgery. Soul loss is nature's spontaneous survival mechanism in which part of us splits off in order to cushion the full impact of the shock or trauma. In Psychology, this phenomenon is described as dissociation. The problem arises when the soul part does not come back, either because it is lost or it does not know that it is now safe to return.It is recommended to return these soul parts within 2-3 days after the operation. This way the recovery of the operation will go a lot faster.
Two days after the operation, we did a healing for Glen. We returned the lost soul parts and made the body aware of the amputation to prevent or minimize the so called phantom pains (= pain located in the part of the body which has been amputated). Glen recovered much quicker than expected by hospital staff. He didn’t have any complications and didn’t get any phantom pain.
When Glen was dismissed from hospital, he got a huge amount of medication. Most of the medication was for phantom pain. We didn’t want Glen to be in a lot of pain, but we also didn't want to fill him up with tablets, so we decided to give him half of the prescribed medication to see if any pains would arise. Glen still didn’t have any pain the next day, so we stopped the medication. Glen has never had any phantom pain.
During the time before the amputation, we had come in contact with Dale Speedy in Ngatea. He is the founder of Contact C.A.R.E. which is a method to release pressure from impacted bones. We were so impressed with his work, that we took the opportunity to study it as well. Before the operation, Dale told us about a client who had an amputated leg but after months still hadn’t been able to walk properly. When he came to Dale, Dale asked him what he was feeling when he walked. He said that he felt like he was tripping over his leg. Dale found that the reason for this feeling of tripping over was that when the last string of the leg was cut off the body during the amputation surgery, the body still held the memory of the position of the leg when it was cut off, which, in his case, was crossed over the other leg. We took this experience of him to heart and before the amputation we asked our surgeon to make sure that the leg is completely in the natural position when the last bit is cut off. I’m not sure if the surgeon fully believed what we told him, but he was open for new ideas and was happy to make sure that this would happen. When Glen got his first prosthetic leg, we constantly booked an appointment with Dale to correct his body the day before he would have another appointment with the limb centre to adjust the prosthetic leg. This way his body would be corrected and the leg would directly be adapted to it. We did this about three times.
During the first session, Dale “connected” the body with the prosthetic leg. It was quite amazing to see that after this process Glen could actually feel the heat of a light bulb, which was held close to his ‘fake’ toes. At home I stepped a bit on Glen’s ‘fake’ toes and Glen reacted that it did hurt.
During rehabilitation Glen progressed very quick. He often got comments on how unbelievable quick he progressed. Glen only got blisters one time when he overused his leg in the beginning and after that very rarely, for example when he got a new leg to which he had to get used to.
We hope that sharing this experience will help other people on their journey.
If you are interested or want to know more about art therapy and IDT, you can contact Suzy Gay at the Titirangi Rudolph Steiner School.
If you want more information about shamanic healing, Contact C.A.R.E. or other practices, which might be helpful, you can contact us.