Discovering the best medicine
After I had my left leg amputated on June 27, 2011, my chosen career and the knowledge that went with it came in quite handy. For about 13 years, I had been keeping myself and others in shape as a certified personal trainer, and when I lost my leg, I already knew how to take care of my body - an understanding that has been very important to my ability to succeed as an amputee.
After my leg was amputated, the hospital’s occupational therapist and physical therapist said they needed to teach me how to walk now that my body was no longer in balance. I couldn’t help but laugh. I explained that I was a certified personal trainer and that is what I do for a living. They said, ‘Prove it,’ so I got my walker and walked around the entire hospital floor. Once we got back to my room, they said, ‘Yep, you don’t need us.’ They realized I would be just fine. I was very thankful for my former focus on core stability. I knew that it was the best form of exercise for my situation because it strengthens the entire body; it made my recovery effortless. I was back at the gym two days after leaving the hospital. Before having my amputation, I'd already had multiple surgeries to try to save my leg, and I bounced back pretty well each time, largely due to my excellent physical condition and a positive mindset. My only down time was a few days after each surgery. I knew I needed to make money to help pay my bills, to occupy my mind, and to keep busy helping others.
Continuing to improve
After my amputation, I also returned to working out to preserve my sanity and strength, mainly focusing on core training, using the BOSU ball, resist-a-balls, kettle bells, cables, and anything that uses the entire body. I would also use my wheelchair and/or crutches for my cardio, “since I didn’t have a leg to stand on (sorry, but we do have a sense of humor). And I also did my gardening, feeding my squirrels, vacuuming, and all the household chores. Someone needed to do it! I even washed both vehicles. I would use my walker if necessary. My speedy recovery confirmed what I knew all along. Working out is so important, especially stability exercises. As we age, our balance gets worse so it is so important to keep our core strong.
Before the amputation
After noticing a bump on my Achilles tendon in February 2009, I would have never imagined that, after numerous unsuccessful efforts to solve the problem, it would ultimately result in the amputation of my leg due to an E-coli infection. Still, when the amputation was finally done, it lifted a tremendous weight off of my shoulders. I had gone through five surgeries between March 2010 and June 2011 trying to save my leg, plus 2 revision surgeries after my amputation in December 2011 and March 2012. “After my leg was gone, I finally felt worry -free. All of the time and effort to try to save it with surgeries had been more difficult than the amputation. Once the amputation was done, I could move on with my life.
Discovering the best medicine
I had actually stumbled on physical fitness as a “medicine” more than a decade earlier. In 1997, my first marriage was coming to an end, and I was going through a depression. My doctor put me on antidepressants, and they just made me worse. At that point, I decided to take matters into my own hands and joined an all-women’s gym. I found that to be my magic pill. The endorphins I got from doing cardio and other exercises were, without a doubt, the best medicine that anyone could prescribe.
Passing it on
After I had been working out at the gym for a while, other members started asking me for help and guidance. I told them I didn’t work there and that they needed to speak with someone who did. Oddly enough, they still wanted me to help them so the management at the gym hired me, and that’s how my life’s path took a new turn. I was soon certified as a personal trainer, and then my fitness instructor’s certification followed. I quickly became one of the most popular trainers and fitness instructors there. In 1998 I have earned my CPTN (Canadian Personal Trainers Network) certification and began working at 2 different gyms in Toronto Canada. In 2002, I earned my ACE (American Council on Exercise) certification, which is recognized nationally as I was getting ready to move to the United States in the beginning of 2003. I also had my fitness specialist certification with Can-Fit-Pro and taught numerous aerobic classes. I then began working for Bally Total Fitness in 2003 before starting my own personal training business, Personal Affects, in April 2009. Physical fitness is essential for everyone. Humans have such bad habits. They destroy their bodies, and the only way to help them is through teaching and guidance and explaining how their actions are hurting them. Exercise helps many medical conditions, and I have had wonderful success with my clients who were no longer able to do simple things, such as tying their shoes or getting in and out of the bathtub. I even helped prepare one of my clients for the removal of a tumor from one of her lungs. The surgery and her recovery went with ease due to the types of exercises I did to help strengthen what was left of her lung capacity. I also kept her legs and upper body strong so that she could move without much stress or strain.
Help from others
Being an amputee has been a life-changing experience, and other amputees have been very helpful. I found that if I needed a question answered, who better to answer it than another amputee? I joined a group of amputees online who have helped me feel like I fit in again. I don’t feel so alone. Even though non-amputees want to say they understand or offer advice, they mean well, but it is not the same. I am in a new world now. I actually feel that my emotional health improved after the amputation because I was no longer concerned about my leg and the pain it caused. I have no regrets. I am a very strong-minded person, and I have always tried to find the positive in things.
Even though I may continue to suffer from phantom limb pain, I have had numerous other treatments and surgeries to help combat that. It still has not stopped me from workout or helping others.
I really want to help other amputees and other people in general to get their bodies fit, and ready for the unexpected. From my online amputee group, I learned that so many of them gain weight after losing a limb. Many of them waited until they got their prosthesis and only then began to start exercising again to try to lose all the weight they had gained. I was the opposite and was very active from the get-go after my amputation. In fact, I actually lost approximately 25 pounds even without trying to. Because I know how important it is, I strongly encourage other amputees to stay in shape or start getting physically fit and active again. It’s okay to start slowly, because slowly is better than sitting and doing nothing. Try a little bit more each day, and try to be positive and not negative. I try to offer helpful tips to those in my online amputee group who have gained weight and want their lives back. I have actually started a virtual online training via webcam for those who cannot afford a gym and the hefty fees involved. I do not charge much for my training sessions; I am here to help others, and that is what helps me feel good. Since my amputation, I am more determined than ever to help others and make a difference. I want to work with other amputees to help them get their lives back on track and give them the confidence, independence and self-esteem that they once had. My clients’ success is what keeps me going. I love to hear them say how thankful they are for what they are able to do after working with me. It is such a great feeling.
My website at www.personal-affects.com