Choosing Amputation Years After Injury - NBC 7 San Diego

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Choosing Amputation Years After Injury



    Thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines are surviving combat injuries that used to be fatal. But those wounded troops have tough decisions to make about their future.

    Some are choosing a life-changing surgery that can have a very positive result.

    Robert Donnelly survived a training accident that severely damaged his leg. After two years of surgeries, rehab and chronic pain, he decided an artificial limb would be a big improvement.

    "Ah, just getting back to active life," Donnelly said. "I mean, after two and a half years of surgeries, it's a pretty easy decision."

    Choosing Amputation Years After Injury

    [DGO] Choosing Amputation Years After Injury
    More than 100 military members have had what doctors call a "delayed amputation."
    (Published Sunday, April 24, 2011)

    The explosives technician fractured his leg in a nighttime parachute jump. The wound never healed.

    "Thirty minutes of activity and I'd be back on the couch with my leg up," he said.

    So he became one of the more than 100 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who've had what doctors call a "delayed amputation." Choosing to have a limb removed months, even years, after the initial injury.

    "It's like a sense of freedom," Donnelly said. "l will be able to do more with my prosthetic than I was with my bum leg."

    Navy doctor Sophia Deben says some patients choose to amputate because their injured limb is compromised.

    "It doesn't give them a strong foot," Deben said. "An ankle that lets them run and walk and stand. A foot and ankle that doesn't hurt, so they don't have to take narcotics."

    Donnelly says he can now “roughhouse” with his three children and not worry about his injured leg.

    "They're loving it, yeah. Yeah, Dad's got his robot leg," Donnelly said laughing.

    Doctors say patients with a strong support network get the best results whether they keep the injured limb or have it removed.

    "They had a job that would let them take time off. They had a family that was supportive. They were educated to understand the process and be dedicated to the rehab," said Deben.

    And dedicated to success.

    "Marine Corps Marathon, D.C., 2011,” Donnelly said. “Hopefully, I'll be there.”