The amputation of a limb can be a terrible, but necessary, medical procedure. But now, new technologies and treatments are bringing hope to anyone who might be facing it.
It's hard to believe that at one time, John Diener was told he had six months to live.
Doctors had amputated his left leg a few years before, and he was being told his other leg had to be removed or he would die.
He decided he wasn't going to do that again, so he was put in hospice care. Diener has diabetes and other health issues. He had lost hope.
But that was three years ago. Since then, Diener has found new doctors.
Dr. Barbara Aung is a podiatrist and certified wound specialist. She says amputation should be the last resort.
"Once a person has one amputation, they're likely to have another amputation in three to five years," she explains. "And the mortality rate in a five-year time period is about 50 percent once you have an amputation."
Many patients can be at risk for amputation. They might have diabetes, high blood pressure, or vascular disease, for example.
But there are many alternative treatments available now, everything from hyperbaric chambers to bioengineered tissue and vascular surgery.
Dr. Aung's wish to save patients' limbs and thus save their lives is why she is helping start the first Arizona chapter of the Save a Leg, Save a Life Foundation.
It's a group whose membership includes doctors, nurses, patients, physical therapists and others who meet to share innovative treatment and care ideas.
The idea is to get the word out, especially to doctors.
"We want to save those limbs, and we think by doing that, we are actually saving their lives down the road," Dr. Aung explains.
She says sometimes there is no alternative to amputation, but patients need hope – what she calls "armor."
"To have doctors believe in you and do whatever they have to do is just great. And that's the biggest thing," he says.
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