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Lost a Leg? What do You Say?

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SisterMilkshake posted 2/16/2014 11:41 AM

Background, my dear brother had surgery on Thursday, developed blood clots in his leg, and they amputated his leg yesterday.

What do you say to someone who has lost a leg? I don't want to say something insensitive without realizing it. I am afraid I am just going to cry when I talk to him. My poor, poor baby brother. He is far away. I can only talk to him on the phone. I am at a loss as to what to do to support my brother.

Do men like to get flowers in the hospital? What do men like to get when in hospital recovering? He has never been in a hospital before.

Dreamboat posted 2/16/2014 11:53 AM

When my brother was in the hospital after he had a liver transplant I sent him a couple of balloons and a card. I didn't think he would like flowers or a plant and he could not really eat anything, so I thought balloons might cheer up a gloomy hospital room.

I don't know what you can say to your brother. This will probably be devastating for him and will have a long recovery with quite a bit of physical therapy. Really the only thing you can do is express your sorrow and let him know that if he needs anything you will do what you can to help. Is there anyway you can plan a trip to go out and help him and SIL when he gets out of the hospital?


SisterMilkshake posted 2/16/2014 12:14 PM

Thanks, Dreamboat. Balloons are a great idea!

Unfortunately, there is no SIL. You know the reason we are all here? Yeah, his wife. I have two sisters down there that are great and will be very supportive. I will be making a trip down there, but probably not until the spring. I can't fly, I have meltdowns (extreme panic attacks).

nowiknow23 posted 2/16/2014 12:29 PM

((((Sister's brother)))) I'm so sorry, honey. This has to be scary for you, especially so when you are far away.

Holding you both in my thoughts and sending strength to your whole family.

tushnurse posted 2/16/2014 13:37 PM

You tell him you love him and that he needs to focus on getting well. Let him steer the conversation. He probably is a little loopy from pain meds at this point.

As far as what to send him I have often seen "guy" gift baskets that have nuts and jerky and even beer.

This is going to be long road as he recovers. Help him to stay positive by being positive and yes it's ok to cry and be sad but follow up with statements about his strength resilience and ability to accomplish what he wants.

((((Sister and brother))))

movingforward777 posted 2/16/2014 19:41 PM

Apart from the standard "you haven't got a leg to stand on, so you will have to bum around for the rest of your life" joke the best thing you will can do is ask him what he needs in the way of help/support.
I have worked with patients that have lost limbs and there is definitely a "grieving" process they go through for the limb and the changes it makes to their lives.
It is probably early to decide if he is going to look at being fitted for a prosthesis (artificial limb), but that is always a good focus for them....taking good care of the stump and healing well...getting stronger so they can start to work with it....getting back on with living a "new normal".
It will take a while for him to heal and there is probably lots that family can do to help in that process....meals, housework, driving to the Dr's visits, keeping him company while he is laid up.....
Some patients accept their loss of limb better than others....everyone is different, but everyone needs love, support and the opportunity to cry/grieve without judgement.....HUGS

InnerLight posted 2/16/2014 21:21 PM

What can you say in the face of such tragedies?

Listen as much as possible. Be a caring presence, someone who accepts him as he is, loves him just the same, listens to whatever he is going through. Ask him how you can support him from afar.

He really needs your love and caring right now.

((((((sistermilkshake's brother)))))))

Chrysalis123 posted 2/16/2014 21:36 PM

NPD-x was in a near fatal car accident 5 years before DD, due to drugs and alcohol.

He lost his left forearm, below the elbow, due to the car landing on it and crushing his forearm.

One of the things that helped him most was getting a visit from a man that had also lost an arm and was done grieving and on to living a full productive life. It gave him hope. I remember the guy showed up in a muscle shirt, and was not wearing a prosthesis and was comfortable with himself. The prostethist (people that make artificial limbs) arranged it.

The other thing that helped was a PT that was also an amputee. NPD-x had to wait quite awhile for his prosthesis due to massive skin grafts. So learning to do things one handed was hard. He certainly appreciated his new arm when he got it finally.

As for what to say, Just be yourself. Tell him you are so sorry, and then listen.

I remember the fear to see NPD-x the first time. After that it got easier and easier. The whole family had a funny sense of humor about the whole thing after time.

I am sorry this has happened to you. It is so upsetting, I know.

[This message edited by Chrysalis123 at 9:49 PM, February 16th (Sunday)]

BAB61 posted 2/16/2014 22:45 PM

You tell them you love them, and that you want them to recover quickly. Ask about P/T and when that will start, how long it will last and just be as matter-of-fact as you can.

My good friend's mom lost her leg due to diabetes. I have another friend that has had prosthetic legs her whole life (she is a little person, with complications).

It's horrible, but not a tragedy if you KWIM? He has his life and prosthetics now are vastly improved. When he's fully recovered and wearing pants you will not be able to tell he's got one.

This guy is a combat vet who is now a model ... just sayin'

Edit to add comment.

[This message edited by BAB61 at 10:46 PM, February 16th (Sunday)]

tushnurse posted 2/17/2014 09:51 AM

BAB - that guy is freaking HOT!!!!!
Now I have to go wipe the drool off of my screen.

SisterMilkshake posted 2/17/2014 17:22 PM

nik ~ thanks, you are always there with a hug and support.

tushnurse ~ thanks, too, for always being there with support and practical advice, both medical and otherwise.

movingforward777 ~ thank you so much, very helpful, I shared part of your post with my family in our special "Family Facebook Group". (more on that later) May I ask what you do for a living? Physical therapist?

InnerLight ~ thank you, good advice.

Chrysalis ~ thank you. Your first hand experience with someone close to you being an amputee was really helpful to me.


It's horrible, but not a tragedy if you KWIM?
I agree. He is still here. Love the picture, he is one sexy man. Don't think I will share with my dear brother, though, I think the man's abs will bum him out!

solus sto posted 2/17/2014 17:39 PM

You just tell him you love him, are sorry, and will be there for him no matter what.

The loss of a limb is enormous. It usually is preceded by an illness serious enough that the person is grateful to be alive, if minus a limb. I'm NOT minimizing the loss--it is huge. But beneath the grief is gratitude.

Focus on that, but not cloyingly. Just let him know that you are SO happy the clots were properly diagnosed and that you still have him in your life. Tell him you love him however he is. He is the same brother who taught you to pump your legs on the swing, or teased you hard enough about having training wheels that it pushed you to learn to ride a two-wheeler.

He will likely go through the stages of grief. He may need help navigating them--if so, help him find a good therapist; the hospital social worker might be a good resource for identifying counselors and/or support groups for amputees.

He will also likely battle some pretty unique pain issues that can seem pretty puzzling, since the absent limb can....hurt. Help him, if necessary, find a neurologist who will help him address them.

But mostly, "I'm sorry and I love you" go a long, long way.

I.will.survive posted 2/17/2014 17:49 PM

I'm sorry you are so far away and can't go give your baby brother a hug!

Don't know if it's too late, but I wanted to suggest sending only Mylar balloons to the hospital. There are people with severe latex allergies and mere balloons can cause respiratory distress. I work with a nurse who has ended up in ICU twice now because someone brought a bouquet of latex balloons as thank you gifts, etc. through the lobby. Yikes!

Hope you find the right words to say. I'm sure just letting him know you are thinking of him will mean a lot.

SisterMilkshake posted 2/17/2014 17:58 PM

The family drama starts. Ugghhh!!!

This is a part of the post that my niece, my brothers only child, posted about my brother upon learning of his amputation. She posted this Sunday morning, they told him the night before. The surgery was Saturday morning.

Despite the family having to break the news to my father that his leg is now gone from the knee down, he seems to be in fairly good spirits. I plan to keep his story going that a shark bit off his leg.
He does have a sense of humor and gets through a lot of stuff using humor. That is great and I am happy that he didn't get angry and have a meltdown. Later on in the day, my oldest sister visited and posted this.
Am at the hospital now for about an hour or so. Brother has been chatting & joking the whole time.
Various family members posted something, mostly remarking on glad that he was keeping his sense of humor. I posted my own comment.
I am glad that he seems to be keeping his sense of humor. However, he is probably in the "shock and denial" stage of the grief cycle. He will go through many stages.
The backlash to my post was ridiculous. A couple of niece's telling me that I am negative and they aren't buying into the negativity. One said she knows her uncle so well and this is just who he is. Oh, really? I have known him his whole life, you twit.

Another sister called me. I asked how that was a negative post. She told me I was "Debbie Downer" about a lot of things. Oh, like you wanting to run away to California with your 15 year old son and ensuring that he had no relationship with his father, and me pointing out that wasn't the best idea?

I was just pointing out to people that 1. He is totally fucked up on meds right now. I don't think he fully can grasp that his leg was amputated. 2. From everything I have read, it is quite common for most amputees to go through a grieving process. Just wanted to prepare people that his attitude may change in a few days.

Yeah, so now I am this horrible, negative person. That somehow me posting that brother may go through some grieving and not always be so up and positive is somehow affecting brothers positive attitude. He doesn't even have Facebook. Never has seen Facebook.

Bunch of assholes. Yeah, they want him to be all positive and jokey because that makes it easier for them. Fuck what my brother may be really feeling and going through. 'Cause it is all about them.

eta: I spoke to my brother yesterday morning (right after I posted my original post, niece called me because brother wanted to talk to me). He told me they took both his feet. He asked me if I knew that my niece was his daughter. He told me he just wanted to get up and walk around but they wouldn't let him. Yeah, I think he is still not really fully grasping what is going on. I am sure today is different. I know they already started a little PT.

[This message edited by SisterMilkshake at 6:08 PM, February 17th (Monday)]

itainteasy posted 2/18/2014 11:01 AM

Oh Sister, I'm so sorry for your brother.

Your facebook was not negative, IMO. It was REALITY. That's the problem people have with it. It was a dose of reality. "What? You mean he might actually get sad, and give up the shark story?"

He is going to need support. He is. He's going to grieve that loss.

I agree that having an amputee that is living their life well visit him might be a good idea.

On the flowers thing---if he's still in ICU he can't have flowers. Flowers are a no no there. They will sit at the nurses' station.

A "guy" basket, like tushnurse suggested sounds fun and different.

Hang in there. It has to be hard having him so far away.

DixieD posted 2/18/2014 11:38 AM


I'm so sorry to hear about your brother and all the family drama coming your way.

nowiknow23 posted 2/18/2014 12:52 PM

((((sister)))) Your family's response to your post was over the top. I'm sure everyone is reeling in their own way, as people do in stressful times like this. That doesn't excuse their attacks on you. Hugs honey.

movingforward777 posted 2/19/2014 20:49 PM

movingforward777 ~ thank you so much, very helpful, I shared part of your post with my family in our special "Family Facebook Group". (more on that later) May I ask what you do for a living? Physical therapist?

I'm glad it could be of some help. I am a Registered Practical Nurse with almost 35 yrs of experience. I have worked a lot with orthopaedic patients, and currently work on a unit with elderly patients many of whom have had joint replacements/surgery, and some amputations. I really enjoy my work and feel that humour does have it's place, but only with the right person at the right time. It is a grieving process that they go through, and it takes a different amount of time for each person. Just being there, loving them, giving them a little latitude for the "bad days" and helping in whatever way they need is the best I can offer. Many have to learn to accept help (they feel a burden on family/friends), and allowing them to come to terms with the things they can't do for themselves is hard to watch sometimes. Hold your tongue, but don't take abuse either. There is a fine line and at times it moves around on you and them.....hang in...most times having a loving family is the best help....HUGS

movingforward777 posted 2/19/2014 21:09 PM

After reading you other post I would like to suggest you deal with your brother how you want for the rest of the hell with them...
You have the benefit of a good, long standing relationship with your brother, and state that he does enjoy humour to get through some things...use it, when appropriate, and have some laughs with him....once the drugs wear off, the pain, settles down, and the stitches/staples come out the day to day job of living without the limb may be the toughest time for there for him and don't worry about what the others think...he will need someone to be honest, straight up and helpful...sounds like you are that person....HUGS to you and him.....hang in there.....

tushnurse posted 2/20/2014 13:48 PM

Hey Sister M -
Just thinking about you, and wondering how you and your Bro are doing. Don't worry about the rest of the family. They don't have a clue.

You know he's blatto on pain meds, and probably has some hospital sleep deprivation psychosis going on.

Hope all is well.

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