A Saskatchewan amputee wants to publicize a procedure that he says has greatly improved his quality of life.
Ron Patterson is now the first person in Saskatchewan to undergo an osseointegration replacement of a limb on his amputated leg, but he hopes that will change quickly.
The replacement of a limb by osseointegration consists in fusing the bone to a metal implant.
Ron broke his ankle in 1978, a few months after marrying his wife, Shelly.
“I used to drive earth moving machinery, heavy road construction equipment and slipped on frost on the ladder and went down and landed on a rock,” Ron said.
Ron’s ankle was put in a cast, then operated on and put back in a cast. He says a window was not cut in the plaster, so it could not be cleaned. The wound would bleed and become infected later.
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Ron had two choices; take drugs for the rest of his life that would cause him to lose his driver’s license or part of his leg.
He decided to let the doctors amputate his leg in 1984.
Ron has worn a prosthetic socket for over 30 years. He said that for about 20 years the take worked well for him, but then he developed sores around the stump, as well as an addiction to prescription drugs.
“I was on morphine and it got to the point, my body got used to the morphine, so they put me on fentanyl and it was starting to get to the point where my body got used to the fentanyl and it didn’t work like that. when it started, Ron explained.
He also developed a neuroma, which Ron said was painful when he put pressure on it.
The pain became so intense that Ron had to sell his cattle.
It was at this point that Ron began to explore other options, including osseointegration of a limb.
He was referred to a doctor in Alberta who had good news and bad news for him.
“The bad news was they were only going to do people from Alberta,” Ron said.
Ron was then referred to a surgeon in Montreal.
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Dr. Robert Turcotte is an orthopedic surgeon at the McGill Health Center and specializes in musculoskeletal cancer and osseointegration.
“By having this piece of metal anchored in the bone, protruding from the skin, we allow the amputee to connect directly to the prosthesis through the metal implant, thus avoiding the discomfort and limitations of the prosthesis to. socket, ”Turcotte explained.
The surgery is ideal for amputees who have experienced pain and discomfort while wearing a socket.
Turcotte said during the warmer months the stumps can get hot and humid from the sweat, causing the grip to rotate, making it difficult to walk.
Sleeve prostheses also take five to 10 minutes to put on, especially for mid-thigh amputees.
The osseointegration prosthesis takes 10 seconds to click.
Turcotte says this is particularly useful for bilateral amputees.
Turcotte said the program in Montreal has the capacity to perform 50 osseointegration surgeries per year, but COVID-19 has had an impact on the number of patients they can operate on. He estimates that there are currently 10 to 15 patients on the waiting list for the procedure.
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Surgery and prosthesis are also expensive, Turcotte said.
Currently, Quebec covers surgery in its health system. The Turcotte office must obtain permission to perform the surgery on Ontario residents of that province’s health care system.
Ron had his operation covered by a Saskatchewan government workers’ compensation fund, although he said it took about five years for the province to finally give the green light so he could to have an operation.
Turcotte explained that some provinces are reluctant to cover the surgery because they believe it is an experimental operation.
” This is no longer the case. We know a little about the complication and the short and medium term results. For most of our patients, this is life changing. It gives them a degree of freedom, of freedom, the ability to wear their prosthesis all day, ”said Turcotte.
About thirty osseointegration surgeries have been performed in Montreal to date. The first procedure was completed three years ago. Turcotte added that demand is low for the operation.
“We don’t have hundreds of amputees waiting for an operation.
Turcotte said surgery is more common for lower limb amputees, but osseointegration has also been performed successfully in mid-arm amputees.
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There are also limits on who can have the operation. Patients should be of normal body weight, not to smoke, or to have significant health problems.
After completing the procedure in November 2020, Ron said he was sharing his story so that other amputees can now talk about the procedure and decide if it’s something they want to pursue.
“I can pretty much do anything I could before with my leg,” Ron said.
“It’s like having your own leg again.”
He added that he might even start raising cattle again if he was younger.
Ron and his wife both said that while he missed several sports with their three sons when they were younger, they were nevertheless grateful that he can at least do more with his grandchildren now.
“I feel like a million dollars. I do. It’s just that my quality of life is back and everyone who sees me and talks to me, the new me (versus) before and the drugs I was living with, they just said I looked great better (and) that I looked much healthier. “
Ron also said he was happy that he was off drugs now and not having to take strong prescription drugs like fentanyl or morphine.
“I can walk and do as much as anyone else in the world.”
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Ron called the day he had the operation “the best day of my life” and he hopes the operation can become more accessible to other amputees.
He wished he could have done it 30 years earlier.
Ron said he was more than willing to speak to anyone who wanted to ask him questions about the procedure and his personal experience with it. He said he just wanted to help others achieve a more comfortable lifestyle as amputees with the opportunities available to them.
Shelly is equally happy that Ron had the procedure, saying he wasn’t the easiest person to get along with earlier.
“He was really irritable and probably a lot of it from the pain, but also from the medication. I know because he’s a whole different person since he stopped using drugs, ”Shelly said.
Shelly agrees with Ron that if an amputee qualifies for surgery, they should be examined.
“I just wish it had happened a long, long time ago. But that’s life,” Shelly said.
– with files from Taz Dhaliwal
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