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Infection Caused my Mothers Leg Amputation

Updated on February 9, 2015

My mother got an infection in the bone of her ankle and foot, which is called osteomyelitis, following surgery for an ankle replacement in March, 2004. She had fallen down some steps about 10 years earlier badly twisting her ankle, then had surgery which required a plate and several long screws to repair her ankle.

My Mother

At this time (2003) my mother was a widow, owned her own home and had a large dog that was in the kennel while she had surgery. My son kept her dog for the whole duration of this long ordeal and I took care of the house, the mail, paid her bills and any others problems that arose.

Circumstances Leading to Surgery

The first surgery served her well for many years but by 2003; she was using a cane all the time and the ankle would just give out on her, which would cause her to fall. I took her to the orthopedic surgeon that August and he recommended an ankle replacement versus ankle fusion because he said it would require less recovery time. However, she had just had a stent put her heart and was on Plavix, so the put the surgery was postponed for several months.

In March 22, 2004 the ankle replacement surgery was done. The doctor had told us the ankle replacement will be cemented in place so she would start physical rehabilitation within a couple of days. Two days following the surgery we were told that the ankle replacement was not cemented in place and that she could not put any weight on her foot for six weeks. He said he talked with some other surgeons prior to her surgery and they advised him not to use the cement, but he didn't bother to tell us. I was more than a little upset to say the least.

Week after week, Problem after problem

As there is so much to the story I'm going to try to shorten it by using dates and main events that happened over the next almost 2 years.

March 29, 2004: Transferred to nursing home. Dr. applied cast prior to transfer. The cast covered the back of the leg and under the foot. The foot and leg was then wrapped with gauze and ace wraps. The cast was crooked from the ankle to the toes, holding her foot at a slight right angle

April 5, 2004: Dressings caused a large blister on bottom of foot, two small toes were black, and large black areas formed around both incisions.

April 14, 2004; Accompanied mother to doctor's office. Purulent drainage noted from lateral incision but was not cultured. Placed on antibiotics. Doctor blamed problem on poor circulation. Mother is not a diabetic nor did she have peripheral vascular disease.

April 28, 2004: Doctor visit. New dressing change orders. Black tissue starting to slough off with drainage. No culture done.

May 14, 2004: Mother discharge to my home with home healthcare wound specialist visits. Wound completely open several inches down to the bone.

June: Mother referred to plastic surgeon for flap or stent graft which he refused to do.

June 10, 2004: Doctor visit and wound cultured at my insistence which grew Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection which is a resistant staph infection. MRSA infections in the bone are difficult to treat.

Bone Infection

This is the infection spreading from a soft tissue into the bone.
This is the infection spreading from a soft tissue into the bone. | Source

Problems Continue

About June 28th:: Transfer to specialty hospital to continue antibiotics and debridement. Tendon on top of foot drying out, to be removed.

July 7, 2004: New doctor taking over surgery for skin graft. Debridement therapy continues and started on wound vac machine.

July 16, 2004: I called orthopedic doctor about that ankle x-ray needed to allow any weight bearing and if ready she would be discharged my home on July 30 when antibiotics were complete. Wound care would continue with home health again. I spoke at length with the doctor about the difficulties of caring for my mother in a home that is not wheelchair accommodating. He understands I have disabled from lupus and cannot do lifting. He said he would get another X rate let us know the results.

July 17, 2004: Entered hospital for six weeks of IV antibiotics.

July 20, 2004: Orthopedic surgeon performed surgery removing ankle replacement and revised bone with fusion. Left leg now 1”shorter than right.

July 21, 2004: X-ray not done. I called doctors office again and the x-ray was done.

July 22, 2004: X-ray on chart per staff awaiting doctor’s review.

July 26, 2004: Doctor has not seen x-ray. Specialty hospital staff suggests we call Dr. as they cannot change weight-bearing orders, and he has not returned their calls. I called office again. The doctor visited my mother's room for literally 90 seconds and stated weight-bearing could begin.

July 30, 2004: Mother discharged to my home using walker with much difficulty. Remains connected to wound vac. Pain continues to be a major problem.

August 4, 2004: Took mother to wound clinic where re-engineered skin was placed over open wound. No weight-bearing allowed again.

August 11, 2004: Returned to wound clinic numerous times as reengineer skin failed.

August 31, 2004: Admitted to hospital for specialized tests to look for infection. Received a PICC line for six more weeks of antibiotics. Transferred to another nursing home.

September 7, 2005 : She received a new PICC line for two antibiotics as or cultures now included MRSA, Pseudomonas and Enterobactor.

October 18, 2004: Discharged home but unable to complete activities of daily living without constant help and still having much difficulty using walker.

November 9, 2004: Appointment to the orthopedic doctor who suggested removing two screws in her leg to relief pain but ankle not completely healed.

For the next 9 or10 months mother is continually on antibiotics with the draining wound and sees a wound care specialists about every other day, even weekends. Throughout this time our biggest fear was that she would lose her leg and the quality of her life was horrendous.

MRSA Infection Myths and Truths

During the months leading up to the surgery she put her house on the market and luckily it sold for at a very good price just before the housing market fell apart. At that same time we put an addition on our house, so she'd have her own bedroom, living room and sun room. Our addition on our house was completed and we got her moved the first week of January, 2006.

Decision to Amputate

After much discussion, I finally took her to see a new orthopedic surgeon, who had an excellent reputation to discuss amputation. The infection control doctors had told us that she would never be free from the bone infection. This physician turned out to be a very skilled and knowledgeable doctor. The date for the amputation was set up.

In the second week of January, the family was at the hospital on the day of surgery and the physician came out and prayed with us. I have never been so touched that a physician would be sensitive to the family's needs in this way. The surgery went well and of course my mother had to go back into a physical therapy situation for several weeks to get used to her new prosthesis. The infection was gone!

The amputation was the best thing that could have happened because she got her life back. She got used to her prosthetic but it was slow in the beginning. Now she walks with a cane, drives, gets out of the house to see friends and still plays bridge. She is a remarkably strong woman, as I don’t think I would have held up nearly as well as she did. Sometimes what you think is the worst thing in the world is the only good choice.

In Conclusion

I imagine you would be asking yourself at this point how much money did she get from her lawsuit? I did take the information to three different attorneys and none of them were interested in the case. Apparently the laws in Florida are not very kind to the elderly when it comes to lawsuits, as she had not lost any income and that's their criteria. Loss of almost 2 years and constant pain doesn't pay out. Maybe going through a lawsuit would have been one more traumatic event, and it's a moot point now.

It is over six years that my mother has lived with us and it has worked out beautifully. I am so glad she lived through that horrible time and we have had so many special times together. She is 87 and the picture above was taken a year ago. I consider her recovery nothing short of a miracle.

© 2011 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    James, You are exactly right. Thanks for your comments.

  • James A Watkins profile image

    James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

    This story is frightening and tragic. But, at the end, you say everything worked out great and it turned out to be a sort of blessing. I am sure the times you two have been able to spend together since have been wonderful. Thank you for writing this article.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Peg, it is particularly important for an elderly patient to have a loved one to watch over them if their hospitalized and make sure they're getting the proper care and attention. Thank you so much for your very kind comments.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    Very difficult times you both went through Pamela. I understand just how important it is to be a patient advocate and keep a watchful eye on our elders. When any of us are hospitalized it is amazing what they can do to you, even the doctors. I feel so sorry for this situation you both went through and just glad your Mom is doing better. She is beautiful and you are too.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    capcrunch, I agree that we need to take care of the elderly. It must be so difficult to not be able to do the things you always took for granted. I appreciate your comments.

  • capncrunch profile image

    capncrunch 6 years ago from New Orleans

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, Pamela. It is really touching to hear what your mother had to go through. Thankfully for her, she had you. What you have done for her is wonderful. I am glad to hear she is getting around. Several years ago I went to get an old refrigerator for an elderly woman of 90 years old. She was full of life and kept apologizing for having me come out there and burden me. I said nonsense. It is my pleasure and I know she would have tried to do it on her own. Our elderly are so deservingly prideful. And they have so much to offer. Great Hub!!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Peggy, I appreciate your very sweet compliments. Even so grateful that my mother made it through such a serious situation. I'll be glad to give her a hug today. Thank you so much for your comments.

    Hello, I very much appreciate your comments.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

    I am glad to hear the good news and wish you a speedy recovery.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Pamela,

    I can see where you get your good looks. Your mother is a beautiful woman and you certainly resemble her! Such a sad story of ineptitude, pain and suffering. Thank heavens you were there to advocate for her or very likely she would have died.

    So nice that you are now all able to live together in one home. I loved the last years spent living together with my mother. Cherish each moment and give your mother a special extra hug today.

    Also happy to hear that your surgery went well. Rating this up and useful.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Hello, You are so compassionate and I appreciate your comments. The pins come out of my fingers a week from Monday and I am doing well. Thank you.

    Lady Jane, She is a strong woman and taught me well. Thanks so much for your comments.

    Audry, I am so sorry to hear about your family member. MRSA is a terrible infection. I appreciate your comments,

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

    Oh gosh, Pamela - your mom is so pretty! I'm so sorry about her troubles with MRSA. Unfortunately, she is one of the LUCKY ones (yeah, right) just because she lived. My sister-in-law's sister died from a MRSA infection and it was the most awful thing. Great post and rated up for informative! I just read today that 3/4 of all Americans have this though it can be dormant - until something triggers its worsening.

  • ladyjane1 profile image

    ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

    Very beautiful mother you have there Pamela and Im glad that everything worked out with her leg. She is definitely a strong woman and is a good example for all of us. Cheers.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

    Gosh, my heart goes out to your mother. What pain she must have suffered. How are you with you hand operation. Are you getting any better? It always amazes me. We are writing and commenting on each other hubs and one day the person all over sudden writes about the tremendous hardship they went through which we never suspect. Well, take care and my best wishes to you and your mother.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    drbj, Thank you for your kind comments. I hope this hub gives hope to others that you can make it through horrible times and have a happy ending. I appreciate your compliment and will pass it along to my mother.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

    I am happy for you, Pamela, that both you and your mother survived those terrible times and botched operations. She is fortunate to have such a loving, caring daughter, and you are "the apple that didn't fall far from the tree."

    Tell mom, she is beautiful - just like he daughter. And God bless you both.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    presetio, Thank you so much for your comments and my mother is doing quite well now compared to four years ago. I appreciate your comments very much. God bless.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

    I am so sorry to hear this. But I hope your mother get well soon. I just send my pray for her. Just give her motivation and life must go on. Pamela, send my warm greeting to your mom. I believe you are a great daughter and she certainly proud of you. God bless you!


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    fastfreta, I am so touched by your comments and you are such a sweet woman and always kind.

  • fastfreta profile image

    Alfreta Sailor 6 years ago from Southern California

    What a horrific experience for your mother. It's so unfortunate that the elderly is so undervalued that the laws of the land don't apply to them as with others, (the lawsuit). Anyway I'm glad it turned out the way it did, and good for you for taking as good a care of her as you did. You're a wonderful daughter, I'm sure she appreciates you.

    Voted up/useful/awesome/beautiful. Useful, because I have a friend that just had a hip replacement, and she could benefit from the signs that your mother displayed. Awesome, because of what she went through. Beautiful, because of the daughter that you are.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Anginwu, I very much appreciate your kind comments. We do need more doctors like the last surgeon.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    I can't imagine what your mother had to live through before the solution was arrived. Glad that she can move around. You, of course, should be given the "Best Daughter" award--such dedication and love. Kudos to the doctor who took time to pray with you guys. We need more of those. Rated up.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Gus, I have to agree with you on that score. I appreciate your comments.

  • GusTheRedneck profile image

    Gustave Kilthau 6 years ago from USA

    Howdy Pamela - this is a good writeup about a bad problem. It seems that there are way too many "bad" doctors called on to serve way too many unsuspecting patients.

    Gus :-)))

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Eiddwen, Thank you so much for the very thoughtful comments.

    A.A. Zavala, I very much appreciate your comments.

    Rob, It is almost amazing that things did work out well in the end because when we were in the middle of all this drama it was tough even know what to do next. I am glad that my mother's here and not the nursing home. I believe that if your parents your help when they get older that you will find a way. Thank you so much for your comments. God bless you.

    rjazahmed, I believe you are right that God did give me the energy to care for my mother because mothers are very special. I appreciate your comments.

    Becky, I agree that you sometimes have to fight to get the proper attention toward elderly patient which is really sad. I know it must've been difficult to care for your father. Thank you so much for your very sweet comments. God bless you.

  • Becky Puetz profile image

    Becky 6 years ago from Oklahoma

    Pamela, I cared for my dad after he had a stroke and during that time, I gained first hand knowledge of just how terrible and uncaring attitudes towards the elderly can be. You sometimes have to fight and persist in seeking the health care and attention they need and deserve. Thank God your mother had a special caring daughter like you to look out for her best interest while she was unable to do so for herself. Thank you for sharing this story about what you and your mom went through. God bless you both.

  • profile image

    ejazahmed2609 6 years ago

    Many thanks for sharing heart felting story especially of MOTHERS. God had granted a special energy for looking after her mother. thanks once again for sharing the story

  • rpalulis profile image

    rpalulis 6 years ago from NY

    Wow Pamela your Mother is a very strong woman. I think that was awesome that the physician came out to pray with you all before the surgery. I also think it is such a wonderful blessing that you were able to put on the addition and have mom move in. I hope that I am able to take care of my parents as they get older, I would hate to see them have to go to a nursing home.

    Thanks for sharing your story. God Bless- Rob

  • A.A. Zavala profile image

    Augustine A Zavala 6 years ago from Texas

    Such a terrible tragedy. Good to know you knew how to take care of her, so many others would not have a clue. Thank you for sharing.

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

    Hi Pamela ,

    Your mother is lucky to have a daughter who was an RN. Also so lucky to have a daughter who cares as much as you do.

    I am so glad that she came through what must have been such a hard time.

    Take care to you and your mother.


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Thanks Acer and that is so true. It seems having surgery is more risky with all the new bacteria now than ever before.

  • Mentalist acer profile image

    Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

    No,indeed unfortunate,one has to almost know as much as the medical team.I know that if the medical team spells out the procedure and possible problems,you just might have a decent experience.;)

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Will, There are a lot of stories like that unfortunately. I am sorry to hear about your loss because of an unethical doctor. Our doctor is still practicing unfortunately. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Thank God she had an RN for a daughter. My wife is also an RN and her knowledge is cherished by her family.

    My own mother ultimately died from a combination of surgical errors and one drunk surgeon who botched a simple surgical procedure on her colon and had to give her the colostomy she had told him she did not want.

    We suspected he had alcohol on his breath, but it was years later before he was finally caught.