Meet Kristen – a 2nd grade teacher at Fairfield Elementary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In the spring of 2014, Kristen noticed a small lump on the back of her calf and knew something wasn’t right. She scheduled an appointment with her physician to have it removed, but the biopsy quickly determined that it was a cancerous melanoma. After removing the mass, and a multitude of surgeries later, Kristen was left with an intense contracture, severely limiting her mobility. Kristen was quickly faced with the choice of additional corrective surgeries, or amputation.
“I remember wondering how we could be talking about amputation”, said Kristen. “You don’t think of your leg needing to be amputated, you just always assume there’s a surgery or method to fix it. I felt like I was letting people down when I chose amputation. Some of my family thought I was giving up, or simply just choosing it. But every surgery was experimental without any progress”.
In July of 2015, Kristen’s leg was amputated above the knee.
“We learned after amputating, it could not have been saved, so my heart was right, and saved me from additional surgeries”, stated Kristen.
A few weeks later, she returned to the classroom.
“My first day back to school went well”, she said. “It was so good to be back and see a lot of the kids. I received a lot of support – my coworkers were awesome. It was exhausting, though. I took a nap as soon as I got home. But for the most part it was really good to be back and getting back in a routine again”.
Kristen continued to say, “SRT has been amazing. Uriah Steffen (Patient Advocate) came to my house and met with me and I still keep in contact with him. Shawn Brown and Mike Perez (Prosthetists) have been absolutely awesome from day one and have done everything to get me the best care possible and make sure everything fits and works as well as possible. Sharelle Sanders was the first person I met and you just can’t not smile when you see her! She makes you feel welcome as soon as you walk in the door”.
In an effort to encourage fellow amputees, Kristen says, “It gets easier. Emotionally, mentally, physically. It gets better. It takes time and patience to learn a new way to do things and figure things out. As long as you have the motivation, will, and ability, being an amputee won’t hold you back. I don’t think anyone that becomes an amputee would say they ever expected they would be one or would choose to be one, but being where I am now, I don’t think I would change myself from being an amputee. I’ve met truly amazing people that I never would have met had I not become an amputee. I think it’s important to go easy on yourself (which I’m not good at), be patient, be positive, and always look at what you have been able to accomplish so far. Being an amputee isn’t easy and it takes a lot of work; more than likely you are doing a lot better than you realize”.
The SRT family applauds Kristen’s determination and spirit, and additionally thanks her for the countless hours she has donated to SRT to provide education to local therapists and students.