Pat was diagnosed with osteomyelitis in her left foot, which is a dangerous infection of the bone, and they treated her with antibiotics. Still, after returning to St. Louis, Ms. Queen’s temperature spiked and she ended up at Missouri Baptist Hospital being seen by vascular surgeon Dr. Ricardo Rao. He removed the dead tissue, but she failed to begin healing properly. So one day he came into her room and said, “I’m going to talk to you just like I would talk to my mother or my sister. You need to have an amputation. We can heal this, but it will take time, and it’s not an issue of when the infection will come back, but when.” Later, a plastic surgeon working with the hospital’s wound care center gave her an even graver assessment. Pat says she saw his face change from concern to horror before he said, “I just pushed a cue tip through a bone in your foot. There is no way we can ever heal this.”
Pat says the initial shock of amputation hit hard, and she definitely had to morn her loss. At 58 years old, she retired last June after 34 with the Postal Service. But it was the long healing process was the most difficult for Pat emotionally: “Getting used to not being able to do everything I wanted to do was the hardest,” she says. “Talking with other amputees online at [the social networking site] Less Than Four has helped more than anything else, and I love reading inMotion” a bi-monthly magazine just for amputees. Recently, Pat has even been able to talk on the phone and encourage some of Manny’s patients struggling with depression.
Pat’s strangest experience since becoming an amputee has been her phantom limb pain. “I hadn’t felt my foot for nineteen years,” she says, “but all of a sudden after the first amputation, I started feeling it itch or cramp. It was really weird, and the doctors couldn’t tell me why the feeling came back even through my leg and foot had been paralyzed.”
Pat has her health insurance through the Government Employee Health Association (GEHA), who covered her prosthesis and replacement socket. But Pat has been in touch with other amputees who have been denied coverage because of hidden caps in their group or private policies. So, Pat is supporting the efforts of the Missouri Coalition for People with Limb Loss and talking about the importance of prosthetic parity legislation in Missouri on her profile at http://www.lessthanfour.org/. Just search for Pat Queen.