COVID-19 | Amputation
One of the uncertainties of COVID-19 is how the virus will impact different people. Some are infected and have few, if any, symptoms; others fall fatally ill. Benjamin Cromwell considers himself lucky having survived COVID-19, but faced complicated and life-changing effects of the virus.
When Benjamin first tested positive, he was advised to quarantine at home. He expected it would take about two or three weeks to recover from the mild symptoms, but instead he felt increasingly worse. Benjamin began to experience extreme pain in his feet that became so intolerable, he went to his local hospital. Doctor’s discovered blood clots in his legs and feet caused by COVID-19.
If not treated, blood clots can block blood flow in the leg or even break loose and travel to the lungs, heart or brain causing life-threatening conditions. Acting quickly, the doctors administered heparin, a medication used to dissolve blood clots. When that failed to improve his condition, Benjamin was transferred to Texas Health Harris Hospital in Fort Worth where the medical team performed 11 procedures in 13 days to try to break up the clots in his legs, but still no luck. Just weeks after contracting COVID-19 and dealing with complications, he had to have both legs amputated – one above the knee and one below the knee.
“I lost both of my legs. I was in excruciating pain and I had to relearn how to do everything -- how to care for myself, how to maneuver, how to find a new normalcy,” Benjamin recalled. “My goal was to get back to normal, or as normal as I could.”
Benjamin and his family chose Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Fort Worth for the next phase of his recovery. With the support of his BSWIR team, Benjamin slowly began to accept the challenges he faced and was determined to overcome every one of them. His doctors addressed his medical needs and rehabilitation nurses helped his residual limbs. Benjamin’s physical and occupational therapists focused on improving his upper body strength to help him transfer safely to and from bed into a wheelchair and increase his mobility. They also gave him the strategies to go about everyday activities with as much independence as possible.
As his limbs healed and his strength and stamina increased, Benjamin was able to be fitted for prosthetic legs. “One of the major milestones on my rehab journey was getting my ‘new’ legs. That day really changed everything for me,” Benjamin noted.
With his prostheses, Benjamin returned to the outpatient Day Neuro Program at BSWIR – Fort Worth, where physical therapy was a key component in getting Benjamin up and moving. His therapists provided him with the exercises, techniques and education to enable him to re-learn to walk, go up and down steps and complete tasks safely and confidently.
One of the most difficult aspects for Benjamin was accepting what had happened and how different his life would be moving forward. Benjamin found recreational therapy at BSWIR – Fort Worth to be a lifeline in those times of emotional struggle. Benjamin shared, “While I was impatient rehab, just doing things like going outside and playing the game Rummikub in recreation therapy were so important... those small moments went a long way. At times when I felt isolated, those things really changed my perspective. It made me feel normal again and less focused on the tough journey ahead, or on the fact that I lost my legs. Those moments really gave me hope for my future.”
Benjamin is now back to work and looking forward to getting involved in adaptive recreation programs, understanding there are few limits to what he is capable of accomplishing.