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Guest Editorial

Getting Back to Life After an Amputation

In honor of this month’s TWC issue on amputation, I asked Morgan McCoy to write the editorial. I’m fortunate to be part of Morgan’s medical team and to have the chance to know her. Morgan’s cheerful disposition and positive spirit inspires me every time I see her. You will be inspired by her editorial.
—Caroline Fife, MD

My name is Morgan and I am a 22-year-old chemical engineering major at the University of Oklahoma. I am a member of Alpha Phi sorority and served as chapter president in 2019. I live and grew up in Katy, TX. I attended Seven Lakes High School and was a member of the Sapphire dance team. I enjoy fashion, makeup, and all things girly. I love traveling, shopping, and being with friends and family.

In October 2019 I lost my leg in a medical emergency. My colon perforated and I developed necrotizing fasciitis in my right leg. A right leg amputation ultimately saved my life. I am a right above-knee amputee (AKA) and am now learning to walk on an AKA prosthesis. This process is interesting to say the least. Getting a prosthesis made is a unique process and takes around 4 weeks. You get casted, they make the test socket, you get to try it, and they make adjustments until they get it just right for you. Once the test socket is ready to go and you feel confident using it, they make your final leg. The most exciting part to me is choosing the fabric for the socket; you get to choose any design or print your heart desires, which is super fun!

In my head I expected walking with a prosthetic to feel like walking on stilts, but it’s way different than that. Training your brain to trust the leg is the most challenging part. My brain has learned that I don’t have a leg on my right side, so shifting my weight that direction sends an alert to my brain that it’s unsafe. A lot of learning to walk with the prosthetic is mind over matter. Conquering the fear of falling is the hardest part for me. Don’t get me wrong: The physical aspect is also challenging, but for me it’s the fear I have to conquer. I always think about the end goal and how if I can get through these challenges, I will be walking in no time.

Most people would start thinking about all the things they can’t do after an amputation, especially an AKA, but I plan to do everything! My goal is to learn to do everything I was doing prior to my amputation. I plan to return to a college campus and finish my degree. I would love to get back to traveling, so learning to navigate the airport and a plane is at the top of my to-do list! I would also love to golf with my brother and dad!

From the beginning of this journey our motto has been “Brave & Strong.” I just take every day one step at a time. Knowing what I have already accomplished keeps me motivated to accomplish even more. Healing takes time but I can see the end and am beginning to envision what my new normal will look like. It is not easy, but I always try to keep laughing and smiling. I also have the most amazing team. My family is beyond supportive and we work together to get through the challenging days. We each have a role and we work hard to support each other.

My medical team is also beyond awesome. They are not only treating my body, but they are motivational, supportive, and innovative. My team pushes me to make the best of every situation and without them this journey would be impossible. Medical professionals need to remember that limb loss is more than physical. Dealing with an amputation is a mental journey just as much as a physical one. The support of medical professionals on an emotional level is so valuable. Patients need to feel motivated, to feel their concerns are heard, and to feel they are understood and supported. I am lucky to have a medical team that supports me in every aspect of my life. I would even say I have built friendships with some of the medical professionals in my life. Building that relationship allows me to put more trust in them.

I also want people to know that the process to getting back out there after an amputation isn’t overnight. It takes week, even months, to learn to walk and use the leg. Sometimes I think people don’t realize the dedication and hard work amputees have to put in to reach their goals. It takes drive, hard work, and perseverance to get back to a “normal” life.
I know some people have to decide whether to undergo an amputation. I am sure this is a hard decision. I didn’t have a “say” in my amputation because it was a life or death situation. And although it is not ideal, I am lucky to have my life. My life may look a little different than it did before, and may take time to adjust, but I know in the long run I will be grateful that I have a life even if I’m missing a limb. It takes time, but I am healing and adapting. Plus, the people I have met and the new friendships I have gained through this experience are priceless.

In my near future, I plan to return to OU to finish my degree. I am excited to be a part of Soonerthon executive committee, which is a campus dance marathon raising money for the Children’s Hospital in OKC. In my distant future, I hope to have a career that I am passionate about. I would love to be working in the oil and gas industry as a team lead or project manager. In addition to having a great career, I hope to volunteer with my sorority, travel, and maybe even be involved more in the amputee community. I hope I can inspire people and encourage people to be brave and strong through the hardest parts of life.

I am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I want people to know it’s possible to get back to whatever they want to do in life after an amputation.

Morgan McCoy is a chemical engineering major at the University of Oklahoma. She is a member of Alpha Phi Sorority and was its chapter president in 2019. She lives in Katy, TX.

Guest Editorial
Morgan McCoy
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