“In June 2010 I was scheduled to have what I considered at that point to be pretty routine surgery, removing fibroid tumors from my ovaries. I had survived cancer twice before that. Somehow I wound up in the hospital for two and a half months, and ended up with a staph infection. The heparin, a drug administered to prevent blood clots post-operation, actually caused blot clots when I had an allergic reaction to it. Because of the infection and because of my allergy to heparin, I almost lost my life a couple times during my hospital stay.
I had to have six to seven operations– when I was supposed to have one– because they were trying to relieve the pressure from the clots. And they had to totally open up my leg. The foot had turned purple and they literally couldn’t save it. Doctors thought that with the athlete that I am, they thought it’d be best to amputate the leg below the knee. I tell people that not only did I lose my leg that year but ended up having to have a full hysterectomy, as a result I could never have kids. Losing the opportunity to never have kids naturally was very emotionally difficult for me.
Because I work part time at the naval hospital, everyone that I met recommended that I go to see Mike and the MCOP team. I met him when I was at Walter Reed trying to find information about who would be the best prosthetist for me and because I had other people turn me on to MCOP in the rehab hospital. I wanted to deal with the best people; people who deal with this every day. Because I knew that Mike did this every day on soldiers who got injured in war, I made an appointment. I hadn’t made any decisions about who I was going with but after meeting Mike just put things into motion. I knew right then and there, that they had the passion and understanding and they were the best team to get me back on my feet quickly because they deal with people like me every day. From that moment on everything just fell into place.
I had gotten out of the hospital in August and I was getting fitted and into my cosmetic leg.. Naturally, the socket causes swelling, which is uncomfortable, but Mike was so good, being right there and guiding me. I had a whole team of people working with me to get me back on my feet and I think my drive and being an athlete helped that process to the point where I was ahead of schedule. The experience has been so great; it’s been two years that I have all the equipment and all the help I need, with MCOP taking care to make sure I didn’t get any infections and making sure everything was right. When I needed them they were a call away and I didn’t need to wait for them to get back in touch with me –they would immediately care for me– even now. They are excellent in everything, not just the physical part but the mental part too. They don’t let you get down. I think it’s their caring that makes the difference.
Mike has this unique personality and I think because he is an athlete like me that we made a connection. We talked about sports and that started the relationship, with him and his whole team. They didn’t pity me, they didn’t take it easy on me. It was a good relationship, like a family. It’s not like you go in and this is your doctor, it’s more than that, they really care about you. I felt like a big part of the experience.
MCOP was right on pace for getting me the equipment I needed and we were right on same page as far as what I wanted to do. I said this is the person that I was and this is where I am trying to get and this is what I need to have to help me get there. They spent the time to get to know me and who I was as a person. I like that excitement, they’re just as excited about the things I’m doing– my achievements are their achievements too. They are 110 percent about the patient.
My biggest achievement is just really having the right attitude with what I’ve gone through with losing the limb and not allowing it to change who I am as a person. When people see me, they say, “Wow, she is an example of what you should be if you ever have to go through these things.” And MCOP is a big part of that. My greatest passion is life is helping others, making a difference.
Donna’s Move Forward Goals:
In four years I want to compete in the Paralympics in wheelchair basketball, track and field and tennis. I also want to try out for the travelling amputee men’s basketball team. I met them last year at the naval hospital. I want to be first woman by next year. I have already started training for the Paralympics.
Because of what you’ve gone through, losing a limb, MCOP does their best to help you reach every goal you want to reach. They’ve got you on their mind all the time. I don’t think I’d have the opportunities to do the things I am doing today without them.”