Christine Lentz: Living a Full Life With Multiple Limb Loss
Photograph courtesy of Christine Lentz
Thanks to medical advancements, more people are surviving infections such as meningococcal septicaemia and necrotizing fasciitis, but survival can come with multiple loss. An article in the December issue of The O&P EDGE, "The New Normal: Meeting the Challenges of Multiple Limb Loss," addresses how people with triple or quadruple amputations present unique challenges for prosthetists as they work together to achieve a new normal. Christine Lentz, who has quadramembral amputations caused by sepsis, and her path to a new normal is highlighted in this Online Exclusive.
In November 2013, Lentz underwent routine abdominal surgery in a Denver-area hospital.
Following the surgery, she developed an infection, extending her hospital stay. Though she was released a few days later, she remembers still not feeling well. On December 27, she went to the emergency room with a high fever and was treated for the flu.
On New Year's Eve 2013, she was in so much pain that her husband carried her from the car to the ER. "I never felt so sick in my entire life," remembers Lentz, a mother of three sons.
After running blood tests, her physicians suspected sepsis. Lentz, who was 47 at the time, was admitted and taken immediately to the ICU. To save her life, doctors administered medication to stop the infection. In the process, however, the medication stopped blood flow to her extremities, causing irreversible damage to her hands and feet.
"I remember waking up and seeing that my hands and legs were black," she says.
Lentz underwent bilateral transradial and transtibial amputations in early 2014.
Her amputations were only the beginning: Lentz endured 20 surgeries and a severe bed sore, which prolonged her hospital stay. "That's what kept me in the hospital the longest," she says. "I eventually had to have surgery to close it."
She spent more than seven months in rehabilitation relearning how to do everything from feeding and dressing herself to bathing. Lentz says she doesn't remember the first time she met her prosthetist, Zach Harvey, CPO, Creative Technology Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions, Denver. Prior to coming to Colorado, Harvey spent seven years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, working with a comprehensive medical team to address rehabilitation and reintegration of service members who had sustained limb loss. "He was the first one who helped me get off my bed. The first one who got me my hands. The first one who helped me walk."
Before her amputations, Lentz enjoyed a full and happy life with her husband and sons. She loved the outdoors, golfing, hiking, and especially skiing. "That's one reason the doctors told me I was able to survive because my heart and lungs were in such good shape," she says.
For the first time since her amputations, Lentz plans to hit the slopes this month with her sons, who are competitive skiers, thanks to adaptive prostheses Harvey fabricated. Lentz says her apprehension about skiing again will not hinder her. "I don't have any idea how I am going to do it, but I'm going to do it," she says.