The new year began with heart-crushing news. Having just started walking after a leg amputation brought on by complications of life-long type 1 diabetes, Bryan Rickey had to absorb the news that his other leg would have to be amputated.
It’s an awful thought. Something most of us would rather avoid thinking about. But just imagine if it happened to you. How would you cope? Would you have the courage to fight to regain your independence?
A guy who likes to give back
Bryan is just one of those people everyone likes. The 70-year-old has kept active, living at home with his adult granddaughter (who he has raised since she was born). Bryan’s life circles around his church in East Toronto, where he served as a Rector’s Warden until recently – shoveling snow, doing handiwork, gardening, helping with the financials and running the lunch after church each Sunday. He’s a guy who likes to give back.
Bryan’s type 1 diabetes began to take its toll when he was 67, causing him to reluctantly retire from his career as an insurance underwriter. Kidney failure and foot sores that don’t heal are common complications of diabetes. Unfortunately, Bryan experienced both. And foot sores all too often lead to amputations. According to Diabetes Canada, every four hours, there is one amputation in Ontario as a result of a diabetic foot ulcer.
After his first amputation last year, Bryan came to Providence Healthcare to begin his rehabilitation. Always an optimist, he set his personal goal – he was determined to walk again.
Bryan completely charmed his Providence care team. He brought cheer to the fifth floor when he decorated his room for Christmas. He was the only patient to join the hospital choir for our Christmas concert. And he was up and walking with his prosthesis in fairly short order.
But his other leg was not looking good. In January, it was obvious the battle was finally lost. Bryan had his other leg amputated in February. It was a huge blow, but he was relieved he could keep his knee so the second leg could also be fitted with a prosthetic limb.
Bryan has returned to Providence for his second round of rehab. Again, his goal is to be able to walk and return home. His therapy will be draining and grueling, but his spirit – and the care of the team in his rehab unit – will get him there. With spring now in the air, Bryan wants to get back to his life with his granddaughter and his church. He says: “I know it is a bigger challenge now, but with Providence’s help, I’m going to walk and I’m going to go home.”
How does Bryan find the personal strength to keep fighting in the face of such extreme adversity? He says it is partly his natural outlook on life, but it is also the approach of his care team at Providence. “I’m fiercely independent, and I don’t want help, but I know that Providence will give me the support I need to allow me to do it.” says Bryan.
His advice to other patients: “You have to get past your anger and bitterness at what’s happened to you. You have to give up struggling against what you can’t change and start fighting for yourself. Everything you need to be in place is there. You just need to know how to use it.”
Bryan still wonders at the deep bond that has formed between him and his Providence caregivers. “I had to get to the point where I could accept the loving care and encouragement they were giving me. They make me feel like I’m somebody important – that I’m valuable – and that makes all the difference.”
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