A few weeks ago I received an email from the teenage son of a friend of mine. He was visiting Washington DC for a leadership conference and was experiencing residual limb issues. This was his first time traveling without his parents, an experience compounded by the fact that he is a quad amputee. (He lost his limbs to an infection he contracted when he was 9.)
He has been living without his limbs longer than he had them, but time does not make somebody an expert. Thankfully for him, skin breakdown is rare. When it did occur in the past, his parents were prepared to help him deal with it. Unsure of what to do with his developing blisters, he reached out to me.
Upon reading his email I immediately drove to the pharmacy to compile an emergency first aid kit. Inside a large Ziploc bag I put Band-Aid blister protectors, large Band-Aids (careful to choose the type that does not pull) and a large tube of antibiotic cream. I also put some gauze pads, mole skin, spray antiseptic for pain relief and an ace wrap to provide compression at night.
The blister Band-Aids are idea for covering small skin lesions on the residual limb. Although the prosthesis should not be worn when a blister or sore develops, sometimes going limbless is just not feasible. He was in a new area, without his wheelchair, and eager to keep up with his peers. I knew that the blister protectors would thwart further damage from occurring while allowing him to keep his mobility.
After delivering the supplies to his hotel, I wrote to his Mom to explain the situation. He was unprepared for this emergency, but thankfully he knew enough to reach out for help. Next time he travels he will have an emergency kit with him, and he will be prepared for most issues that arise.
I wanted to share his experience because there are 500 new amputees every day in this country. When a limb is lost, everything feels foreign and new. It can feel overwhelming trying to absorb all of the information about prosthetic, skin care and residual limb health. Keeping an emergency skin kit on hand should be an integral part of every amputee’s arsenal, but it is often overlooked.
In my opinion every prosthetic using amputee should keep these supplies on hand. I keep identical first aid kits in my luggage, in the car, at my Mom’s house and in my medicine cabinet. Sores and blisters never develop at a convenient time, but staying prepared to treat them when they arise can stave off further damage.