Meet Inspiring Patient: Gini Thomas
Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Work title and company: Ambassador with Integrum
Overcoming a limb challenge
Please tell us about the limb challenge that you faced.
Gini: I was involved in a motorcycle wreck on August 12, 2012. My husband was killed instantly, and I broke every bone in my right leg in multiple places. After three years of limb salvage surgeries, I opted for above-knee amputation with the hope of resuming my active lifestyle. My amputation was on August 18, 2015, and I was fitted with a traditional socket prosthesis in early 2016. I was able to be active again, even working for my prosthetics clinic as part of the peer support team.
At the end of 2017, I began having sharp pains at the distal end of my limb. At the time of amputation, my team decided to leave the intramedullary rod in my femur from the original accident. My femur was still weak, and we thought as I gained strength and began walking again, circulation would improve and the bone would get stronger. X-rays at the end of 2017 revealed my femur was actually disintegrating at the distal end, and the jagged metal of the intramedullary rod was digging into muscle. I had surgery to remove that hardware and revise my femur up to the healthy bone.
Within a few months, I was refit with a new socket, but I was still experiencing discomfort at the distal end of my limb. I had more X-rays, and we discovered I had developed heterotopic ossification (a giant bone spur) at the end of the femur. I had surgery again to revise up to the healthy bone, but unfortunately, the same thing kept happening. I had five revisions, each one making my limb shorter and more difficult to fit with a socket. I had a new spur growing in 2020, but my surgeon did not want to operate anymore so I might still be a candidate for a bone-anchored prosthesis. The Integrum OPRA implant system received FDA approval in the United States later that year. I found a surgeon in Atlanta who was offering this procedure, and I went for a consult. My femur was a little shorter than they wanted, but the team took a CT scan and 3D printed models of my limb based on those scans so they could do a few trial runs of the surgery and ensure everything would still work. After multiple successful practice runs, I was scheduled for the first surgery in October 2021. This surgery involved implanting a fixture in my femur and closing me up to heal for 3-4 months. In January 2022, I had the second stage of surgery where an abutment was placed. I now had a piece of metal sticking out of my limb that would eventually allow me to connect to my prosthesis without using a socket! My therapy journey was a little longer than some because I had not walked for so many years and I had to overcome a lot of atrophy. One year after the second surgery, I could walk everywhere unassisted!
Limb Preservation Foundation (LPF): How are you doing now? What progress are you most proud of?
I’m doing great! I’m most proud of being able to walk without any assistive devices. I held onto crutches or a cane for so many years. It’s so nice to have my hands free!
What would you want other people in the same position to know?
Advocate for yourself. If one option isn’t working, ask questions and research other options.
What kind of support did you appreciate most?
My friends and family really stepped up for me. Whether it was sending a meal, driving me to appointments, or simply calling to make me laugh, I would not have survived without their help.
What was something you didn’t expect on your journey or in recovery?
I did not expect that I would be in a position to educate and inspire others. I’m an open book, and I’ve enjoyed being able to share my story and experiences with others.
What do you wish people knew about Limb Loss?
Limb loss is a speed bump, not the end of the road. You can still do anything you want to do, you just have to figure out a new way of doing it.
What are you most proud of throughout your journey?
I am proud that I didn’t give up. Being an amputee is hard, and you have to put in work every day to keep your body and your mind strong.
What is next for you? What are your hopes for the future? What are some goals you have related to your limb challenge?
I’ve been working as an ambassador for Integrum for a little over six months now, and I’m hoping to continue sharing my experiences with others all around the world. I want to be even more involved in the amputee community to encourage and advocate for others in similar situations. I’m fortunate to live near a university with a prosthetics program, and I enjoy speaking to their students. The more education we can give to providers, the better off their patients will be! Physically, my goal is to continue building strength and stamina, working up to a few hiking adventures.
How did the Limb Preservation Foundation support you?
LPF has helped to connect me with other amputees as well as medical professionals. Having a big network is so helpful when questions arise!
Why would you recommend that other people facing a limb challenge reach out to the Limb Preservation Foundation?
LPF provides support in so many areas. No person should have to face these trials alone. LPF really aims to fill any gaps from covering bills to arranging transportation to providing information for different treatment options. These things are invaluable!