In 2016, Susan Fumagalli Mahoney, Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Compliance Officer at Gettysburg College, suffered severe lower extremity injuries which led to her left leg being amputated below the knee. Due to long-term complications, including nerve entrapment syndrome and scar tissue, she was unable to use a conventional socket prosthesis. “I had never been able to get into a socket,” says Mrs. Fumagalli Mahoney. “We tried getting me into a below-knee prosthesis but the pain from the issues was so unbelievably significant, and then I started to have really bad skin breakdown.”
Thanks to treatment by highly skilled specialists with the OPRA™ Implant System, she was able to overcome her challenges andregain her mobility. During a recent interview with Kurt Collier, Certified Prosthetist and VP of Prosthetics at Integrum, as encouragement and inspiration to the limb loss community, she shares her journey to recovery.
Recalling life-changing osseointegration surgery; a true miracle
Mrs. Fumagalli Mahoney received initial treatment for her post-amputation complications and referred to Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the care of Orthopaedic Oncologist Dr. Jonathan Forsberg and Plastic Surgeon Dr. Jaimie Shores.
Prior to her first appointment at Johns Hopkins, she delved into the field of osseointegration (OI), and actively participated in Cosi Talks, a live weekly show in which Physical Therapist and Amputee Specialist Cosi Belloso answers questions about limb loss. “It made the doctor-patient conversation so much easier when I met with Doctor Forsberg a couple of weeks later, because I was so educated on OI from that program alone,” says Mrs. Fumagalli Mahoney.
After careful evaluation, they decided that her best chance for successful treatment was to amputate the leg above the knee, and receive the OPRA™ Implant System for above-knee amputations. “I was completely confident going into the surgery and the results have matched what my expectations were—exceeded my expectations, actually,” says Mrs. Fumagalli Mahoney.
She underwent stage one surgery in May 2020 and had stage two surgery a few months later. “There was another OI patient at Johns Hopkins who had his stage two surgery the exact same time I did, and we’ve been able to connect and just exchange: What are we doing in physical therapy? How’s it going? What’s working? What are you being challenged with? Those questions back and forth have been really helpful, and it has certainly been beneficial to my rehabilitation.”
Road to recovery: one step at a time
Mrs. Fumagalli Mahoney said she has received excellent care from the OI team and the prosthetist throughout her rehabilitation. “My first steps were between the parallel bars, then progressed to the crutches, then 1 cane, and I’m happy to say that right now I am walking completely unassisted. It was amazing how little pain I had going through the femur, which gave me all sorts of hope.”
Osseointegration has enabled her to walk for the first time in over 5 years. She recalls when she returned to the office following her treatment. “They (her colleagues) are like, ‘Wait a minute, you’re walking! So you know I had my moment of pure excitement when I was able to walk, and now they’re seeing it and they’re just ecstatic.”
Confident in further treatment
She is now scheduled to undergo surgery on her right leg. “My left side is doing fantastic, but my right lower extremity has encountered some significant problems,” she says. “My right side has steadily declined over the last several months. I am targeted to undergo a right AK (above-knee) amputation and OI.”
“It is going to be a challenge, but I have no doubt I’m going to be successful on 2 feet,” she continues. “I have a huge team behind me that’s going to help me get to a high level.” Given Mrs. Fumagalli Mahoney’s motivation and positive attitude, and the collective effort of both herself and the talented OI team during treatment and rehabilitation, the outlook for a full recovery and a return to a pre-injury quality of life is very bright.