How My Grandmother Lost Her Leg

By Abigael Tivin

“This happened to me”
I got permission from my grandmother to use the story of how severe arthritis combined
with a doctor’s negligence caused her to lose her leg and how that affected my life. Around
12-15 years ago, arthritis in her big toe on her left foot advanced to the point where the
doctors had to fuse the toe. Under normal circumstances, the surgery would go well and there
would be no complications, but the doctors had fused her toe incorrectly. For a long while,
everything was great and my grandma was back to her happy-go-lucky self. I was so excited
because she could start taking my brother and me to places she couldn’t before due to her pain.
We got to go to the zoo more often, and we even got to go to the Baltimore Aquarium. Then, in
2017, she got arthritis in her ankle because of the way she had been walking as a result of the
toe fusion surgery and once again got fusion surgery, but this time on her ankle. During the
surgery, the podiatrist put a concrete rod in her ankle, and this is where everything went wrong.
My family is prone to the MRSA infection, which she had gotten. No matter what the doctors did,
the infection always came back. She went through 7-8 operations in a 2-week period to try and
clear out the MRSA. Throughout the time she was in and out of the hospital, it was hard on me.

My grandmother, who I love dearly, was in pain and constantly in the hospital. This is probably
the reason why I hate hospitals so much. There are just so many painful memories of having to
watch my grandma go through so much pain. Finally, after so many operations and scans, the
doctors finally realized that her ankle was never going to heal and that they couldn’t just take out
the concrete rod without causing even more damage, so they decided to take off her leg from
below the knee in mid-2018. In early 2019, she got her first prosthetic and was able to go to my
older brother’s high school graduation. This was a good time for me because I no longer had to
deal with my grandma randomly snapping at me because of the pain she was in, and she could
finally go to places once again. I was also able to go with her to her physical therapist’s office
with her, which is the main reason why I want to be a physical therapist, to help people who had
to go through things that would challenge them in ways that they never expected due to
significant injury.

“My story is not unique, here’s the problem”
In the United States alone, about 24% of all adults end up having or getting arthritis (1).
This number may not seem like a lot, but that percentage comes out to be about 58.5 million
people (1). This is why I don’t like percentages, they don’t show the true number of people who
are suffering from things such as arthritis. The form of arthritis that caused my grandma’s toe
issue is called Rheumatoid arthritis, but she also suffers from osteoarthritis. Another form of
arthritis is lupus(1). Because of arthritis symptoms such as stiffness, swelling, and overall
pain, 57.3% of working Americans have limitations in their jobs and are unable to complete
several tasks (1). Joint fusion surgery is very common for people who are suffering from severe
arthritis. This is because for many people it helps to relieve the pain that other types of
treatments may fail to (3). A majority of people who suffer from arthritis are older people as it
develops over time, but sometimes people who are younger have it because they are either
born with it or they have a genetic predisposition that causes them to get it young. Because of
the pain people suffering people with arthritis go through, it doesn’t just affect them, but the
people around them too.

Because of the pain my grandma was going through, she was insufferable to be around. She would get angry at me for no reason, and she was unable to do some of the things she used to do, such as mow the lawn, which she loved to do on weekends. It put a lot of mental strain on me every time she would get angry at me. I would also have to get things for her or do things for her just because she was unable to do so. She could no longer stand for periods of time and sometimes we even had to do things we didn’t want to do because she couldn’t do them herself. It put unnecessary stress on me as I was still in high school and had to deal with the stress of getting my studies completed while helping out. Just imagine what
other people around the world go through because a loved one is in so much pain from arthritis.

“Here is a non-profit working to solve the problem”
One non-profit organization that is working to solve the problem of arthritis is The
Arthritis Foundation. They are pursuing a cure for arthritis by putting the donations they
receive towards research (2). They are using research to try and find the root cause of
arthritis as well as find a way to cure it surgically(2).

“Here’s what you (the reader) can do to help, right now!”
The CDC is working to make life easier for people affected by arthritis. They
recommend staying active with activities that are easy on the joints such as swimming
as well as maintaining a healthy weight to keep pressure off of the joints (1). If a family
member or loved one has arthritis, make their lives a little easier. If they ask you to do
something, just do it. It takes a few seconds or minutes of your time, and it helps them


  1. Arthritis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Sisters and friends battle arthritis together. Arthritis Foundation.
  3. When is a joint fusion necessary? Joint Replacement Institute.

Categories: Home, op ed

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