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When a workplace accident costs you a limb

In an instant, your life changed. While it is impossible to go back in time and prevent an accident, it is important to consider the future and take steps to protect your interests.

Whether it was a penetrating wound, a crushing injury or a devastating encounter with machinery, you are now facing the amputation of a limb. The loss of an arm, hand or leg can be difficult to overcome, and recovery from such an injury is as much in the mind as it is in the body. Knowing what to expect may help you cope.

Amputations are too common

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report some staggering statistics about amputations. In fact, over 500 people lose a limb each day in New York and across the country. Some of these injuries occur because of disease or motor vehicle accidents, but many amputations are the result of workplace accidents. Traumatic injuries are more likely to occur to those between the ages of 15 and 35.

While workplace accidents often involve fingers and hands, the most common limb lost in accidents is the leg. Recovery from above-the-knee amputations is generally more difficult, so, if your accident involved your leg, you may want to be prepared for a long process. If your amputation occurred above the knee, doctors may have more difficulty fitting you for a prosthesis since joints are complicated body parts to replicate.

Your body heals

During surgery to remove the damaged tissue, doctors will seal off the blood vessels and nerves and shape the muscles to prepare the limb for a prosthetic. You can expect to remain in the hospital up to two weeks while your limb heals. As soon as possible after surgery, you will begin physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the injured limb.

It may take about two months for your wound to fully heal. While your limb is still healing, therapists will help you practice with your new prosthetic limb. During that time, you may experience phantom pain, which may seem to come from the part of your limb that is no longer there. Researchers believe this happens when your brain remembers the trauma in your limb, and that pain continues to cycle through your brain.

Recovery beyond physical injuries

In addition to the physical struggle of recovering from an injury as traumatic as an amputation, you are likely to experience emotional symptoms like depression. Having a strong and positive support system may help with this, but depression can be serious and require the help of medical professionals.

A workplace accident that costs you a limb may cost you in other ways, too. You may no longer be able to work as before, and this can potentially bring financial hardship to your family. Seeking assistance in claiming the benefits of workers' compensation and disability may provide you with the funds necessary to recover well and adapt to your new lifestyle.

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