Editor’s note: Hannah Mack was one of the hundreds of people who shared her opinions in the 2022 Amputee Community Survey, which Amplitude sponsored in partnership with The Liner Wand. Her name was chosen at random as the winner of the Levitate Blade giveaway. Hannah shared some of her thoughts on Instagram, and we asked her for some more information about her journey. She very generously shared the following details with us. Congratulations to Hannah, and thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!
by Hannah Mack
My journey with limb loss began on March 13, 2018. I was in a terrible car accident, losing control of my vehicle due to black ice. My car was thrown off the side of the highway, bounced off of three trees on its way down a hill, and left me with a shattered left ankle. I was on high-dose blood thinners at the time after developing a blood clot in my right calf and clots to my lungs only four months prior. Bracing for impact cost me my ankle and eventually my leg, but it kept me from hitting my head—likely saving my life.
I had my ankle fixed surgically and thought it was getting better, but after a few months of walking, an increasingly intense level of pain crept back in. I was evaluated and told that my ankle was dead and crumbling. That provider told me the only realistic option I had was a 3D-printed total ankle replacement. The surgery was completed at the end of October 2018.
For some, this surgery can work wonderfully. For me, unfortunately, it started a long path of severe, chronic, and truly debilitating pain. I lost the ability to walk or to live my life in any meaningful way. Something as simple as light touch was excruciating, and gravity made my symptoms significantly worse. A portion of the replacement piece would even get caught on the base of my tibia, forcing me to manually manipulate it until it would pop back into place.
I fought for nearly three years to save that leg. I sought out countless specialists and had numerous surgeries, procedures, injections, and therapies, but nothing would work. I was trapped. I knew in my heart what the end result would be. In the final, inevitable consultations, I was told there were no real options left that would allow me to lead the life I dreamed of living—the life I dreamed to return to, even if in a vastly different way than how I had left it. I asked the surgeons if I’d be able to run again if I chose to move forward with amputation of my left leg below the knee. Their response was, “Absolutely! There is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to do anything you desire, with the right prosthesis.”
We scheduled my amputation for the morning of February 26, 2021. Because of COVID-19 protocols, I had to go through the surgery and hospitalized recovery period alone. I never could have foreseen the complications that would arise. Waking up from surgery with no pain medication or anesthetic; prolonged issues with pain control and nerve damage; the bone bridge (also known as an ERTL) never fusing and likely causing some internal damage; revision surgery (once again, solo due to COVID) to remove the ERTL; some gaslighting that I won’t get into at this time but caused a lot of added emotional distress and trauma; sobbing on the phone to my prosthetist about how I would never walk again, let alone run. The list goes on.
Thankfully, my prosthetist was able to connect me with a surgeon who agreed to take on my case. He amputated an additional four inches of my residual limb and excised the culprit(s) of my ongoing pain: two moderately sized neuromas. I didn’t expect how difficult the recovery process from that surgery would be. It was incredibly taxing, both physically and emotionally. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of family members by my side, as some COVID restrictions were lifted. That was incredibly helpful, and I hold immense gratitude for that—knowing exactly what it is like to have to go it alone. I am eternally grateful to the people I had to lean on during that time, and those I continue to turn to on my hard days.
That final amputation and revision was completed on October 22, 2021. Recovering these last four months has been difficult, to say the least, but each day is getting better. I am finally starting to feel like I can get my life back. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there.
When I saw the 2022 Amputee Community Survey being conducted by Amplitude and The Liner Wand, I never expected to win the Levitate running blade. My Instagram account is very small, and I simply didn’t believe that I could be so fortunate as to receive something this monumentally life-changing. I knew the prize existed, but I had no expectations and simply knew I would be happy for whomever was chosen. When I found out that it was me, I broke down in tears.
Before injuring my leg, I was a competitive, long-distance runner. I was training for my first marathon and had gotten my mileage up to ten miles per day. I loved to run more than anything in this world, and losing that part of myself and my life was devastating. Because of my finances, I never would have been able to afford a running blade on my own. All I hoped to do when filling out that survey was provide my own perspective as an amputee, in the hopes of possibly helping someone else like me. Now I feel like the survey has given me back the hope on which I was starting to lose my grip. I am going to run again. I still can’t believe it, but I am actually going to run again. I will forever be thankful for this incredible opportunity and gift that these companies have given me. It has changed my life forever.