Patient Stories: Douglas Brown, Sr.

Douglas Brown, Sr. didn’t know he had diabetes until it was almost too late.  After not feeling well and having some foot pain, his good friend and his daughter became alarmed and forced him to go to the emergency room just days into 2018.  Suddenly, instead of looking for New Year’s resolutions, he was wondering how he was going to use the clutch on his tractor without the use of his left leg.

 As he tells it, the gangrene in his left foot came close to killing him very quickly, and if it weren’t for these two women in his life, that is probably what would have happened.  The operating surgeon, Dr. Hazen Elaviny, told him later (after his several hour surgery), that had he waited three more hours for treatment, he would have died… the infection had travelled that far up his leg artery.  As it was, Dr. Elaviny originally had planned to amputate Mr. Brown’s leg at the hip, but instead, he tried a groundbreaking new procedure. He performed a below knee amputation (BKA) on his left lower leg, and left the wound unclosed for several weeks to allow the infection to drain out.

Douglas’s diabetes is controlled by diet today, but the disease he didn’t know he had then could have easily taken his life.  He makes it very clear that “the whole process was very scary.”

 A very active man, Douglas knew that he wanted to get back to his work and hobbies as quickly as he could. As a farmer, he needed to be able to drive his tractor. Since he earned his living as a surveyor, he needed to be able to be on his feet for long periods of time.  But he was also a passionate Civil War re-enactor, and considered that he might have to change his roleplaying to be the soldier who got his leg amputated!  He made a quick recovery his mission.  Before he got his first temporary prosthesis he got on his Ferguson TO-20 and mowed 12 acres!

Receiving his first prosthesis was a process in and of itself and took a little time - a journey that he was eager to embark on. First meeting with his prosthetist, as the sutures in his limb began to heal, he transitioned to wearing a shrinker sock to help reduce swelling and begin shaping his leg for prosthetic use.  He was eventually measured and casted for a prosthesis. Next, he began the fitting process, which allowed him to begin walking in the office and in a controlled environment. He eventually received his first prosthesis, almost a year ago, and quickly excelled beyond physical therapy, and walking in his home. He has progressed tremendously since receiving that first prosthetic leg a year ago and has moved on to his second prosthesis.  Now he is looking forward to incorporating new technology into his prosthetic leg as his lifestyle and activities increase. 

Since then, this Harmony, Maryland resident has marched in parades, continued mowing the 20+ acres at the Eastern Shore Threshing Grounds on his tractor and spending time with other vintage tractor enthusiasts, and plans to resume playing tennis this spring. He is very proud that he returned to surveying only one year after his surgery.  As a rule, he doesn’t use any assistive devices – using the stairs in his two-story home while wearing his prosthetic leg.  When people ask him how he does all those activities and gets around wearing a prosthesis, he says, “You just put it on and go!”