Patient Story

Ramona Amputee Learns How to Walk Under Tutelage of Palomar Health Rehabilitation

Juan Cordova never thought “it” would happen to him. After being diagnosed with diabetes and told to change his lifestyle, he continued to smoke, eat poorly and not exercise. It might have taken 20 years, but “it” did happen. He lost his left foot, his career and his freedom.

After facing the reality he created his own demise, Juan is now determined to keep his right foot and get his freedom and life back with the help of Palomar Health’s Rehabilitative Services.

A couple of years ago, Cordova felt pain in his feet and went to a massage therapist who told him he had bad circulation. As had been his pattern, he continued his usual bad lifestyle habits until an infection set in and his toenail fell off. He injected himself with antibiotics purchased without a prescription from Mexico but still didn’t seek medical attention until “it was too late,” said Cordova.

“It was stupid,” Cordova said. “I was my own doctor.”

He had insurance but just didn’t want to go. By the time he visited a doctor, his foot was already turning black and gangrene had set in. Gangrene refers to the death of body tissue due to the lack of blood flow or serious bacterial infection. The doctor said the foot had to be amputated.

“I wasn’t shocked,” Cordova said. “I knew in my mind that (the doctor’s recommendation) was going to happen.”

His foot was amputated on June 10, 2017 at Palomar Medical Center Poway. He was released 15 days later and was treated by the nursing staff from the Palomar Health Wound Healing Center who made home visits to show him and his wife how to clean and change the bandages every day.

“I got lucky, it healed really well,” Cordova said. “It healed in two months.”

After he was fitted for a prosthetic, Cordova drove from his home in Ramona to Palomar Medical Center Poway twice per week for 12 weeks of therapy where they taught him how to walk again “little by little,” Cordova said.

At first he would use his wheelchair to get from the parking lot to inside the rehab center but staff encouraged him to use crutches along with his prosthetic instead. Then they pushed him to transition from crutches to a cane and finally to make the walk without any aid.
Cordova said he was reluctant at first because of the discomfort but the staff would say, “If you need help, we can come to your car and help you walk all the way up here.”

He built muscles and stamina through therapy and confidence through staff encouragement and success.

“It’s awesome,” Cordova says.

Throughout the process, Cordova says his surgeon and therapists were always optimistic he would start walking again and that eventually people wouldn’t even know he has an artificial leg. He says he’s also made the necessary lifestyle changes that he won’t be back on the operating table again.

“I’m taking good care of this one,” Cordova said pointing to his right foot. “I learned my lesson.”

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