Arm and leg amputations fail to destroy Michigan woman’s hope
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) – When Pam Buschle had both hands and feet amputated in her battle to survive septic shock, she and her husband, Martin, had no idea what the future would hold for her.
They certainly didn’t foresee that within months, she would be walking again, that she would be counting her blessings and looking with hope toward the day she regains full independence.
In gratitude for Pam’s recovery, the East Grand Rapids couple aims to help others facing a similar journey, The Grand Rapids Press reported.
The 31st annual Rhoades McKee Reeds Lake Triathlon and Duathlon, scheduled for Sept. 6, will benefit Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Pam Buschle, a 53-year-old social worker with Kentwood schools, has spent months in inpatient and outpatient therapy at the rehab hospital.
Marty Buschle is an attorney with Rhoades McKee, the longtime sponsor of the triathlon.
“We are appreciative of the care they have provided to our family member and are honored to pay it forward,” said Paul McCarthy, president of Rhoades McKee. “Pam is a shining example of the incredible rehabilitation that takes place at Mary Free Bed every day.”
Like many others faced with sudden disability, Pam and Marty Buschle said they didn’t know at first of the many opportunities, equipment and medical developments available to help people regain mobility. Knowing all that would have provided a bit of light in some dark days.
“I just want people to know that when they are going through something like an amputation or disabling condition, that there really is hope at the end of it – however dark it may seem in those moments,” Pam Buschle said. “I’m a person who came through those darkest moments. And my life is filled with joy.
“I want people to know there is help during that time, and that help comes through a place like Mary Free Bed.”
Pam Buschle’s medical journey began with a routine abdominal surgery Dec. 3, 2013. She began feeling sick a few days later. Early in the morning of Dec. 9, her husband rushed her to the emergency department at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.
She went into septic shock, a condition in which the body’s response to an infection damages tissues and organs. With her liver, heart and kidneys failing, Pam was put into an induced coma.
She also was given medication to restrict blood flow to the extremities and redirect it to her vital organs. The doctors told Marty the medication carried a risk that part or all of her hands and feet would have to be amputated. For Marty, all that mattered was saving Pam’s life.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, what are we going to do? Should we or shouldn’t we?’ That was a gimme that we were going to do it,” he said.
Eventually, Pam’s legs were amputated below the knees and her arms below the elbows.
After nearly two months at Spectrum, Pam was transferred to Mary Free Bed. She spent four months there, slowly regaining strength and learning to use prosthetic legs and arms.
“She was extremely inspirational, both on a therapy level and the personal level,” said Britney Rauch, a physical therapist who worked with Pam as an inpatient. “Any challenge I would give her, she would not only do but succeed so well. She had the most positive attitude and outlook on everything.”
When she left inpatient care on May 30, Pam walked out of Mary Free Bed on her prosthetic legs, wearing a pair of silver sandals, and assisted by a walker. Her friends and family cheered. Everyone wore a tiara.
Pam continues to undergo outpatient therapy at Mary Free Bed. Sometime this fall, she hopes to return to her job as a social worker at Brookwood and Challenger elementary schools.
The support she has received – from her family, the East Grand Rapids community and Kentwood schools – has been overwhelming, she added. She and her family have received an abundance of meals, prayers, cards and messages of support.
“The people who have shown love to us – it has been incredible,” she said. “It is awe-inspiring. People are so full of love and so willing to give.”
Ultimately, her difficult road to recovery has been enriching, emotionally and spiritually.
“I have so much gratitude for still being in this world and being able to enjoy the things I enjoyed before,” she said. “And hopefully I will have a greater impact because I experienced a very difficult situation. Hopefully I will be able to take from that situation and give back to people.”