Sitting down for coffee with Pat Jones, she reads a list of leg jokes she has on her phone — things such as “don’t pull on my leg,” “being stumped,” “one foot in the grave,” and “I’m five-foot-seven on one side and four-foot-three on the other.”
Despite having her leg amputated seven months ago, the Smithers woman still has a sense of humour. Her ability to make jokes and laugh during what some people would consider a life-changing situation is a rare kind of optimism that she radiates.
The 63-year-old has earrings with musical notes and is wearing a purple blouse. Most noticeable is her prosthetic leg — not because it’s fake, but because of the vibrant colours. It’s bright yellow or “key-lime” as she describes it with an equally colourful sock and a rainbow headband wrapped around it.
“Because my amputation was a choice, emotionally, it hasn’t been as hard for me. I’m a forward-looking person and don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the past,” said Jones.
Jones was born with a deformed foot. Over the years, she has tried to fix the deformity, even going as far as having five operations in seven months between 2003-2004.
In 2012, the pain was so substantial that a steady stream of morphine and painkillers couldn’t ease the pain.
“It didn’t cross my mind when I had the foot rebuilt in the ‘90s,” said Jones. “The foot never really got to functioning properly and then started deforming more and more. It was always in the back of my head.”
Eventually, she made the decision to amputate her left leg just below the knee and six weeks later, she had it removed at a hospital in Prince Rupert in July of last year.
“I’m the best case scenario. I had pain, I had a deformity, they’ve been working on it mostly my entire life to make it better, which it never did and then the pain got to the point where I couldn’t do anything else,” said Jones.
“It was the best choice that I made, second only to my husband.”
Following the amputation, she travelled to G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver for more than six weeks of physiotherapy and learning to walk again with her $10,000 prosthetic leg.
“I had to re-learn where my feet were supposed to be,” said Jones. “It was the details, I stopped walking on the bottom of my foot. I had a swollen ankle. The placement of the foot, when the knee bends. When you walk, when does the foot come forward. Pointing your feet forward. I’m still doing it because it’s still not natural.”
Though she is still trying to get into a routine, it hasn’t stopped her from doing what she loves.
She is a part of the gospel group at the United Church, Local Vocals, a community choir, and is a part of Sweet Harmony, a women’s barber shop; she also continues to teach at the local college.
Now, she’s trying help amputees in the North.
Linda Mclean, a physiotherapist at G.F. Strong who worked closely with Jones, suggested she should act as a resource for amputees in the region to share her experience and help answer basic questions.
“She asked if I could be a contact person,” said Jones, adding that there are approximately 15,000 amputees in Canada.
“I’d like to have representatives of the different amputations . . . who are willing to talk to people.”
She is currently in the early stages of compiling a list of people who would be willing to talk to people who have questions; not only would it be a resource for amputees, but also for family members who are supporting them.
“I’m not going to hide,” said Jones.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.