Janice's story

Janice sitting in a wheelchair wearing glasses

Janice Many-Kirylak, a self-described "fairly active 72-year-old," has endured crippling foot and ankle pain for over two decades due to collapsed foot arches and complications from a broken right ankle. Her symptoms worsened, leading to four surgeries since 2018 to repair her ankle. Following her most recent surgery, the wound became infected.

Janice noticed an abscess on her ankle, called her doctor and was urged to go straight to the Valley Hospital emergency room. When treatment failed, and the infection spread to her lower tibia, she had no choice but to undergo a below-knee amputation.

Relying on her father’s experience, Janice and her family chose Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation – Saddle Brook for the next phase of her recovery. “Now, many years later, they have the perfect facility for my needs,” she exclaimed.

Upon admission, Kessler’s physician-led team of amputee rehabilitation specialists including nurses, physical and occupational therapists, prosthetists, and other experts developed a treatment plan addressing her medical and physical challenges.

Her main goals were to climb stairs and perform self-care activities on her own. “I’ve been in a wheelchair for four years, off and on. I am pretty good at that,” she shared. “Now I am learning to go up and down the stairs so I can use the bathroom, as having only one foot and leg.”

“Of course to walk is the first thing you think about,” she said. “However, I need to use the bathroom, take a shower and wheel myself through the kitchen to the sunroom to see what’s going on in the backyard.”

First, doctors monitored her medical needs while her rehabilitation nurses managed her medications and worked with her on dressing and wrapping her residual limb to improve healing.

Janice’s physical and occupational therapists then moved into action, focusing on improving her upper body strength to help her transfer safely to and from a wheelchair and increase her mobility. They also gave her the strategies to go about everyday activities with as much independence as possible. The stairs were a challenge for her but she knew that “learning how to manage stair climbing was so essential in order for me to go back home to my family.” With her care team’s adaptive strategies and encouragement, she achieved a big milestone in her recovery when she went “up and down the stairs on my butt.” She added, “With some help in going up, which way to pivot, and going down, it was much easier.”

Her family has been by her side throughout her rehabilitation journey. Eager for her return home, they researched necessary adjustments and adaptive tactics to ensure a safe transition. “As my husband and kids know how to use the internet, they have looked up to find different items I may need,” she said… “Now that I only have one foot, not 2, we’re off to a new adventure.”

She credits her Kessler care team for her motivation and progress. “Although I am exhausted when I’m done for the day, I know the girls have given me a lot of information that I need to get around and be as independent as possible. They have answered all of my questions, which alleviated some of my anxiety for when I go home.”

Throughout her experience, Janice has learned to accept help from others. “There may be things I cannot do and it’s ok to ask for help, and I will need help, especially in the beginning,” she said.

After two weeks at Kessler, she was equipped with the skills and knowledge to discharge home to her family. She planned to continue to increase her strength and independence through in-home and outpatient rehabilitation.

She advises other limb loss survivors in this way: “Do the best you can in whatever exercise they give you…At the end of the day, praise yourself for your hard work because it’s hard but most needed. You’ll be thanking them down the road.”