Stahoviak undergoes surgery

Commissioner has part of leg amputated after infection

Susan Cunningham

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak had part of her right leg amputated Friday.

The amputation was a result of a recurring infection in knee replacements put in her right leg.

Stahoviak sounded positive Monday when she told local media about the surgery through a conference call.

“I’m kind of looking forward to this new adventure,” Stahoviak said. “And, the fact that I won’t have to spend the rest of my life in a hospital is very appealing to me.”

She will be fitted with a prosthetic leg in the next few weeks and hopes to be walking soon after that. However, she said, she has no idea about when she’ll be able to return to the office.

Stahoviak has been in and out of the hospital and away from her county office since December 2003, when she was flown to Denver because of life-threatening kidney failure and infections. Since then, she has participated in county meetings through conference calls. She was re-elected to her position in November.

Stahoviak had temporary replacements and then permanent replacements implanted in each of her knees during a year and a half. The permanent replacement in her left knee had to be delayed when doctors discovered an infection there.

She has spent time in and out of Denver hospitals, the Doak Walker Care Center and Yampa Valley Medical Center, as well as her Oak Creek home.

In November, Stahoviak was rushed to the hospital because of an infection in her right knee. In late January, that knee was replaced again, but then, about a week and a half ago, the infection reappeared.

Doctors learned that the infection was caused by a very aggressive form of the staph bacteria, Stahoviak said. It is especially dangerous to people with compromised immune systems, such as Stahoviak, who has rheumatoid arthritis.

With that knowledge, and the support of her family and doctors, Stahoviak said she decided that the best option would be an amputation. Doctors amputated Stahoviak’s right leg above her knee. They were able to leave enough of her upper leg to allow her to use a prosthetic leg.

She said she hopes to transfer from Yampa Valley Medical Center to the Doak Walker Care Center soon.

“Now it’s just a matter of beginning a new type of physical therapy, one I’ve never done before,” Stahoviak said.

She said that after the amputation, she did not experience phantom pain because of a procedure doctors did involving an epidural that blocks the pain. However, she said, she does have sensations that her right foot is asleep.

“I’m doing very well, and I want everyone to know that,” she said.

Stahoviak said she knew the infection likely would return when she had her knee replaced in January. Amputation was an option then, but she thought it was important to try a replacement once more. That decision has helped her accept the amputation, she said.

Her left knee replacement is doing well. Stahoviak said she needs to gain strength in that leg so she will be able to walk.

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