West Park helps in fight against Diabetes

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Manfred Nothlich has had ample time to reflect on his life of late. It’s been two and a half years since his right leg was amputated above the knee, and his prosthetic leg serves as a sobering reminder of how life can turn upside down.

Nothlich, 53, was a lead baggage handler and de-ice coordinator at Toronto’s Pearson International airport when he developed a callus on the ball of his foot. When the callus became infected and antibiotics proved ineffective, his right leg was amputated above the knee to save his life.   

The initial days after the amputation were some of the hardest Nothlich has faced.

“My first thoughts were about trying to survive,” Nothlich says. “[The impact] takes a while to hit you. It doesn’t happen right away.”

After his amputation, Nothlich was transferred to Toronto’s West Park Healthcare Centre, where he began amputee rehabilitation.

Now Nothlich, a diabetic, is concentrating on gaining mobility and function with his prosthesis, and preventing complications to his healthy leg. This goal is achieved at West Park through a continuum of care that includes extensive, multidisciplinary inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, education and eventually a return-to-work program.

Nothlich’s time at West Park began with the Prosthetics and Orthotics Service, where he was fitted for a prosthesis. The Prosthetics and Orthotics team services to upwards of 4,000 patients a year and approximately 80 per cent of all amputee patients seen suffer from peripheral vascular disease often associated with diabetes. Prosthetists worked extensively with Nothlich to provide him with a technologically advanced, state of the art prosthetic device to enhance his functional independence.

At the same time he began inpatient rehabilitation with a comprehensive team including a physiatrist and prosthetists, amongst others. Inpatient rehabilitation included extensive physiotherapy and gait training. It was here that Nothlich learned to put his prosthesis on, stand and balance correctly.

Nothlich’s continuum of care also includes extensive outpatient rehabilitation. Over the course of a year and a half, he received multidisciplinary treatment from West Park Pro Active Healthcare, the Centre’s wellness and rehabilitation clinic. Treatments including hydrotherapy, cold laser, chiropody, chiropractic, occupational therapy, acupuncture, massage and physiotherapy are all utilized by people like Nothlich. “I was happy to be treated at West Park, ”Nothlich says. “About 90 per cent of the care I need is in one place.”

As West Park is also emerging as a partner in the prevention and control of diabetes before it leads to complications like amputation, this care also includes diabetes education classes.

For those seeking to educate themselves and their families on diabetes prevention and management, free diabetes education classes for people with Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes are offered in an effort to give patients more control of the disease. Available through West Park Pro Active Healthcare and in conjunction with New Heights Community Health Centre (NHCHC), topics like diet, stress management, foot care, medication and exercise are addressed by a nurse, dietitian, chiropodist and kinesiologist.

“Since we started the program we’ve helped about 750 people,” says West Park Pro Active Healthcare manager Dave Ursomarzo. Participants also receive a free glucometer and a comprehensive diabetes prevention information kit. Ursomarzo promotes the program through area physicians, clinics etc., hopefully reaching some of the very people who make up the large numbers of diabetics in West Park’s catchment area.

Nothlich is now looking forward to the next stage of his treatment, entering Pro Active’s goal-oriented Return to Work program to prepare him for a safe, productive job re-entry aimed at returning him to his highest level of post-injury mobility and function.

And with the help of West Park, Nothlich is now embarking on the next step of his life.

“I look forward to re-learning things I took for granted, and being able to function as normal, or as normal as normal can be,” Nothlich says.

Nothlich also plans to come back to West Park as a volunteer to help other amputees. “I’ve learned many things, but certain things you can’t explain unless you are in the same position.”