New procedure allows Bedford amputee to feel her prosthetic leg

Union Leader Correspondent
April 14. 2018 12:27PM

Tammy Jerome, 50, of Bedford, is the first female and the first New Hampshire resident to undergo a new experimental procedure known as the Ewing Amputation. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

BEDFORD — Just eight months after undergoing a below-the-knee amputation, Tammy Jerome will participate in the Boston Athletic Association’s 10th annual 5K today in Boston — a feat she said she would not have been able to do prior to the surgery.

“I need to show others that this amputation is not an end. This is about setting my mind on a goal and having a positive attitude to reach it,” the Bedford woman said on Thursday. “This is a mindset, and I have been given a great opportunity. I have been given a second chance.”

The avid skier underwent 10 surgeries before opting for amputation, including a tendon transfer, double fusion of the ankle and recurrent osteomyelitis, a bone infection.

Dr. Matthew Carty of Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital deemed that after six years of chronic pain in her left ankle, Jerome was a candidate for a new experimental procedure known as the Ewing Amputation. The new procedure allows amputees to be able to move and feel their prosthetic limbs through implants in their nerves.

Jerome is the fourth person to receive the Ewing Amputation, and the first female to undergo the surgery. Although she has been using a test leg, the Bedford mother of four was fitted with her first carbon fiber leg earlier this month.

“I had a leg that was physically there, but it didn’t function. I felt stagnant,” said Jerome, adding the amputation gave her the chance at more mobility and flexibility, and a chance to become active again.

While her future bionic prosthetic is still in the testing phases at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she is excited about the possibilities. Even with her basic carbon fiber prosthetic now being used, her range of motion has already improved — and the pain is gone, explained Jerome.

“I have been held back for so many years. Now, I may succeed at something or I may not succeed, but at least I have the ability to try,” she said.

Even before her prosthetic was in place, Jerome began training for today’s race with crutches. She has spent hours maneuvering the streets of Bedford in preparation for the 3.1 mile event.

Although Jerome will walk most of the race, she does hope to be able to jog the last stage of the 5K with her daughter and her husband by her side.

“I am determined no matter what,” she said, explaining the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing a few years ago inspired her to make the most of her situation.

While there is excitement and fear for today’s newest challenge, Jerome is optimistic that it will be the start of a new chapter in her life.

She has already tried indoor rock climbing with her test prosthetic, and fully intends on getting back on the ski slopes in the winter.

Her race team, Stepping Strong, is near and dear to Jerome since the Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation, which was created by the family of a Boston bombing survivor, was one of the contributors that helped provide funding for the research of the Ewing Amputation.

“Now it is my turn to give back to them,” explained Jerome.

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