Diane Kiefer is a ball of sunshine. She's quick to smile, fast talking and friendly. Kiefer describes herself as having a Tigger-bounce personality.
"Every time I get down, I bounce right back up in a short time, kind of like Tigger," she said.
With such a bright personality, it's hard to believe that just over a year ago she was in a hospital having part of her leg amputated.
Just before Christmas of 2011, Kiefer was sweeping up in her living room after she had wall-to-wall carpet ripped out. She was worried that one of her granddaughters might step on a carpet staple. Ironically, it was Kiefer who stepped on that carpet staple. Because of her diabetes, she has lost sensation in her feet. A bout with the flu kept her in bed and stopped her from doing routine checks of her feet. The staple was left to fester.
"One Sunday I got out of bed and looked down and realized something was wrong with my foot," Kiefer said. "I went straight to Kent General and was admitted. I already had a high temperature and I was in la-la land. I don't remember anything after entering the hospital."
Doctors discovered the staple after conducting an X-ray. They removed it and cut out the infected tissue around it, hoping that this would stop the progression of the infection. Doctors attempted one more time to remove the infection from her foot, before telling her husband that they would have to remove the entire lower part of her leg. There was no time to spare; the infection was wreaking havoc on her kidneys. She was on the verge of death.
"They drew a line on my leg and rushed me off to surgery," Kiefer said.
Kiefer woke up in a rehab facility without a foot, weak from being hospitalized for two and a half weeks and unable to perform even the simplest of tasks.
"I had myself a good cry but then I pushed forward," she said.
Her return home wasn't any easier for her. The home she had once known had been turned upside down in order to accommodate the wheel chair that she was confined to at the time. Rugs had to be removed, doors had been widened and personal possessions had to be packed away in order for her to be able to move around.
"Getting around was like being put in a maze, having to try and figure out how to get where you needed to go," Kiefer said.
She eventually got out of the wheel chair, after learning to sit up, stand and walk again. She learned a lot thanks to two fellow amputees, who were in physical therapy with her. She was fitted with a prosthesis and has since returned to work. She is even driving again, with the aid of hand controls.
Page 2 of 2 - Her bright personality has found a way to be expressed through her prosthesis. She even had it appliquéd with a flamingo "tattoo".
"When my doctor asked me why I wanted a flamingo I told him, 'flamingos stand on one leg, but they walk on two, and you'd think they wouldn't be able to walk at all with their stick legs, but they can,'" Kiefer said.
She wanted a way to share her story and remembered how important the advice of fellow amputees had been to her, so she set out to find a support group for amputees in the area. She soon discovered that nothing of the kind existed, and so she took it upon herself to create Mending Pieces, a support group for amputees, people with birth-related defects and family, friends who support those with such issues. Starting Thursday, the group will meet monthly and all are welcome, she said.
"Amputation is such a hard adjustment, but there are people around that can help," Kiefer said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Mending Pieces first meeting
WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24
WHERE: St. Andrews Lutheran Church, 425 N. Dupont Highway, Dover