TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There's going to be a new group in town that has one crucial goal.
That's to bring down the number of foot and leg amputations.
Just about everyone knows someone who is at risk of amputation.
Southern Arizona has a large population of people who are at risk.
That includes people with diabetes.
The group is the Save a Leg, Save a Life Foundation.
In a moment you'll understand why those two things go together.
Dr. Barbara Aung's patient, John Diener, is sitting on the examination table at her eastside practice.
"How's everything going? she asks. "It's going pretty good," Diener answers.
It's hard to be believe that once, Diener was told he had six months to live.
Doctors had amputated his left leg a few years before, and he was being told his other leg had to be removed or he would die.
He said no, not again.
He was put in hospice.
Diener has diabetes and other health issues.
He had lost hope.
That was three years ago.
Since then, Diener has found new doctors.
"It's wonderful. I mean it's just the feeling that I can get up every day, and I have my leg," Diener says.
Dr. Aung (pronounced Ong) is a podiatrist and certified wound specialist.
She says amputation should be the last resort.
"Once a person has one amputation, they're likely to have another amputation in 3 to 5 years. And the mortality rate in a five year time period is about 50% once you have an amputation," Dr. Aung says.
Many patients can be at risk for amputation.
They might have diabetes, high blood pressure, vascular disease.
There are many treatments, everything from hyperbaric chambers to bioengineered tissue and vascular surgery.
Dr. Aung's wish to save patients' limbs and, that way, save their lives is why she is helping start the first Arizona Chapter of the Save a Leg, Save a Life Foundation.
It's a group whose membership includes doctors, nurses, patients, physical therapists and others who meet to share innovative treatment and care ideas.
The idea is to get the word out, especially to doctors.
"So we want to save those limbs, and we think by doing that, we are actually saving their lives down the road."
Dr. Aung says sometimes there is no alternative to amputation, but that patients need hope too, and they need, what she calls, armor.
"To go out there when they're in the emergency rooms or their doctors' offices to say, 'Hey I heard about this. Can we save my foot or leg,'" Dr. Aung says.
"To have doctors believe in you and do whatever they have to do is just great. And that's the biggest thing," Diener says.
The first organizational meeting of the Tucson Chapter of the Save A Leg, Save A Life Foundation will be for health care professionals only, on Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.
It will be at John Jacob's El Parador Restaurant, 2744 E. Broadway.
It's open to physicians, nurses and other health care professionals interested in preventing foot and leg amputation when possible.
There will be registration and networking.
RSVP: Russell Payne, 520-981-5361.
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