Sarah Echols isn't sure what's worse: the way people stare at her, or how clumsy and off-balance she feels.
Echols' left leg was amputated 1½years ago because of poor circulation in the arteries supplying blood to her legs. Now, the 62-year-old Calumet City woman gets around on crutches or in a wheelchair because her prosthetic limb is too painful to stand on.
"It's very hard to get used to," Echols said. "You have to learn how to do everything over again."
Echols is one of thousands of African Americans in the Chicago area who have had all or part of a limb amputated because of complications from either diabetes or a condition called peripheral arterial disease.
Though amputation is considered a last-resort treatment, blacks are far more likely than whites to have at least one of these procedures.
And a new study from Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine shows that the racial gap hasn't shrunk in the last two decades, despite an overall decrease in the number of amputations performed in northern Illinois.
"It's very troubling," said Dr. William Pearce, an author of the study published Saturday in the Journal of Vascular Surgery. "Medical advances make leaps and bounds, but it doesn't always get translated to everybody."
Looking at hospital discharge data from the state health department, Pearce and his research partner, Joseph Feinglass, found that residents of predominantly black ZIP codes in the Chicago area are five times more likely than those in white areas to have a foot or leg amputated. An earlier study found that African Americans are less likely to be treated with potentially limb-saving surgeries before amputation.
The reasons for this disparity are complex, said Feinglass, a health policy researcher at Northwestern.
I suggest you read the whole thing!