Hibbing Daily Tribune
HIBBING — Paul Janssen has two passions in his life — big-game hunting and golfing.
And it’s those two things that have kept the Hibbing native positive throughout a negative ordeal.
Janssen, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 27 years ago, watched the disease affect his foot on the left side of his body.
He had to have five toes amputated, with the last one being in September of 2018.
After that surgery, his doctor was worried that the bones in his foot would roll over and try to take the place of that outside bone. With no feeling in his foot, those bones could possibly fracture, and Janssen would have all sorts of problems.
That’s when the discussion of amputating his leg became a reality.
The only question Janssen asked was this, ‘Would I still be able to golf and hunt with one good leg and one prosthesis?
When found out the
answer was yes, Janssen didn’t hesitate.
He had the procedure, got his prosthesis last spring, and he was back on the golf course, playing at the 91st annual Vern Fryklund Northwest Invitational, which concluded Monday at the Mesaba Country Club.
Janssen has always kept a positive attitude throughout the whole ordeal, but taking off the bottom half of his leg was a totally different part of the equation.
“They were worried about the bones in my foot rolling over and trying to become the outside bone,” Janssen said. “I don’t feel my feet, and they would break, then I’d have all sorts of infections.”
“The doctor said maybe you should think about having your leg amputated, so you don’t have anymore infections, then hopefully, you’re done with this stuff in your foot.”
That’s when Janssen asked that all-important question.
“I said to her, ‘Will I be able to golf, and will I be able to hunt?’” Janssen said. “When she said, ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Let’s do it.’”
The doctor gave Janssen a quizzical look.
“She goes, ‘Are you serious?’” Janssen said. “I said, ‘You’re the doctor, you’re supposed to know this stuff. If you have a tax question, I’ll answer that.’”
On Dec. 20, Janssen had the procedure done.
“They chopped it off and the rest is history,” Janssen said.
Janssen has a long history of diabetes in his family, so he knew he was susceptible to its onset, but he has a good sense of humor about it.
“It didn’t shock or surprise me,” Janssen said. “My diabetes comes from not taking care of myself, not eating right. That’s specialty.”
The breaking point came when Janssen couldn’t feel any pain in his foot.
“I still don’t in the right one,” Janssen said. “I played a round of golf with a golf ball in my shoe. When I got done, I took the shoe off, and a golf ball fell out. I don’t feel pain, and that’s why I get the infections.
“I get sores, then they blow up in there. I don’t feel them. By the time I look at my foot, it’s all infected.”
That’s when the toes started coming off, but in the long run, taking half of the lower leg was the only way to alleviate the situation.
When the leg came off, Janssen knew it was gone, but seeing it for the first time was surreal to him.
“It was shocking to wake up and see that you don’t have a leg anymore,” Janssen said. “There wasn’t any pain or anything because they kept me drugged. It was waking up and seeing that your leg was missing and getting used to that thought process.”
The next step was getting the prosthesis. He went to a company in Hibbing, Hanger Prosthetics, for that.
“It takes about two months because you’re leg has to heal,” Janssen said. “Once it heals, they fit you for a prosthesis, and because of how big my calf is, they struggled with that. The prosthesis has to fit around the calf.
“It’s supposed to be as small as your knee. Most people’s calves aren’t that big. When they built me the first prosthesis, my leg didn’t fit. They had to go through the whole process again.”
It took an extra month to get that new prosthetic.
“I didn’t have any rehab probably because I’m stubborn,” Janssen said. “I said, ‘The day you get me one that fits, I’m jumping on a plane, and I’m going golfing.’ That’s what I did.”
They refit Janssen in April, and he made good on his vow. He got on a plane and flew to the Kissimmee-Orlando area on April 20. That was only one week after he was fitted for the device.
“I was going,” he said.
The ability to do the activities he loves to do made the decision easier for Janssen.
“It was huge,” Janssen said. “I don’t know if I would have done it had they said I wouldn’t have been able to do them. Those are my two passions in life.
“If they had said you won’t be able to do them, I might have left the foot there and dealt with the infections.”
How did it affect Janssen’s golf game?
“It worked way better than I thought,” Janssen said. “I’m not a good golfer, but I golfed normally, normally bad. At the end of last year, I was shooting an 85 from the black tees.
“This year, I’m shooting 92 from the blacks. Is it because I’m fat, old or I have a new leg? I don’t know. There’s a lot of reasons for that.”
Having the ability to resume his favorite activities is what got Janssen through the amputation.
“It would be heck if I couldn’t play or hunt,” Janssen said. “I bought a house by the country club and to watch everybody golfing, that would have been miserable. I’ve never been depressed, but I think I could get depressed sitting there and watching everybody go by the house.”
Janssen took part in the Men’s Club tournament, and the Northwest, and he has enjoyed every minute of his golfing.
“I’m having a blast,” he said. “I got my prosthesis from Hanger, and they’ve been wonderful for me. They say I’m the most active person they’ve ever bought a prosthesis for.
“They tell me that people just don’t jump on planes and golf after that. I just do what I do. I can’t imagine not doing it. I can’t imagine sitting around. There are days when it gets sore, but overall, it’s really good.”