A bad cut on a big toe became infected and turned into a serious matter for Kent City Councilman Les Thomas.
Thomas suffered the cut from a seashell during a February trip to the Caribbean. The left big toe became painful, infected and turned black and purple, so Thomas had it checked out after his return home. Doctors later removed a vein from Thomas’ right leg to put in his left leg in an effort to stop the bacterial infection. But the surgery didn’t work.
Doctors amputated Thomas’s left leg 3 inches below the knee in early July. Thomas, who is in a rehab center in Federal Way, still hasn’t recovered. He found out this week that a blood culture identified the bacteria.
“That’s good,” Thomas said on Tuesday during a phone interview. “They (doctors) changed my medication to go after the bacteria.”
If that test had come back differently, doctors might have considered taking the rest of the leg to fight the infection.
“It’s scary, to be honest,” Thomas said. “I do not want to lose the rest of the leg. … Right now, I’m very cautiously optimistic.”
There’s no word yet on when Thomas might get released from the rehab center.
Thomas, 72, is in his 15th year on council. Voters re-elected him to a fourth four-year term in 2015.
“I’m hoping to make it to council in September, but it will be close,” Thomas said. “We’re starting to get into the budget cycle, so I really need to be there.”
Thomas has missed nine council meetings this year, including the last eight. Council President Bill Boyce visits Thomas nearly every Saturday and helps keep him informed about what’s going on in city government. Thomas watches the council meetings on Kent TV21.
“He’s always in good spirits,” Boyce said during a phone interview.
Boyce has granted Thomas an excused absence for each meeting – the council meets twice a month – and plans to continue that practice.
“He’s very passionate about the city and wants to continue to serve,” Boyce said. “I support him and want him to come back. It was going to be August that he would be back – now hopefully in September he will be back.
“I’m going to continue to excuse him until he says he doesn’t want to be excused anymore.”
Mayor Dana Ralph – in her first year as mayor after six years on the council – visits Thomas often.
“I really appreciate that,” Thomas said.
Thomas admitted it is, “kind of boring” sitting around a rehab center. But despite losing a leg, the councilman kept his sense of humor.
“It’s not a good weight loss plan,” he joked.
The pain can be extreme and make it difficult to walk, Thomas said.
“It’s very uncomfortable,” he said.
It worries Thomas if he loses the rest of his leg because the prosthetic leg for a full leg doesn’t work as well as those that fit below the knee.
“A prosthetic leg above the knee becomes stiff and is very noticeable,” said Thomas, who added many people wear prosthetic legs below the knee and people can’t even see a difference.
Thomas remains hopeful the infection has been cured, so he doesn’t lose the entire leg. But he knows that might not be the outcome.
“It’s pretty serious,” he said.
Boyce said many prayers and thoughts are offered for Thomas as he faces the next challenge.
“We all hope for a speedy recovery,” Boyce said.