A Spotsylvania County man is gaining some fame for his humorous take on the partial amputation of his left leg.
Joe Pleban, 23, opted to undergo a below-the-knee amputation June 25 after years of chronic pain from a rare bone and joint disease called pigmented villonodular synovitis.
He and his family decided to have some fun before and after the amputation, as evidenced by an online photo album his sister put up this week titled, “The Last Adventures of Joe’s Left Foot.”
The photos have since gone viral, with the Huffington Post, perezhilton.com and others picking up the story. Pleban even stayed up until 4 a.m. hosting an “Ask Me Anything” chat on the Web community Reddit, where his sister had posted a link to the silly pictures. (President Barack Obama once participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” discussion, so it’s kind of a big deal.)
Pleban, who says he’s blown away by the attention, said his family has always been goofy. He said his sister, 21-year-old Kaley, suggested the photo diary, and “it just went from there.”
“We’ve always kind of taken these kind of crazy things with a heavy dose of humor,” said Pleban, who graduated from Fredericksburg Christian School. “So it was kind of just business as usual to take goofy pictures before the surgery and afterwards.”
One of the pictures shows Pleban feigning a scream, both hands pressed to his cheeks, as his girlfriend holds a saw next to his leg. The caption reads, “We could saw it off ”
The family also took a photo of a tattoo Pleban got on his left ankle at the aptly named Sorry Mom Tattoo shop in Fredericksburg. The tattoo included a line and small scissors under the words, “Please cut here.”
Pleban’s sister joked on Reddit that the “permanent/non-permanent” tattoo was meant to “help out the med students.”
Sorry Mom Tattoo manager Ryan Devivies said he had fun with it. “He was really, really positive, uplifting,” said Devivies, who didn’t charge Pleban for the tattoo. “We were cracking jokes about it the whole time. I was just glad to be a part of it.”
He said they joked about post-amputation Halloween costumes. Pleban could be a surfer and his girlfriend a shark.
Pleban’s friends have a sense of humor about the situation, too.
Last week, Pleban posted a picture of his healing leg on Facebook, to which a buddy replied: “i wanted to get you a gift bud, but honestly i was stumped .”
On a serious note, Pleban’s disease caused benign tumors to grow on his left ankle, his family said. His right leg is fine. He also suffered from degenerative arthritis—making the family’s humorous approach all the more admirable.
“Quite honestly, this is just kind of the way our family is,” Pleban’s mom, Lisa, said Friday. “I look at the way Joe’s being portrayed out there, and I’m like, that’s pretty much the way he is.”
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402