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Gramp's Old Leg

I am ED, a user of the best prosthetic devices available as of today. Both of my legs consist of a socket, a knee unit, a bit of simulated calf for height, a mechanical ankle and artificial feet. I am a functioning bilateral above knee amputee. By this I mean, I am “up”, getting around, able to do most basic functions in life and still unable to do some others.

My sockets are designed to fit the remnants of my legs, as close as they can be. They have to hit certain areas of my skeleton in order to hold me up without my remaining leg bones ripping through what is left of me. These sockets are made of today’s laminates and are very strong.

I have been fitted with computerised knee units which are extremely expensive. The units contain precision valves, strain gauges in the shank and heel, lateral rotators to simulate ankle movements and microprocessors whose job is to measure where I am in relation to the knee angle and then adjust the precision valves accordingly. My simulated feet flex back and forth and have a split in the middle for side movement. They are made of the best of today’s composites.

Yep, I have it all. I also had a grandfather who lost a leg above the knee in a saw mill many years ago. I have been shown pictures of him from when he was younger. He was known as a “bear of a man” in his youth and it is said that he did well with his artificial leg (“always used a cane though, always”). There’s one picture of him standing solely on his real leg, a pail of water in each hand and another pail hung over his stump! He even used his leg when riding his motorcycle.

How could this be? I have the best of today’s technology and I’m still struggling. I knew that a couple of “Grampy’s” old legs were in the family dump. I asked a relative to retrieve them for me prior to an upcoming visit, which he did. We figure that they are from sometime around 1939. My first impression was how light they were to what I wear today. What’s with that? They are made out of aluminum, hand beaten in some factory elsewhere. Flakes of pink and yellow paint still adhered to them.

I am told that the equivalent to my socket of today was ordered from the factory based on general measurements of the individual. Then the knee, calf and ankle were ordered separately based on the height that was required. The two parts were then riveted together as a final adjustment by his prosthetist. The foot was a carved wooden one with a separated toe area and of the required size. Most striking to me though, was that the leg looked like a human leg in shape, perfectly smooth and without a flaw. Not like mine that resemble shades of Star Wars.

After studying this leg and comparing it to mine, I came to a conclusion. As an amputee, your success is not based on what leg you have or the technologies available to you.

Your success is solely based on how much of a “bear” you are in overcoming your situation.









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