Learning How to Walk Again

It took several weeks to recuperate from my five-week hospital and rehab stay, but it was finally time for me to be fitted for a prosthetic foot. This was an exciting development! After relying on a wheelchair and a walker to get around, I would be taking the first step—no pun intended—toward walking on my own again.

A prosthetic device needs to fit extremely well on a residual limb (I don’t like to use the word “stump” as they do in the medical profession, because it sounds like you’re talking about a tree). The better the fit, the more comfortable you will feel walking around with an artificial foot and ankle.

Once the fitting was complete, the prosthetist created my artificial limb and I went to try it on. I have to say I was quite nervous. What if I didn’t like it or if it didn’t feel right? How difficult would it be to walk with the device for the first time? Afterall, I hadn’t actually walked in more than three months, but was hopping on one leg using the walker. That’s hardly an ideal way to get around.

Seeing my artificial limb for the first time with my sneaker on the foot was enlightening. Here was a device that I would attach to myself in order to walk again. The prosthetist showed me how to put it on, and when I began taking my first steps using parallel bars for support, he was thrilled about my start. His positive feedback immediately set me at ease.

It felt strange for sure. The various components of the prosthetic weigh about five pounds, which is a lot to carry around on my leg when previously there was nothing there. At first, it felt like I had a brick or two attached to my leg. The weakness of my muscles made the prosthetic feel kind of ponderous.

Over time, as I walked around with my new foot and a walker for support, I got more accustomed to, it and it didn’t feel quite as heavy. Within a few short weeks and with additional physical therapy, I had graduated from a walker to using a cane. My goal is to eventually walk without any support.

The prosthetic I have now is temporary. It takes time for an amputated limb to change into a more permanent shape, and once that happens then I can be fitted for a long-term prosthetic.

The simple things in life, such as brushing my teeth, getting in and out of the shower and carrying things around, have been challenging while using a wheelchair and walker. These pieces of equipment have given me mobility, enabling me to get back out into the world which I’m grateful for. But the limited mobility has also been frustrating. Relying on help, either from equipment or other people, is never easy and can be quite humbling.

The experience has also given me a greater understanding of and empathy for the struggles people must face when they are unable to walk, even with a walker, cane or crutches.

Being able to walk again, even with somewhat hesitant steps at this point, is wonderful. I’ve certainly missed walking. As I mentioned in a previous post, at my peak I was walking seven to eight miles a day. Those who have watched me learn how to walk again have provided so much positive feedback, which has helped fuel my determination to do better.

We all need that kind of reinforcement to overcome challenges—whether it’s at work, at school or in our personal lives—so that we can move forward.

When I was researching prosthetics, I came across some remarkable stories of how people have thrived following limb amputations. Their stories truly exemplify the saying, “where there’s a will there’s a way”. For example, one of my Facebook friends who underwent an amputation is a competitive surfer!

What I’ve learned is that the seemingly impossible can become possible through effort and a determination to succeed.

Also, the progress that’s being made in the enhancement of prosthetic devices is remarkable, as covered in this YouTube video:

Through science, engineering, determination and compassion, wonderful things can be accomplished. This is why it’s important for us to not give up, even when challenges seem overwhelming.

On one of the walls at my prosthetist’s offices there’s a poster of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won the gold medal against all odds. On the poster are the words, “Do You Believe in Miracles?” When I saw this, I thought, what an appropriate sentiment given the circumstances. And yes, I do believe in miracles.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”—Mahatma Gandhi

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18 responses to “Learning How to Walk Again”

  1. maferg49 Avatar

    Wow Bob! Amazing to see you with a cane. When I read your blog, I find myself putting life into perspective. No hurdle is too high to climb. I just need patience and perseverance as you have shown throughout your medical ordeal.
    God bless you

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Thanks Denise. I’m glad you’re getting some value from the stories. Patience and perseverance is something we all need in great supply

  2. Mark Scheur Avatar
    Mark Scheur

    Always a doer never a quitter
    Your determination is refreshing & helpful.

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Thank you Mark

  3. Richard Wortman Avatar
    Richard Wortman

    Bob, your experience and expression of words radiates hope and great promise. It’s impressive to see how far you have progressed, a credit to your fierce determination and inner will. Intuition strongly points and suggests that you are on your journey and have taken the right path to beat all odds. I needed to read and internalize your words tonight. Thank you for that gift.

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Thank you Richard. I appreciate your words of encouragement.

  4. Eileen Avatar

    You are an inspiration to all of us, Bob. As a person with mobility problems, I applaud your fighting spirit. Never give up!! Eileen

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Thank you Eileen. I wish you the best in dealing with your own mobility problems.

  5. Val Potter Avatar
    Val Potter

    Bob, I’ve just caught up with all the posts in your blog so far. What an incredible (and incredibly hard) journey you’ve been on. It’s wonderful that you’ve turned these frightening and difficult experiences into positivity. Gratitude is so important, and you articulate it beautifully. I can’t wait to read what you write next here.

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Thanks Val!

  6. Jenna Avatar

    Bob did you see the piece on 60 minutes last Sunday about the advances in prosthetics? Way beyond amazing.

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Yes, amazing the advances being made.

  7. Melanie B. Avatar
    Melanie B.

    Hi Bob, your story is amazing! I do have an interesting near death experience as well… I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer a few years ago and four doctors told me I would die. To be honest, I felt hopeless and updated my will, but also defiant, because I hae two kids at home relying on me. I am happy to report that after 5 years, I am cured! I am inspired by your story and am so happy to know you. I wish you the best on your journey of recovery!

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Hi Melanie, Thanks so much for your comments. Congratulations on being cured! That is wonderful news and a testament to your determination and courage. Stay well!

  8. Sherri S Walkenhorst Avatar
    Sherri S Walkenhorst

    Thanks for your inspiring words. I keep a gratitude journal (and gave one to each member of my family on Thanksgiving several years ago). I don’t write in it every day, but it helps me to record all the things (large and small) that I’m grateful for. Sometimes it’s just a few words; sometimes more. I often review what I’ve written and that provides additional insight, reflection, and gratitude.

    I love a quote I saw from Michael J. Fox: “With gratitude, optimism is sustainable.”

    All the best on your journey!

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Thanks Sherri! That’s a great idea to keep a journal and then share with your family. Also, that’s a great quote.

  9. Karen Avatar

    You are touching so many lives with your inspiring words ! May God continue to bless you with continued strength & determination! ❤️

    1. Bob Violino Avatar

      Thanks Karen

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