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