Many of you reading this will know that I wasn’t always an amputee and if you didn’t know, well now you do.
In fact, for seventeen years, three months and nine days (not that I’ve ever counted it), I was a perfectly healthy biped with nothing more to worry about than a scraped knee, a congenital heart condition and the occasional winter cold.
It stands to reason then that, like most people, I didn’t take much time to ponder upon the different and sometimes unusual things that regularly go through an amputees mind.
Then I became one myself and as it turns out, there are a lot of surprising, frustrating and downright weird things that I need to consider when going about my day.
Here are seven of them…
1: Is My Stump Too Big For My Leg Today?
Our bodies can change very slightly in shape as we go about our day and especially after a long nights sleep. Fluids shift around and certain areas may become more bloated than others.
I have found that if I don’t wear my prosthesis for a few hours before bed, the next day when I go to put it on it can feel very tight.
It’s a bit like trying to force a sleeping bag back into the sack that had accommodated it perfectly the previous day.
This sometimes results in having to “wear in” the socket for a little while, walking around until my residual limb compresses back to a usable size and stops feeling like it is being held in the jaws of a vice.
On a particularly bad day, it can be painful enough that I need to remove my prosthesis at regular intervals. Not for too long though, otherwise it defeats the purpose of the big squish.
2: Is My Stump Too Small For My Leg Today?
Yes, I’m not winding you up here, this is the flip side of the stump/socket-size issue.
Sometimes, my stump can deflate, usually if I have been using my prosthesis a lot and especially if I’ve been exercising with it. This is most obvious when using my leg with a pin socket as it can start to feel a bit loose and move in directions I don’t necessarily want it to go.
It is especially troublesome when I am on stage in the middle of what suddenly seems like a very lengthy dance number. Still, I haven’t fallen over yet… not in front of an audience anyway.
It’s rare that my leg shrinks so much that my vacuum socket won’t stay attached and when that does happen it usually means it’s time to think about getting a new one fitted.
3: How Cold Will My Liner Be This Morning?
This is not particularly restricting in terms of using the leg but I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been days when I lay in bed longer just to put off rolling a freezing cold silicon tube onto my leg.
A liner is a pretty important piece of kit as it is basically what keeps a prosthesis attached to the stump. As I said above, it is effectively just a silicon tube which rolls onto the residual limb. Depending on the type of socket used there are various designs of liner, for instance, some have a metal pin in the end that clips in to base of the socket, while others have rubber seal rings around them to create and hold a vacuum.
In the morning after a cold winters night, or a cold summers night if, like me, you live in Scotland, the prospect of enveloping your cosy warm stump in an ice cold blanket of expletive producing discomfort, can be a little unpleasant.
4: Before I Do This, Can I Afford To Not Be Using My Leg For The Next Week?
I really love having an active lifestyle. Outdoor activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, archery, rafting and many others have been a big part of my life since long before most of my right leg was taken from me.
My obsession with being on stage came along later, once I had been an amputee for a few years.
Despite having their origins in very different phases of my life, they share a common thought process I need to go through before starting; “can I afford to be off my leg for the next week?”
You see, while they are both things I enjoy and would happily do over and over again, the truth is that the kind of punishment I put my poor old stump through while jumping around on stage or charging down a raging river can be quite damaging.
After our usual run of five shows, when I get back home and slip my socket off, it usually stays off until all the bruising, cuts, rubs, pressure sores and general muscle ache has worn off.
It’s a similar experience with a particularly rough day of outdoor activities.
Now, I am not complaining… well maybe a little but not really.
The thing is, nobody forces me to do any of these things. I do them because they are a part of my life that I would never dream of giving up and if that means I have to suffer the consequences, then so be it.
Nothing beats the feeling of stepping backwards off a cliff and I’m far too much of an attention seeker to leave the stage behind.
5: I’m Pretty Sure I Can Get There, But Can I Get Back?
Sometimes, despite how good I feel about my ability to go somewhere or do something, I have to temper that with some common sense.
Walking down to the village, or parking in the centre of town and taking a stroll through the high street might seem like a good idea at the beginning of the day but it is very important that I consider the fact I might not feel the same on the way back.
This has been gleaned from probably too many experiences of mistakingly feeling that I can do it whilst not actually being in a position to do it. Many afternoons have been spent hobbling around city streets or woodland paths in near agony while grinning and denying to everyone around me that this might not have been a good idea.
Fortunately, over time I have gotten closer to being at peace with the fact that I need to plan my days a bit more carefully, although that doesn’t stop me from trying to push it a bit too far on occasion.
6: Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Who Walks The Straightest Of Them All?
On the subject of being out and about, anyone who has walked with me through a town centre could be forgiven for thinking I am a massive narcissist (and not just because I like to write about myself and post it online).
When wandering through the streets of whichever city I find myself in, I have one eye constantly watching myself in every single shop window we walk past.
This is because I am always checking my own walking gait. Making sure that I’m not dipping into a limp, arching my back or swinging one leg more than the other.
It probably seems a little over the top but ever since I started using a prosthesis, maintaining a good walking pattern has been a top priority.
Aside from the fact that it feels nice when people say they didn’t even realise I was missing a leg, it will also help lessen problems further down the line.
7: Ah, Tiny Pimple, My Old Nemesis.
Bruises, pressure sores, cuts and rubs. These are all things that come from using a prosthetic leg and while they are, at best uncomfortable and at worst completely debilitating, they are an unavoidable consequence of wearing a prosthesis.
Then there are stump pimples!
I refuse to accept these red, minuscule, intense pain inducing lumps as anything other than torture devices personally hand crafted in the bowls of Hell by The Devil himself.
Not that I’m particularly opinionated on them or anything.
The problem is, whereas the other issues I mentioned above are (usually) a result of using a prosthesis, these little buggers can pop up any time they want.
I might have been resting my leg for a week, letting everything heal up and then on the last day a small crimson dot appears on the tip on my residual limb.
And trust me on this, if you get one in the wrong place, it can make wearing the leg completely impossible.
We are talking the pain of all pains here.
The worst part is trying to convince people that this tiny little spot is going to stop me from being able to walk until it clears up… Actually, no, the worst part is definitely the pain but this comes in a close second.
There you have it, 7 things I had never thought about until I became an Amputee.
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Stay safe folks and be excellent to each other.