Artwork by Millie Saunders
All the questions below have been put to me during my years as an amputee. Either in person, via a comment on my social media or by direct message.
Don’t worry about me being upset if a question seems offensive or in bad taste, I’m pretty thick skinned and have already consented that they may be as weird or (potentially) offensive as you like.
Please understand that these are all my own personal opinions and experiences, I cannot speak for every single amputee out there.
Are you looking forward to medical advancements related to lost limbs?
It has been almost nine years since my amputation and even in that relatively short time I have seen vast improvements in the technology around prosthetic limbs.
When I first came out of hospital, the leg I was given was, at the time, absolutely wonderful. However, when seeing videos of myself walking around on it and trying to perform basic tasks, it is clear that I was finding even the most simple things very difficult.
If I were to try walking around on it now, it is doubtful that I’d get more than five paces before kissing the pavement.
The legs that have been available to me in the years since then have not only made things that were once very challenging much easier, they’ve resurrected my abilities to perform functions that, for a while, I thought I had lost forever.
That is just in nine years so yes, I am incredibly excited to see what future technologies will bring to the table.
When you stand do you put your weight on your real leg, prosthetic leg or equally balanced?
If either my physiotherapist or prosthetist is reading this then I use both legs equally all the time and never favour one side to the other. That’s all you guys need to read, skip on down to the next question.
For anyone else reading, I do favour the leg that remains to my prosthetic one.
When I’m actively thinking about it, I do try my very best to put an equal amount of weight on each leg but let’s be honest, focusing constantly and solely on the distribution of weight between my legs would make for a pretty uninteresting life.
If you are ever talking to a lower limb amputee and they start shifting around on their feet, it is likely that they are just trying to move their weight across from one leg to the other.
I can assure you of this, we would NEVER use the discomfort caused by standing still too long with a prosthetic leg to excuse ourselves from a protracted conversation.
Do they rust, get clicky or squeaky?
As I’m writing this answer I have the horrifying and hilarious picture in my head of a rusted prosthesis snapping and sending the wearer on a fast track trip to the floor.
Fortunately I can say that none of my legs have, so far, started to rust. They are designed to last for quite a while without any problems like that. Even the ones that I can use in salt water shouldn’t have any issues with that as long as they are cleaned after.
That really is the most important thing, keeping them clean.
Stuff can get stuck in a prosthesis, especially one with a knee or elbow joint.
While I’m out cycling grit and bits of dirt are constantly being flicked up by the wheels and some of those do find their way into the knee which can cause squeaking, weird clicking noises and in serious cases, have an effect on my ability to walk.
If my fleshy leg got covered in mud then I’d make sure to clean it off and it’s just the same with my metal one.
Are they less exhausting to use?
They are actually the opposite of less exhausting. I’m not certain of the accuracy of this figure but I have, more than once, heard the phrase “it can take up to 80% more energy to walk using a prosthetic limb than with a standard one full of blood”.
I wouldn’t be surprised though if that was close to the mark, as it certainly does take much more energy to simply walk around on one of these things than it did while I was still bipedal.
I never danced much before the amputation so it would be hard for me to judge the difference in energy used for that but to be honest, when I’m tearing up the dance floor to “Footloose” it’s not the kind of think I think about anyway.
Would you consider loading it with gadgets and making some kind of Swiss army leg?
Continuing on with the theme of the first question and my excitement for technological advancements, when the day comes where I can convert my prosthesis to a Swiss Army Leg, I will jump at the chance.
I’m talking loading it up with bottle openers, fish scalers (for some reason), screwdrivers that don’t fit any normal screws and of course, a pair of scissors that couldn’t cut through a wet paper bag.
If you have any burning questions of your own, drop them down in the comments and keep an eye out for the answers in future posts…