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 can 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.
How do you drive with one leg?
I’m surprised that I haven’t answered this question in a previous one of these posts as it is possibly the one I am asked most often.
There is nothing particularly exciting about it I’m afraid. I drive a regular automatic car but bring my left foot across to work the pedals, the same way most people use their right.
When I first started learning there was an option to have an adapted vehicle with the accelerator pedal flipped over to the left side. I decided against that, preferring to be able to drive an unaltered automatic. Amongst other reasons, it meant that if I wanted to go travelling in the future, hiring cars would be much easier.
As for my prosthetic leg, if the trip is a short one then I keep it on, pushed to the right side of the footwell. If the journey is going to be on the longer side, I’ll remove it and lay the leg across the back seats.
If you needed to defend yourself, would you be able to kick effectively?
I am answering this from the point of view of having an above knee amputation.
I can’t say this is something I have much experience in but from the way the leg works my immediate answer would not really, at least not with the prosthetic leg.
There is very little power in the forward motion of one of these legs. They are either swinging with the help of very small motors, a hydraulic system or sometimes, the power of gravity.
Getting them to swing forwards in a kicking motion can be done with a very well practised flick of the stump but in reality this is not going to be as powerful as a leg full of muscles driving the movement.
However, you must consider that this is not a leg of flesh and blood but rather, a solid piece of metal being swung around.
My guess is that, even with less power than a regular kick, it wouldn’t be something you’d want connecting with anything important.
Are there any feet that have movable toes?
I don’t think so, perhaps somewhere out there there is a prototype with that function but as for what’s currently on the market, I do not believe such a leg exists.
I also can’t imagine that it is something people are spending too much time working on. In contrast to movable fingers on prosthetic hands, there isn’t much reason to create a foot with moving toes.
The designs we have got for feet are very good at doing their job and most work will be going into improving on that, rather than adding features that to be perfectly honest sound more likely to hinder an amputees walking ability than help it.
It isn’t something I’ve ever really considered, most of my focus goes towards the types of knees and ankles that are available.
Are there any that have sound effects such as a transformers noise or a laser gun sound?
The one I use right now has very small motors in it that you can occasionally hear whizzing away as I’m walking, although the sound is very quiet so you’d have to listen out for it.
It also beeps loudly to tell me when the battery is low. Fortunately, it does have a quiet “cinema setting” which made it much more relaxing when I went to view the new Barbie movie a couple of days ago.
There are some robotic legs out there which I am told make quite some noise when they are being used but those aren’t very common at the moment.
As for other sound effects, I tend to need to rely on my own vocal skills. Though I’m not sure how convincing a Terminator I make when walking around whispering “Wzzzt” every time my leg swings.
Have you ever used it to drink from?
I have not.
My friend however, is another story.
Back in the early years of my twenties, I was attending a Eurovision party at my friends house, something that had become a yearly tradition. One of the party-goers suggested playing a drinking game, but instead of using a glass for the “dirty pint”, we should use the socket of my prosthetic leg.
We all thought that was a fantastic idea and set about playing the game. My friend was particularly proud of himself until, of course, he ended up being the first one to drink out of the leg.
Upon seeing his reaction, the rest of us decided it wasn’t such a good idea after all and moved back to using a regular old glass.
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…