A little attempt at demystifying amputation…
- Do you wear your leg at night time?
No, I take the leg off for both sleeping and showering. It wouldn’t be comfortable to sleep in it – imagine having to keep your shoes on in bed, not great.
- So what do you do if you need to get up in the night?
For the first few weeks at home I used the wheelchair, but now I either pop the leg on, or if I’m really tired/lazy/sore then I use crutches, but that’s very rare because I do everything I can to minimise the risk of having a fall and using crutches increases that risk a lot.
- Are you in pain?
Not really, no. When the socket isn’t fitting well it is uncomfortable and can put pressure on nerves leading to a bit of stabbing pain, but when it’s fitting well I don’t have any pain. Sadly it’s quite rare that it’s fitting well at the moment due to the constant changing, but that will settle down in time! I get some tingling and funny sensation at night time, or again when it’s not fitting well, but that’s about it at the moment. I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position and this could change, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying being pain free!
- What’s it like walking with a prosthetic leg?
Someone told me before surgery that it was like walking on a dead leg. That’s an awful feeling and I’m pleased to be able to tell you that it’s not like that at all (for me). It’s not like walking on stilts either, it’s very similar to walking with two real feet and when the fit is good with my suction socket, the prosthesis completely feels like part of me. When the fit is bad, it’s a lot harder to control, is much more clumpy and is kind of like walking in a painful ski boot all the time.
- What did they do with your foot?
They would have put it in the incinerator and burnt it, along with all other similar bio-waste. To be honest, I don’t really care what they did with it because I wasn’t overly attached to it…
- So you’ve got your leg, is that it?
Far from it. I’m on my third socket and I will go through many, many more legs in my lifetime. My leg has changed shape a lot already and will continue to do so, more rapidly over the next year or so but as that slows down I will have the same socket and leg for a while. At the moment, I get a new one or have alterations made to improve the fit, then it’s great for a few weeks until my leg changes enough for the fit to get bad, then it’s a harder to walk and do things for a while, then I get it changed and it’s great etc.
- How does it stay on?
My current leg is held on by suction. First, I put on a liner, then however many socks I need, then the leg goes into the socket and I roll a sleeve up over the top. Any air inside is expelled through a valve, creating a vacuum that holds it on very securely.
- Are you going to be in the paralympics?
Unlikely. Like the olympics, you have to be very, very good at your sport to compete in the paralympics – the best in the country in fact. I cycle, ski, swim, ride etc. and am alright at all of those things, but a long way from the best in the country. So if you ask me if I’m going to be in the paralympics, don’t be suprised if I ask you right back if you’re going to be in the olympics.
- Do you get it all on the NHS?
So far, yes. It’s complicated though and I’m still not entirely sure how it works. I think you’re entitled to two legs on the NHS, which I already have because I needed the spare because I’m abroad a lot. For now, that was a ski leg but that will be scrapped soon and turned into a leg that I can do other things with for the rest of the year, like wear different types of shoes and ride. Hopefully I will have something that works for skiing again next winter.
- Do you get offended by people asking questions?
Not in the slightest. I would much rather people ask questions than sit quietly and wonder or assume things. It’s weird when people don’t ask questions to be honest because it’s only human nature to do so. (Unless you don’t care, then that’s fair enough… don’t ask.) Take a child, they wouldn’t hesitate to ask all about it and ask to see it, so neither should adults (but if I’ve got jeans on you probably can’t see it – it takes a lot of effort to peel them off).
I’m not defined by it, but I can’t escape the fact that it is a big part of my life, so if you are interested then please do ask. In my eyes, the more you learn the better. This could happen to anyone – someone you work with, someone you love or even you. I would have wasted an opportunity if that happened and you looked back and thought, yeah I knew someone who’d had a foot amputated, she seemed okay, but I didn’t really know anything about it. Instead, I want you to be able to look back and remember that it wasn’t the end of the world. Far from it. Remember that I did this and that, had problems here and there, but overcame them. I thrived. I hope that from knowing my story, if you come across that person one day you will treat them differently to how you would have otherwise. You won’t pity them or feel sorry for them. You will help them aim high and rebuild their life. Whoever they are to you – your child, your friend, your casual acquaintance; you can help them heal more than you could ever imagine by having the right attitude. One person can change someone’s entire perspective on a situation. I’m not belittling amputation in any way, it’s an awful thing to happen and I wouldn’t wish the suffering on anyone, but far worse things have happened and in the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t that bad.