For the past six weeks I’ve been working in Sardinia, which has thrown up a whole variety of new challenges. A few of them were things I’d thought a bit about pre-amputation – being away from my prosthetist for any period of time, coping with a very active job, swimming etc., but some of the issues that have arisen are things I had never considered – when I don’t drain my foot out properly after being in water, the trainer on my prosthetic foot gets damp and always stinks, requiring washing all the time. I never imagined that a prosthetic foot could make a shoe smell worse than a real foot…
One big issue is that walking around barefoot on beaches all the time led to the footshell having a hole in it which seemed to make it really slippery. Everything then becomes slightly more precarious. This was replaced when I was fortunate enough to be able to get home for a weekend, but the constant sand and salt water in the foot has damaged the screws, which are apparently very close to giving way.
Out here, my job has involved sailing with children in the morning, then doing other water sports in the afternoons. After the first morning in a boat my sleeve had been cut straight through both the inner gaiter bit and the outer bit. New big holes in the sleeve (alongside a few other holes that were already there) completely destroyed the the waterproof ability of it. Whilst everything being soaked through isn’t the end of the world, the suction doesn’t hold so my leg moves around slightly in the socket, making it really uncomfortable and this generally happens pretty early on in the day, so I am stuck with it for the rest of the day. I didn’t expect this to be a problem because even if the leg stopped being waterproof, because I thought I would always have an endless supply of dry socks, but actually I’ve moved from wearing two or three socks to wearing 8 or 9 at the moment and a few have been binned, so I only ever have a few dry spare ones. Lesson: Bring lots and lots of socks.
Having my leg stuck in a gel liner, loads of socks and then a socket means that my leg gets hot anyway. The temperature here is generally between 29 and 35 degrees which doesn’t help matters at all. Running is very tough in the heat and sweating leads to more rubbing, then after about 20 minutes it feels like it’s moving all over the place. I haven’t done any more than 30 mins out here, even late at night when it’s dark and cooler because I needed a new socket before I came out, but the new one didn’t fit well so I’ve been using my two older ones. So the not fitting great combined with the heat has made it tricky.
Another massive issue is that the pink part of the top of the socket on my water leg is fading in the sun. Gutted. Similarly the new foot shell on my foot is much paler than the old one and my other foot… I get a lot of grief about it.
Working long hours in an active job mean that there isn’t really any time where my leg is off – I regularly leave the apartment at 8.30am and get back at 11pm. This means that sore bits/blisters etc. don’t really have any time to heal. However, luckily we live 5 mins from the sea in paradise so we swim pretty much every day. (Despite there being a shark sighting a few days ago at the beach where we sail with the kids…) I think that swimming in salt water has saved my skin from total destruction – even after not swimming for two days I can see a difference in my skin on my leg, but it does dry is out so keeping it moisturised has become a thing when I never bothered before.
I’ve done a few triathlons and enjoyed them a lot, so have been slowly trying to build up my fitness out here and have dragged the others in the team out for swims and runs. I was planning on doing Triforlife, a triathlon at Woburn Abbey when I got back, but we decided that it would be good to have something to work towards so I roped a few others in and we are doing it as a relay with some other friends getting involved too. Out of the 9 of us, I think only two or three have done anything triathlon related before so it’s really cool to see others getting involved! Both of the charities that the triathlon raises money for are very close to my heart – Great Ormond Street hospital, where I spent a lot of time as a child, and Rays of Sunshine, that helps seriously ill children. To anyone reading this as an amputee or with a disability and wanting to give something like triathlon a go, I would thoroughly recommend the Human Race events – the support and assistance I got at a previous one was on a par with the Arctic ONE paratri, which is specifically set up to deal with people with disabilities. There is still space at Triforlife, so if you’re reading this and are keen to sign up, do it!!
Here is a snap of Team Sards about to go for a run for a bit of encouragement…