From the very first time amputating my leg became even a remote possibility, I assumed I would get a prosthetic leg that resembled most I had seen. There would be a top part that was made of some sort of plastic/fiberglass material, attached to a pipe that was then attached to a plastic foot. It would all be exposed, no hiding that I had a prosthetic leg. It never occurred to me that I would have a Styrofoam covering made in the shape of a lower leg with, as my kids say, pantyhose on it concealing the mechanics of the prosthetic. So when my prosthetist said “you will want a cover so it looks real, right,” I wasn’t sure how to respond.
I really didn’t want a cover to make it look real; that is not who I am and it doesn’t represent how I have handled my journey with disability or the amputation. In a sense the prosthetic is my battle scar – it represents my strength and determination to overcome and not let losing a leg destroy me. Therefore if I am going to have a cover, it needs to reflect who I am, a statement of how I handled my adversity, not the form of “pantyhose over a foam leg”.
I guess I, once again, don’t think like most, as my prosthetist was pretty insistent that I have the cover, in fact his reaction to my saying I didn’t want it was one of confusion and disbelief. He was so determined that I should have the cover that he wasn’t going to accept no for an answer. So I said “fine, if the insurance pays for it I will take it, but I am not willing to pay for one myself.” The whole time I was thinking, ‘I am just going to remove it.’ I had no idea how bad it would look or that the only way I could remove it myself was with a knife.
When he entered the room holding the finished leg, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The leg literally looked as if he had gone to a department store display and ripped the lower leg off of a mannequin and then put pantyhose over it. Yes, it really was covered with three layers of knee-high nylons. Honestly, my first thought was that there is no way I can wear that. Upon getting home and showing my kids the leg the first thing they said was “why does it look so fake? Why does it have pantyhose on it? It doesn’t even match your other hairy leg (if he wanted to match my other leg he should have covered it in fur.), we never saw anyone with a prosthetic leg that looks like that.” I had to agree with everything they said and went to work attempting to remove the ridiculous cover. That’s when I realized that I would basically have to take the foot off to remove it.
My prosthetist had followed me out to my car and his parting words on delivery day were “at least now you will look and feel normal.” He works with amputees every day, so this makes me think that he has learned that they are concerned about the leg looking real. I understand that but it is not who I am and is not the statement or lesson I want my circumstance to teach. The following excerpts are from an oral presentation my nineteen-year-old daughter wrote for a college class.
“I saw my father struggle for six years with an ankle that just wouldn’t cooperate.”
“I’ve learned a lot from my father when it comes to his disability. It has taught me that the disabled are just like everyone else.I always thought that, but it really struck home when someone I loved and respected so much became disabled.”
“My father is still the same man he was when he had two legs, so why should he be treated differently? “
“My father taught me that just because you are having a problem it should not make you depressed or take over and ruin your life.”
“He has turned his tragic story into a way to reach out and help others and in return benefit himself. I cannot imagine being in the position my father is in, I feel like it would destroy my happiness. I am amazed by what my father has done.”
This is what it is all about, this is exactly what I wanted my kids to see and learn from me. These are the statements I want to portray when people see and interact with me, so why would I try to conceal the prosthetic leg with a couple layers of pantyhose?
In the end I am the one who has to wear the prosthetic leg and I just could never wear it the way it looked with a pair of shorts. At my two week follow-up appointment I asked my prosthetist to do me a huge favor and remove the cover. In the meantime I had some custom socket/sleeve cover made. I believe this better represents my journey.
If you have to use a prosthetic leg you might as well have fun with it!
(Okay, faux wood, but at least it’s fun!)
Anyone who knows me knows that I laugh, joke and am very open to talking about my leg or lack of. They also know I wouldn’t faux paint plywood on the front of my house to look like brick, so why would I wear a prosthetic with faux skin?
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