Two tubes of cream, a couple extra socks and several sheets of paper towels. “Don’t leave home without it.” The messy side of wearing a prosthesis.
No complaints, the prosthetic has certainly improved my life. I can’t deny that being able to walk around with it is an incredible thing. It all looks good to the onlookers and most people react like all my problems are over when seeing me walk. And with my pant leg down, others have quickly forgotten I am an amputee. Yet what they don’t realize is what goes on behind the scenes just for a leg amputee to walk.
The leg itself is easy to slip on – it’s the liner that requires the messy work.
My liner is a custom state-of-the-art liner made by Ottobock. It was made just for me using a cast of my stump. Once on, it fits like a second skin and is quite comfortable for what it is. However, problems can creep up, and if you don’t follow the necessary protocol, things can go downhill very quickly.
Donning the liner involves the following steps:
Step 1. Apply cream to stump liberally. Without the cream the skin will get abrasions.
Step 2. Turn the liner inside out.
Step 3. Squirt cream down into the liner while still inside out (outside is the inside at this point). Then manipulate the liner so the entire outside is covered. Liner against liner creates too much friction to allow the liner to roll on without using the cream as lubricant.
Step 4. Position the end of the liner on the end of the stump, with the blue dots lined up with the tibia on the front of stump.
Step 5. Roll the liner onto stump.
Step 6. Then use a towel to clean off the cream on the outsideof the liner.
Step 7. Add sock/socks and always carry an extra sock with you. The stump volume can shrink as you go through the day.
By the time the leg is on I have used two different creams. The quality one that Ottobock recommends goes between skin and liner, so I don’t want to mess around with a cheaper substitute. For the cream that is used as a lubricant on the outside of the liner, I find the most inexpensive cream I can, so I don’t waste the good stuff. I have used three or four sheets of paper towels to clean up the cream and ultimately end up with cream on my clothing or the surrounding furniture. Yes, my wife has learned where to stock up on the cheapest paper towels. They don’t need to absorb, as they are only used to wipe off the cream from the outside of the liner. I’ve successfully used toilet paper in the men’s room.
The following stories are two examples of my behind-the-scenes liner troubles.
Flatulence sounds during the meeting
One morning while in a meeting, I could feel air bubbles creeping up my stump between my skin and the prosthetic liner. I didn’t think much about it as this is a common thing. It was when I got up and took a couple steps to help my boss with the computer that things got awkward. Each time I put weight down air was dispersed from the liner, making a loud flatulence sound. To avoid further humiliation I sort of hopped back to my seat, not bearing weight down on the prosthetic. As soon as the meeting ended and the room cleared, I made my way to my desk, grabbed my tubes of cream and an extra sock, then made a beeline towards the men’s room. Each step of the way I could feel the air bubbling in the liner as it was being expelled, transmitting farting sounds. Entering the men’s room I grabbed three or four paper towels and headed for the nearest stall. I was now sitting on the toilet with my pants down around my ankles, as I can’t access the leg with pants on, removing my leg. After ascertaining that the liner was no longer on properly, I roll it off the stump while the warm milky liquid (sweat/cream mixture) pours out onto the paper towel I have placed on the floor to catch the mess. I now need to get this slimy, sticky, grossly-warm liner back onto the stump. Honestly, the warm combination of sweat and cream is repulsive even for me to touch. I pull the tube of cream from my pocket and squirt some down in the liner. Next I place the liner in position and attempt to roll it onto my stump. This is like trying to catch a greased pig. My hands are slimy and the part of the liner I have to touch is gloopy, so this is no easy task. Finally, when the liner is correctly placed, I take a few more paper towels to wipe the cream off the outside of the liner. I then don the prosthetic sock and place my stump down into the socket of the leg. After the sleeve is pulled up, I pull my pants up, buckle up my belt and exit the stall. As I emerge from the stall any other man in the men’s room assumes I was just doing my business. They hadn’t a clue I’d just spent ten minutes perched on a toilet making leg adjustments just so I could walk.
Sloshing through the gym
Now that I have my definitive leg and it is comfortable for activity beyond walking, I have branched out by taking some new classes at the gym. The two classes I have taken up are Boxing Boot Camp and Strike. Both of these classes combine boxing with bodyweight exercises. The classes are pretty intense and the sweat that comes off my body could solve the California drought. Strike involves going through a series of stations. Each station lasts for thirty seconds and alternates boxing moves and bodyweight exercises on the floor. So for a half hour I am up and down, up and down, up and down with a 20-second rest here and there. When the class is over I look as if I have been standing in the rain. As I leave the room dripping in sweat, I feel my stump slipping in the liner. With each step it feels as if I have a rubber boot on that is filled with a couple inches of water. All the way to the locker room I am gingerly walking, sloshing in the liner with every step. Panicked that the slipping will cause blisters, I didn’t want to wait until I got home to fix the problem. I am also without my tubes of cream, causing me fear that if I took the liner off, I would not get it back on. I would then be hopping on one leg all the way to my car. So I sat on a bench in the locker room, took off the leg, and saw that the liner had slipped down about two inches. Without cream or paper towels available (hand blowers), I did the best I could to remedy the situation. I took my hands and pressed against the liner, moving from the bottom to the top. This acted as a squeegee, pushing the moisture up out of the liner while moving it back into place. I managed to get it fixed enough to don the leg again and get home. We won’t talk about the puddles left on the locker room carpet. I departed the locker room and no one in the gym had any idea of the dilemma I’d spent ten fifteen minutes creatively resolving just to walk.
I have no complaints; in fact, when I tell these stories I punch them up and use expression to make them entertaining. I also understand that when people see me walking, what looks to be natural and with the prosthetic covered by my pant leg, it is easy to forget. What never ceases to amuse me are the comments and reactions I’ve received from people that make it seem like a “miracle” has occurred and the leg has grown back.
The advancements in prosthetics have certainly changed my life, but having a prosthetic leg is not a luxury. It is a necessary tool we use so we can walk just like everyone else. The prosthetic doesn’t create the “miracle” – your attitude does.
It’s all good as long as I don’t leave home without my two tubes of cream, a couple of extra socks and several sheets of paper towels.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to find the humor in your life dilemmas!
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