Progress for an amputee is measured in two ways. First in the growing realization that learning to live with a prosthesis is going to be a challenge combined with an eagerness to do what it takes to meet that challenge. If there is no realization of the severity of the challenge it will never be embraced. But if the challenge is not enthusiastically embraced it will never be met. My therapists have often reminded me that somewhere near a majority of people who take the trouble and cost to get a prosthesis never use it except for standing up off a wheelchair so they can immediately sit down somewhere else.
The second way progress is measured is by improvement in balance, strength, and gait. This, obviously, is the direct result of a decision to face and embrace the prosthetic challenge but it’s more than that. For me, progress has been most clearly measured in my graduation from wheelchair to walker to a four-pronged cane and now to a simple single pronged cane. The exciting thing about my new cane is that with it I can move with normal fluidity and speed on any surface. No one has to wait for me to catch up and some folks have to labor to keep up. The hydraulics in my heel combined with my cane give me a terrific boost. For example, on a downslope, my mechanical heel gives me s strong push forward onto the cane while my other leg catches up. Going upslope my hydraulics give me a definite edge since they receive my weight and then push me forward onto the cane which grabs whatever surface I’m walking on giving a boost to the other leg as it comes up. I’ve never been a fast walker but with a prosthesis and cane, my motion is probably more efficient than it’s ever been.
I still have a ways to go. My balance needs work and I’m always focused on getting stronger, but progress is being made. There were many long weeks when I didn’t think that would happen. Oh, I have dreamed of doing this, but part of me feared that it was only a dream. However, my core attitude was different and it’s still seeing me through. I recently expressed this to my therapist after an especially grueling session. She was wondering if I needed to stop.
“No way,” I said, “I came here to work!”