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Life With an Artificial Leg

Updated on December 15, 2017
Blond Logic profile image

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

Handling a Red Tailed Boa
Handling a Red Tailed Boa | Source

Life as an amputee

Imagine waking every day and having to strap on an artificial leg before getting out of bed. This is what my husband does. Without the prosthetic he is handicapped, disabled, and a cripple. These are his words, not mine. The necessity of wearing a comfortable well fitting prosthetic leg is crucial to maintaining an active healthy lifestyle.

Once my husband puts on his artificial leg, he is normal again. If fact, when he is wearing long trousers, those that don't know he has an prosthetic, wouldn't guess he has one, as he walks incredibly well and always out paces me.

What Caused the Amputation

My husband has lived an active life. He has been a diver off the North Sea oil platforms, a stunt-man, and a cameraman which has taken him to some of the most remote places on the planet. He damaged his leg jumping from a gate, something he had done a dozen times. This time however, it was different. He landed incorrectly and the full weight of his body came crashing down onto his leg, resulting in a compound fracture. The surgery wasn't a success and he was left with an open wound that wouldn't heal. He was prescribed antibiotics and had the dressings changed daily. The wound still wouldn't heal. Finally he tried manuka honey on the wound. It closed the open sore but by this time, osteomyelitis (bone rot) had set in and there was nothing that could be done other than amputation. That said, the doctors wanted him to wait 2 years! Any time my husband moved he was in pain. He pressed the doctors to bring the surgery forward and in December of 2004 the leg was amputated.

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind
Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

A fascinating book, which helps not only the amputee but those living with one. When the end of the nerves are cut, the brain needs to be retrained to accept there is no longer a limb and thus not send signals or phantom pain.


Living with Phantom Pain

The sensation that you still have a part of your body after it has been surgically removed, is called phantom pain. For my husband, following the surgery, he had the sensation that his toes were cramping although they were no longer there. This is a big problem for some amputees which can affect their quality of life.

Before my husband's amputation, I bought him the book by Dr Ramachandran. He is a neurologist living in California and has led groundbreaking research into how the brain reacts to stimuli. The books and videos he writes don't just deal with problems for amputees but also for people who have problems assimilating information correctly. This could be due to a stroke or other problems which affect the brain. I believe after reading the book, my husband was prepared for what might happen but didn't worry about it.

Now, several years on, he still has the occasional twinge but by and large, the phantom pain has subsided.

Carp fishing
Carp fishing | Source

Preparing a Prosthetic for the Tropics

Living in the tropics with a prosthetic has caused unforeseen problems for various reasons. The sand has eaten away rubber parts and has increased the deterioration rate of the silicone socks.

Walking in deep sand is a problem because the heel drops down at an uncomfortable angle causing the front of the socket to cut in under the knee.

My husband now opts to wear working boots to keep the elements off the artificial foot. He also wears long trousers to ensure the socket isn't damaged due to salt, humidity, or the sun. He has taped around the foot with duct tape to seal it as well.

Because of where we live, we order items off the internet that are needed for his prosthetic leg. If suppliers don't ship to Brazil, these are then brought to us by friends traveling from Europe or America.

Recently, after three years in the tropics, the rubber covering foot had completely disintegrated. This part is needed to ensure a shoe fits correctly over the metal foot plate. My husband contacted the company who has its headquarters in the US. Because they don't have a representative in this country they sent the parts to my husband. He showed them, through photographs, which parts were damaged and that he was capable of reconstructing the foot with the new parts.

Because of the ongoing problems with his leg and prosthetic, we have decided to sell our farm. My husband is now 63 years old and feels 8 acres is too much work for him. There is a link below to details about the property.

Driving with a Prosthetic

Driving a car with a prosthetic leg was initially difficult. No ankle movement meant that lifting the foot off the accelerator involved moving the whole leg. In the UK my husband had the pedals swapped so that everything could be done with his left foot. Now, in Brazil we have two vehicles, a VW Kombi which he finds easy to drive. Our beach buggy needed a bit of modification which was just to make extra space for his right foot to rest.

Attitudes Towards Disabilities

The way some people react towards others with a disability boggles my mind. As I mentioned before, some people don't know my husband wears a prosthetic. We have walked to the front of lines and been accosted by people in the back of the line telling us not to cut in front of them. My husband then pulls up his trouser leg showing them the prosthetic and usually says, "do you want me to have the other one cut off as well?" This of course is met with a lot of averted eyes and lowered heads.

Once when we were camping, and my husband was wearing shorts, a little boy, about 8 years old, was fascinated by the artificial leg. He had no shame in looking at it, asking questions, wondering how it was all connected. He was crawling on the ground wondering how a metal pole was connected into a shoe. He asked if my husband would feel pain if he stamped on it. My husband responded, "No, it wouldn't hurt". The young boy thought my husband was 'RoboCop'.

How do you react to someone with an artificial limb?

Do you feel uneasy seeing someone with a prosthetic?

See results

As with anything in life, a person can decide how they will deal a problem. You either get on with it or you let it become a problem. Whether a person becomes an amputee through an accident, illness, or was born without limbs it will be down to that person to decide what they can and can't do.

© 2012 Mary Wickison


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    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Teaches12345,

      I think he knew he had to keep a positive attitude following the amputation. When he tried on his first prosthetic, there were parallel bars to aid him. He knew mentally that he had to think of the prosthesis as his normal leg and walk unaided. He did it much to the amazement of the therapist.

      Always a pleasure to hear from you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Your husband is amazing. What a great attitude. I love your sharing of the little boy's view. Children are so innocent and just curious. Robocop is a good tag!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Flashmakeit,

      I often look at people and think, "There but for the grace of God go I". Although he is missing half a leg, he is still young at heart and active.

      Thank you for your kind thoughts.

      Always a pleasure to hear from you.

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 5 years ago from usa

      I am glad your husband still has your love that is worth much more because in time anyone may become disable in some way.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Nell,

      The program you may be referring to could have been from Dr. Ramachandran. I know he has been on TV often. Also some of his studies have been used by others as well. I have seen some videos on Youtube about constructing a mirror box for someone who has lost a hand.

      There are so many amputees, many lost limbs in various conflicts around the world and others like your friend and my husband, just through accidents.

      Thank you for the kind words and the vote up.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, I think the way your husband has handled it is such a credit to him. My friends husband was a painter and decorator and would you believe, all he did was fall from a small stepladder, he has really damaged his foot badly and is waiting for the same thing too. I do remember seeing on a tv program about people with prosthetic legs or other limbs that when they get the phantom pain or itch it's a good idea to sit in front of a mirror so it looks like they are looking at the amputated leg, this way they 'see' the leg, and maybe scratch the other leg instead, evidently mentally this tricks the brain and makes the itch or pain go away, I have no idea if it really works but it did look like a way to ease the trouble, great hub and voted up! nell

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Lipnancy,

      You are right, kids say what they feel without constraints. If parents allowed their kids to interact with disabled, mentally handicapped or elderly people, they would develop a much broader respect and acceptance. As it is many adults feel uncomfortable around the groups I have just mentioned.

      Great to hear from you.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      You never know how people will react to a disability. But for the most part, it is all good. Kids are just curious and generally the most accepting.