Who knew there would be so many tools and gadgets needed for an above-knee amputee?! It was certainly an eye-opener for me, who thought of the bionic leg and a wheelchair, but not much else. Turns out there are quite a few more, including walker, rollator, fore-arm crutch, transfer bench, grab bar and reacher.
This is the contraption that enables me to walk again, comprising a plastic socket for the stump, a neoprene harness around my hips to hold it up and a titanium knee and lower leg plus foot. The whole thing weighs about 7 pounds. I call mine Pegasus I, as in the ‘winged chariot’, because it’s the closest I can come to full mobility (my car has been demoted to Pegasus II). The knee has two positions: straight and bent. When it’s straight I can put my full weight on the leg, but when it’s bent – for taking a step forward – it just buckles under me if I try to put weight on it. I’m hoping eventually to get a suction socket (and get rid of the harness, which is a b*** nuisance in hot weather).
I have two wheelchairs, one a lightweight folding transport chair which has to be pushed by someone else, used for short trips to and from hospital, doctor’s office, etc., but more often nowadays I use the rollator where possible. The other is a heavier, custom-fit self-propelling model with a soft cushion, also folding, on which I tootle around the house from room to room – except the bathroom (see below). Of course it is my only way to get around when I remove the bionic leg at night.
The door to our bathroom is not quite wide enough for the wheelchair to go through, so I park it in the corridor and transfer to the walker to get into the bathroom. This version has 4 legs, the front two with wheels for mobility and the back two straight for stability – simple but effective for hopping safely on my one good leg.
The Ferrari of walkers, this ingenious device is my life-saver. It has 4 wheels, brakes (vital!) with a seat, and can be folded for storage in a car trunk (see my blog on driving). I use it as often as possible to practice walking, so whenever I need a rest I can literally take the weight off my feet by sitting down.
Better and safer than an under-arm crutch, the fore-arm crutch is my tool for the next stage towards independent walking. So far I can use it around the house where the walls are usually within reach in case the knee buckles, but it is absolutely essential for climbing up and down stairs, as long as there is a railing on one side.
We discovered our walk-in shower is not walk-in at all, as it has a six-inch rim to step over! Fine if you’re on two legs, but too dangerous to hop over on one leg. So we now have a transfer bench: it’s in two parts, one that I sit on, swing my legs round and slide onto the main seat inside the shower. Then I detach the outer bench, close the doors and have my shower, reversing the process when I’m finished.
Also in the shower, we have a grab bar on the wall for balance safety when I’m soaping up and drying off my good foot. It is detachable so we take it with us when travelling, for the same purpose. It can be used on the wall beside a toilet too, although we have a special raised toilet seat with arms which is perfectly adequate for safety.
A reacher is like an extension for the arm, indispensable for getting things up from the floor or down off a top shelf, hopefully without bringing everything else on the shelf down too (been there, done that). Mine has a magnet on the tip, great for picking up dropped coins.
Next time I’ll describe some of the challenges of managing around the house…