Exploring the Ups and Downs of Falling!

Here’s a story for you all! I was walking my 17-year-old dog Junior the other day and saw another dog walker fall flat on his face! Ooops! After helping him and ensuring he’s okay, I noticed that he had both of his legs! It reminded me that everyone falls, regardless of the number of their legs! Lower-extremity amputees fall just like the rest of us! It’s not a question of if, but when! So let’s explore some of the ups and downs of falling!

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Junior, my 17-year-old Maltese!

 

Well, there are several ways to prevent falls! First of all, check your work environment, your home or other places that you frequently visit for potential trip hazards. These might include small things in the floors, like the transition between tile and carpet or exposed wires. Pets. (That’s right, I’m looking at you, Junior. It’s going to be me or you.) And of course little rugs. They look great and can really “tie the room together,” but you could end up on the floor along with the rug. Also, small changes in the hardness of the sole of your shoe, such as switching from sneakers to dress shoes, in addition to increasing your height, can affect the stability of a prosthetic knee.

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Me at home with Junior!

 

So when inevitable happens and you end up falling, what can I do to limit injury to my body and damage to my prosthesis (or the floor from the prosthesis, HAHA)! Apparently, there is a good way and a bad way to fall. The bad way is to tense up and go down stiff as a board. It is not easy to relax when you see impending doom, trust me, I know. However, the good way to fall is to remain flexible, bend at the joints, and try to protect vulnerable body parts. It’s best to have multiple points of impact, like a car. Sometimes a physician will recommend falling instructions specific to you, and in that case it’s best to follow their advice! But for the rest of us, your arms can serve as a bumper, leaving your head and hips to suffer less impact.

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My most recent injury from falling. It could have been worse!

 

What to do after the fall! If anyone is nearby, they will more than likely want to help you up. This is natural. But, if you’ve dislocated a joint, or worse, improper help may make things worse. Politely inform them that their help is wanted and appreciated but it’s best to assess the situation before getting up. If your leg won’t support you, or if you’re dizzy, you could quickly be right back where you started from. Take a deep breath, and wait a minute. If there is someone waiting to help you, ask them if they see anything out of the ordinary, such as a wound or bleeding.

The moral of the story is that falls will happen (with legs, one leg or no legs!), but what you do to prevent one, how you react during the fall or what you do afterwards can be the difference between a minor and a serious injury. It’s all up to you!

Fall Hike Must-Haves For Amputees!

Since August is almost over, summer beach days, water sports, and warm weather fun are about to be just a memory until the next summer, unless you are from a warm state or country. Luckily for me, I live in Kansas City, where it’s the perfect time of the year for a hike in the great outdoors!

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Image courtesy of blanscape at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Before heading out on any hike, be sure to check with your prosthetist. You’ll want to ensure that your fit is perfect for your desired level of activity, that all components are working as they should be, and that your overall prosthesis is fit for the challenge.

What to Bring

Depending on your amputation level and interface, you will want to bring a few things along to help you with this hike experience – especially if it is your first one.

First of all, bring a friend or several to join you on your hike. A friend provides safety in numbers, as well as someone to share the scenery and the fun!

Bring a good set of adjustable hiking poles, especially for hiking in rugged terrain. These help with both balance and even assistance with creating power while ascending, and breaking while descending.

It is important to wear proper foot wear. In this case a pair of lightweight, supportive shoes is best. The bottom of the limb takes a lot of force with extreme activity. A good set of shoes can help decrease some of the shock on the body and the limb. After all, if you only have one ankle, you obviously don’t want to injure it!

Always carry good quality prosthetic socks of a couple different plies. This is a crucial element when volume management is required, especially during high activity.

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For more information about Knit-Rite soft socks, please visit our website.

 

Have a small container of chafe guard or barrier cream handy. This can be used to manage specific points of friction that may occur once temperature and sweat levels increase. Socket fit may be fine on a day-to-day basis, but hiking on uneven surfaces can create a lot of different pressure points that may not be present during normal daily activities.

Bring a small Allen wrench or any other useful tools for adjusting your prosthesis. While making your own alignment adjustments is not recommended, having the ability to tighten a bolt that may somehow have worked its way loose may be the difference between hopping and walking back from the trail.

And here is my personal favorite one – don’t forget all-time favorite fix it item: duct tape. We all know that there are 101 things duct tape can fix, and a prosthesis can be one of them! Whether it’s repairing a suspension sleeve that is torn on rocks, an unexpected broken foot or even an emergency suspension method, duct tape can get you out of a jam.

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Image courtesy of Yongkiet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Finally, remember the important things that all hikers should carry with them; such as a sturdy back pack, all important water and perhaps a nutritious snack for the trail.

Enjoy Fall season and don’t forget to safely hike and explore!

Tanya

Tips For Cleaning Your Prosthetic Gear

Having a clean liner, prosthesis and prosthetic socks is very important for many reasons, but the main reason is to avoid future infections or issues with your limb. This is especially true in the summer since lots of sweating occurs, a clean socket and socks are a must. Here are some tips on how to keep your all your prosthetic gear clean.

First of all, always clean the gel liner daily. The inside of the gel liner is in constant contact with your skin. Because of this constant contact, you’ll want to make sure your gel liner is kept clean to prevent health issues and make your liner last longer. Cleaning the liner is a simple process and can be done by following these steps:

  1. Remove the liner from the prosthesis.
  2. Spot clean the outside of the liner if needed and turn the liner inside out.
  3. Wash the gel section of the liner with anti-bacterial soap and warm water.
  4. Fully rinse the soap off of the liner and dry it with a clean cloth.
  5. Finally, turn the liner right side out and store it for future use.

Another thing to wash daily is your prosthetics socks or sheaths, just like any other sock or undergarment. Wearing a prosthesis sock or sheath for more than a day can cause the sock to quickly wear out and may pose a health risk. You’ll want to make sure that you are washing your prosthetic socks on a daily basis and are always wearing a fresh one. A few things to know – If your sock becomes soaked with perspiration, you should change it as soon as possible. Washing a sock will help keep it clean and restore it to its intended shape. Always follow washing instructions provided by the manufacturer to maximize the life of the sock and sheath.

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Although daily cleaning isn’t necessary for your socket due to not actually coming in direct contact with your skin, keeping it clean is still very important. Cleaning the socket will keep your artificial limb functioning properly and can help reduce unnecessary wear. Here are some steps to completely clean the inside of the prosthetic socket.

  1. Clean the inside socket at least once a week with soap and warm water.
  2. Lightly spray the socket with an alcohol-based cleaner and then wipe the socket dry.
  3. Make sure to keep any locking or pin mechanisms clean and free of obstructions.

Always be careful when cleaning your prosthesis. Your prosthesis may have certain parts that could be damaged, broken or otherwise ruined during a cleaning. Electrical components, mechanical devices and certain models of prosthesis can all be damaged by water or corrosive cleaning agents. Always talk with your prosthetist to learn more about how to safely clean your unique prosthesis.

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Let’s be honest, bodies stink! It doesn’t matter if you have legs or if you don’t, our daily movements generate sweat and it smells, sometimes badly! Let’s help each other by always washing our socks, cleaning our sockets and gel liners. We aren’t just helping our neighbors, but also helping to keep skin free from infection and increasing the life of our prosthetic gear! It’s a win-win!

Tanya

 

Tanya’s Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Great To Be An Amputee!

Since I’ve been an amputee my whole life, my way to cope with my disability is by joking about it a lot. Sometimes it is to make people temporarily uncomfortable . . . which is really kind of funny for me! LOL! And sometimes it is for them to realize that being an amputee can be awesome and we can all laugh about it!

10. Your missing limb is a great conversation starter. True, you may not always be part of the conversation because it usually happens behind your back, (“OMG what do you think happened to that girl over there?!”) but hey, you can take one for the team.

9. Never again do you have to have a boring Halloween costume! Well, if you do then that’s your choice. But really, there are so many possibilities! It’s a good opportunity to be creative and have fun.

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Photo courtesy of earthprom.com

 

8. Speaking of creativity, being an amputee helps fuel it. Nothing is impossible. Sometimes you just have to find different ways to accomplish a task that seems a little daunting. Most amputees have had to find creative ways to put on shoes, boots, pants, etc. at least one time in their life.

7. Who else hates to shave? I do and less of a leg means less time to spend shaving and more time being creative putting on your shoes. Yep, always trying to be more efficient.

6. Or my favorite one is… Your toes never get cold! You know, because you don’t have toes!

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5. And speaking of not having toes, you can’t stub them or have them stepped on. I’ve never had toes so I guess I’ll never feel your pain – sorry guys!

4. Another advantage? You’ll never regret a bad tattoo or an uneven tan because you can always change it. Well, at least for one part of your body. Foot-shells come in a variety of colors so you can plan ahead for a bronzed summer or not.

3. Not to mention the newest trends in unique and personalized custom prosthetic covers. The possibilities are endless which brings you back to that creativity thing.

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Photo courtesy of art4leg.com

 

2. You realize the importance of knowing yourself, on an internal and external way. There was a time that I had soup late at night and then couldn’t put my leg on the next day. Whoa! That’s how I learned foods that are high in sodium make you expand. Your limb health is totally a microcosm for your entire body’s overall health. It’s kind of neat to have that way to measure and take note of yourself!

And the number 1 reason why being an amputee is so great…

1. You learn to understand differences on a global scale. Amputation is unique because it doesn’t discriminate on race, gender, age, whatever! No amputation level is ever exactly the same as anyone else’s, so you learn to find solidarity in people, even fellow amputees, in other ways.

I know, I know . . . Now you want to join the cool people group, too, right?! It just sounds like so much fun! Well, I’m sorry to say that this is a very exclusive and permanent club. In all honesty, the perks of being a non-amputee are probably much better than the list I have of stumplet benefits. I’d say that you’re probably better off enjoying your limbs as they are. Unless you actually are an amputee, in which case, hey there . . . feel free to add to the list!

Tanya

History of Prosthetics!

Technology is moving really fast these days including technology of prosthetic limbs. But have you ever thought where the story of prosthetics first began? Recently I decided to look into the history of prosthetics and was fascinated by the background of it. ..and I thought I’d share some of my favorite parts with you all!

The earliest example of prosthesis ever discovered is not a leg or an arm, it’s actually a toe and it was found in Egypt and dated to between 950-710 B.C.E. The wooden toe belonged to a woman, with attachment straps designed for comfort. The craftsmanship was so extraordinary, the toe could even flex. The reason behind all the fuss about a little toe is because of the cultural norm in Egypt at that time was for everyone to wear open toe sandals. But ancient Egypt wasn’t the only one experimenting with prosthetics. Their neighbors to the North in Ancient Rome were also making early contributions to the history of prosthetics.

Ancient-Prosthetics

The most famous being General Marcus Sergius, who is considered to be the first documented wearer of a prosthetic limb. The General lost his right hand in the second Punic War and was given a prosthesis, fashioned from iron. The iron hand, which must have been extremely heavy, allowed him to hold his shield and continue fighting. The story of his limb loss happened very early in his military career which makes that long career very extraordinary. Later, he was twice captured by the famous Hannibal, and escaped both times.

As advancement in warfare progressed throughout the centuries, limb loss became more common and the need for better and more comfortable prosthetics arose.

In the early sixteenth century, Doctor Ambroise Pare, made significant advances in both amputation surgery, and the development of prosthetic limbs. He was the first to introduce a hinged prosthetic hand, and a leg with a locking knee joint. These amazing advancements, as well as his innovative techniques of attaching the limbs, are still common in modern prosthetics. That’s right, we are still using the locking knee joint, something developed more than 500 years ago!

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While there was some progress in the limbs themselves between the 1500s and the 1800s, the major advancements during this time were in amputation surgery. Surgical techniques developed in the mid-19th century allowed doctors to shape the residual limb in such a way that made them more receptive to the attachment of a prosthesis. The limbs weren’t much better, but life was becoming more comfortable for those wearing them.

As recently as 1946, another major game-changing advancement in prosthetics was made. Researchers at UC Berkeley developed a suction sock for lower-limb amputees. This significantly increased the mobility of the wearer and their quality of life. Before this suction sock, amputees would have to attach prosthesis with cumbersome and uncomfortable straps to keep their prosthesis on. And often, the straps didn’t hold on or even work. The suction sock technology is still in use today increasing the comfort and mobility of many amputees.

In the 1970s, an inventor and an amputee, Ysidro M. Martinez, made a huge impact on the history of prosthetics. He developed a lower-limb prosthesis that, instead of trying to replicate the motion of a natural limb, focused on improving gait and reducing friction. These much improved prostheses relieved pressure and made walking more comfortable improving the lives of many future patients.

We live in the most exciting moment in the story of prosthetics. Today, advancements are moving so rapidly. Modern materials like carbon fiber are making prosthetics both lighter and stronger. Biometrics and 3D printing are enhancing the lives of amputees and will continue to do so. The newest and most innovative limbs can even be controlled by thought and muscle, almost like a real limb. That’s simply amazing! Progress since the days of those wooden toes in Egyptian sandals has been and will no doubt continue to be astounding.

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Image courtesy of DailyMail.com.

Amputee Etiquette

Let’s be honest, when you see an amputee, there’s a lot of things going through your mind! You want to know what happened. You want to know what kind of “leg” they are wearing. Or maybe you even feel a little sorry or instead, feel empowered by them! We get it, you want to say something. Here are a few things to avoid, as well as some things to say instead.

Don’t Say:

“I don’t know what I would do if I were you!”

Honestly, you’d have two options if you were in my shoes/or in my case, my prosthesis. (Haha!)

  • Make things work and live a meaningful life
  • Or… feel sorry for yourself!
  • It’s simple! For me, I choose to enjoy my life and focus on my blessings!

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Instead, Say:

In this situation, the best thing to do is not to say anything at all, unless you know the person well. Strangers don’t know each other. We wouldn’t come up to another stranger and comment on their physical appearance!

 

Don’t Say:

“Speaking of which … “Oh my gosh, I feel so sorry for you!”

Your pity doesn’t make me feel any better. I don’t want anybody feel sorry for me, because most of the time I don’t even feel sorry for myself. Everyone has their own hardships and let’s not make this a competition.

Instead, Say:

“Hey, you are doing awesome in your life.” Again, if you don’t know the person and you wouldn’t normally make a similar comment to a stranger, don’t here either.

 

Don’t Say:

“My brother’s nephew’s sister has a niece that is cousins with a girl dating a guy that lost his leg and still runs marathons! I wonder if you know him.”

Contrary to popular belief, amputees don’t all know each other. Sorry to disappoint, but we do not have secret amputee meetings discussing how we are going to take over the world. Though we do share common experiences, we don’t all frequent the same place or do the same thing. We are all different people.

Instead, Say:

If you are trying to make that connection and you know another amputee, feel free to share their story. Most of us would love to hear the story and even connect with that person. But don’t assume if we know them already – we will let you know if we do.

 

Don’t Say:

“I know how it feels but ______.”

Empathy is very sweet and nice, but in this situation it just doesn’t have the same effect. Broken leg or an arm puts you out of commission for a couple of weeks or even months, but you must consider the fact that being an amputee requires a complete and permanent change in lifestyle. When you use statements like these, you do so with the intention of forging a bridge of common understanding. You can’t know unless you’ve actually been there! That being said, we admire your kind sensitivity to our experiences and your effort to understand! Thank you! J

Instead, Say:

Obviously, again, you are trying to develop an understanding. For example, perhaps you broke a leg. Start with, “Last year I broke my leg and it was very difficult but, I am sure it is a very different experience than what you are going through.” Invite them to share their story. You’ll probably find that although these are very different experiences, there might be some similarities.

 

Don’t Say:

“I don’t want to hear your story.”

There’s always that one person. If someone chooses to open up to you, it is because they trust you and they see something in you that allows them to feel comfortable in mindset of their vulnerability. Statements like these make it hard to open and trust.

Instead, Say:

Be considerate and listen! You never know what you will learn from us, and about yourself. Most likely, no one is going to try and make you feel uncomfortable.

 

Don’t Say:

Finally, whispering and/or starring!

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Please Note – Just because we are amputees, does not mean we are deaf or blind. While some of us may very well be visually and/or hearing impaired, the rest of us see and hear you quite well. Your pointing, long stares, awkward glances….all that. WE SEE YOU! In addition, we hear you. It’s not like you’re good whisperers anyway. When you think you’re subtly gesturing to your friends to look our way, know that we’ve probably already seen and heard your breathy “whispers”.

Instead, Say:

Trust and believe that we want nothing more than for you to simply ask when you have questions instead of assuming or making obvious awkward glances. Shoot one of us a friendly smile or just ask. It will make a big difference.

Tanya

Things to Know About Dating an Amputee

Relationships are for everyone. But when it comes to amputees, there are a few things we should know that will help move relationships along to bigger things – like love!

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Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Patience

Patience is a huge factor in any relationship, but especially if you are dating an amputee. Most of the time, it takes a little longer to get ready. Putting on prosthetic legs and putting pants or shoes on those legs all takes time! Be patient!

Doctors’ appointments

When it comes to amputation, lots of different doctor’s appointments will be in the future. Prosthetics, physical therapy, psychologists, general doctors. Life is scheduled around appointments because it is all part of the journey to get walking again. Be supportive, offer to accompany the person you are dating to any of their appointments.

People stare all the time

Children stare. Adults stare. It is something out of the ordinary to see someone coming through the street with no legs. Or robot legs. There are people who will come up to you on the street and say things like, God bless you, or anything along those lines. We know they mean well, but all it does is draw more attention to the disability. Some people ask questions nicely and out of pure curiosity. Some people point and stare and laugh. Amputations are not contagious and just because someone is different does not make them bad or less of a person. Everybody is a little different, but some differences are clearly more prominent than others. Try not to let it bother you and follow the lead of the person you are dating. They’ll know when to react and when not to!

You’ll get your feet stepped on all the time

Another major challenge to dating an amputee is the amount of times he/she does not know where their prosthetic feet are. Normally, it’s because they can wind up stepping on your foot and ouch, it can hurt!!! Be prepared and watch your feet. LOL!

Focus on the person, not the disability

Amputees are funny, they can get mad, they cook, they can be loving, play sports, they can cry and can go shopping. Once you start to focus on how much they live a normal life, you forget about their disability. Think of that person as the person you are dating, not the amputee you are dating.

 

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Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy Dating and we hope Cupid’s Arrow hits you! ❤

Tanya