It was time to meet the prosthetist, the leg guy, as I would later come to call him. I had no idea of what would be involved with that. How long would it take? How does one go about making legs? I was hoping I’d be given answers.
Everything here, at the hospital, was about waiting. Wait for the next surgery. Wait for the doctor to come see me. Wait to heal. Wait until I’m told what to do next. I couldn’t will anything to happen faster. I couldn’t make anything go. I was at the mercy of my body. Even my resourceful doctors were following my body’s lead. We were all waiting. If one could hone the skill of survival it was going to be me. I could do very little besides read a chapter of a book or watch television, so survival was going to be my craft and I was getting good at it.
Later that day, David, my prosthetist, entered my room to discuss fitting me for prosthetic legs. He had thin white hair, glasses, wore a short-sleeved plaid shirt and he carried an over-sized briefcase. I guessed he was in his fifties. He was nice, cheerful. I wasn’t sure what time it was, but I knew it had to be late and was wondering why it took him so long to get here. I found out it was actually early afternoon. My morphine messed with my days or maybe it was each day running into the next that messed with keeping track of time. This discussion of my legs was a step forward, one of many, getting me that much closer to what I wanted and I was anxious to begin the process. Acquiring legs was the key to getting my life back, to returning to the world I knew. I might not be the same in it, but I ached for normal and I knew this is what it would take to achieve that. I had to walk.
David was talking about casting me. This was going to be interesting. That was the word he used to explain the open wounds on my legs. An interesting problem. Would it be worth it to put all of this plaster on me maybe damaging my skin further? And it would hurt. But everything hurt. I had become hyper sensitive. Even running water on my skin at this point caused me pain. It was like my body had enough. I had been in the burn unit for months and my body needed space. It was crying out for it to be left alone.
I couldn’t imagine a job like his. Dealing with people with missing limbs. Meeting them under trauma and having to maneuver yourself and each situation so carefully. I may have been one out of a hundred but he was still tactful, still sensitive. This wasn’t new for him, but this was completely new for me. With care and forthrightness he explained how the process worked.
He had some problem solving to do. He would have to return another day to cast.
He saw me again about a week later. He handed me these thick squishy liners that looked like super sized rubbery socks or giant condoms….they were comical. They bent in half when holding them. I would roll these over my legs. Well, I wouldn’t. I didn’t have the strength yet to do it. I could barely bend my body far enough to reach my legs. David would have help from the burn unit’s resident physiotherapist, Gail. He would then spread plaster over the liners, wait until it hardened, then slide it off of my legs creating shells which David and his team at the lab would then use to build me prosthetic legs.
It was my official introduction to an amputee’s world. One where I learned words like liners, sleeves, pylons, titanium and how that was relevant to me. Prosthetic instead of artificial or peg leg. There was a lot to take in, a lot to accept. When being handed unfamiliar words with thick squishy liners I realized how very permanent all of this was.
Stump was a word I could not get used to. Although my prosthetist didn’t use the term many people did. Instead of legs or arms or limbs it was stumps. Which, for me, brought up words like hacked and dead and rotting. Not images I wanted to associate with me. I already had burnt, scarred, MRSA positive, amputee on the growing list of things that had gone desperately wrong. The last thing I wanted to do was to refer to my legs as stumps. They deserved more dignity than that. I deserved more dignity than that. Stumps was like the spoiled cherry on a gone sour, curdling sundae. I had legs. Legs, which still had some ability. They had feeling and bent at the knee. They were a part of me. I never uttered the word stump. Stump was a dirty word.
To be continued…..
Consider this part one of two