August 7, 2019
Since my last update a lot has happened in my life. I now have my prosthetic leg, and I’m steadily better at walking with it. I first got it to take home July 2nd, and was so excited to walk. The sense of freedom of movement with 2 legs is empowering, compared to just my crutches or the wheelchair. All of a sudden I could carry things in my hands – like a plate of food! With my leg on I can feel useful again. I was able to load some Red Cross items that I no longer needed into the van all by myself – which I certainly couldn’t have done before.
Once I got my leg, I could certainly see how my hard work at physio paid off. We did a lot of core and stump strengthening exercises, and this meant I could walk pretty well the first time with the leg on. Walking with the leg showed I have a lot of learning and strengthening to do to walk without a crutch, a curved spine or a limp. Right now when we take the crutch away I dip very pronounced to the right to attempt to stabilize myself. I can do a few strides and not dip too much if I really press the end of my femur against the edge of the socket and lock down my inner core muscles to stabilize my pelvis, but it is exhausting.
The main challenge so far is keeping the leg on. What is happening is my stump is shaped like a cone, and so is the liner that I roll onto it. With my skin graft stuck to the underlying muscle it is not free moving like regular skin that has a layer of fat under it. This means that around the edges of the skin graft as I flex there are large creases that allow air to come into the liner. Once air gets in then the liner falls off and my leg falls off. We have been working a ton at loosening up this stuck skin, but it will take a while still. I am also struggling with blisters at the junction of my skin graft to my old skin. I guess this is to be expected and is part of the process; it just means it will take me a while to be able to wear the prosthetic consistently. Right now I am wearing it about 1hr 3 times a day.
I am going into Calgary once a week for the amputee physio class, which is great as I am working with physios who work with amputees on a regular basis. I also see the prosthetist once a week for fittings or adjustments. Back in Canmore I do physio twice a week at the local hospital, and then twice a week with Cindy to loosen up my scar tissue. And of course Catherine keeps me in line daily with twice a day walks and lots of strengthening exercises! She also carries my leg home for me when it falls off. Or we randomly visit a neighbor and I put my liner back on and then my leg back on.
Other exciting things, I won the “Young Professionals Award” at McElhanney for my work developing our trail building team and business. This occurred at a dinner with around 100 people and I got a standing ovation, which really meant a lot to me.
I recently did an interview with CTV about the Ha Ling trail reconstruction. For it I walked up the trail with my prosthetic about 500m, which was actually quite an accomplishment as I find walking up steep hills a real challenge as I am always landing on a flat foot and it is hard to get the knee to lift very high. https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/sneak-peak-overhaul-of-ha-ling-trail-makes-route-safer-for-hikers-1.4525376
Perhaps the most excitement was on Monday I got flown to the saddle of Ha Ling because the contractor needed to fly materials around on the mountain and had space to fly us up. It was awesome to be up in the sky and then land perched on the narrow cliff with the helicopter still going. Getting out was a bit awkward to get my leg and stump onto the helicopter skid and then onto the ground. From there it was manageable. I didn’t take my prosthetic as I was fighting with a blister, so I crutched down wherever I could. There were a few spots that were too steep or loose rock over bedrock slab where I gave my crutches to my coworkers with me and I lowered myself while on my bum. It was awesome to see all the work that Jeff and Brady and their crews have completed on the mountain. There are cable ladders based off my dad’s design from NB and lots of stone steps. They blasted the trail right into the bedrock side slope where people were not able to get footing and had stripped all the vegetation off of massive expanses of the mountain. Part way down I met Adam and Catherine who had brought up wheeled transportation for me to coast down on, which was a thankful reprieve as my arms and one leg were getting pretty tired!
I did try my prosthetic with my bike, which was a miserable failure. I think a combination of the knee angle, the socket coming so far up that it hits my torso, and my flexibility inhibit me from being able to make a pedal revolution. So I continue to pedal with one leg and my stump protector.
I have also been rock climbing at the gym, where we made coverall straps for the stump protector to hold it on, and I put a bike tire on the outside of the stump protector to give it grip. I can now use my stump quite a bit to smear the wall or take weight off while I bring my other foot up. It’s been really fun and quite challenging, I even made it up a 5.10B route with one mess-up!
I’d like to thank all the physiotherapists, doctors, prosthetists and healthcare workers for their help. All the neighbors and friends who have helped me one way or another like dropping off food or, letting me use their place to put my leg back on! Also to all the people who donated – I have been very touched by your generosity – thank you.
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