Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Taller than yesterday

This week I had an appointment with my prosthetist to make a couple of subtle adjustments on my left leg. Tom made me this socket in October but my winter was physically difficult. Too many missteps, falls and strains. My remaining original-equipment knee was perennially achy. The insurance overlords denied me a new brace. 

But this summer of a spring must be helping, because I feel that old eager-to-move energy. And my leg just isn't keeping up. I took a look at the way the angle the knee is attached (hydraulic one, that is) and remembered that Tom set it so as to give me the most stability. I walked on my dirt driveway and thought about my stride: definitely choppy in a subtle way. I could feel my leg wanting to reach. And the height of the leg felt...short.

Tom is my third prosthetist, which is what happens when you are an above-knee amputee and former horse trainer too focused on proper way-of-going and hoof health. Now that I'm the horse, I do my best to spell it out until I say, That's great.

All my leg-makers have said, But you're hips aren't even. You're low on the left.

True. I spent thirty years walking with my left leg fused solid at an angle slightly more open than ninety degrees. (Try the play-at-home game. Bend your knee. Now walk. Think about thirty years of this. My kids and their friends attempt to mimic it. It's entertaining, even more so when adults try.) So although my chiropractor got my back straight within eighteen months of my amputation, psychologically I've always felt off balance when my hips are level.

But lately I've felt short on that side. Part of it is the stretching and massage work; part is my ailing right leg screaming at my mechanical leg to cowboy up and pull its own weight already. And maybe it's time to be taller and straighter.

So after Tom adjusted the knee-to-socket connection we experimented. He has this convenient Birkenstock sandal thing, and I buckled on the quarter-inch sole and walked around the room. It was fabulous. He put a quarter-inch lift in my left shoe and sent me on my way.  I'll go back in a couple weeks and he'll make a more permanent fix by lengthening the metal pylon that is my left shin. 

Now I feel the difference with every step, a combination of stride and balanced height that no longer threatens to tip me over. My left hip and stump of thigh are working harder, and that feels wonderful. My right knee is grateful and says it didn't mean to whine so much. And it's cool to be this little bit higher all of a sudden. I just wish a few of my horses could have put their own gait-issues into words. 


  1. Someday Liz I need to visit and watch horses move while you tell me what's going on. There is so much I know I don't see....

    1. Love to, MerleGirl. My playing-with-horses has been mostly casual and infrequent the last couple years but I'm looking forward to doing more this year. There's always so much I want to learn. But I guess reaching this "conscious incompetence" is a step forward. Cheers!