Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Super Stump!: In which my 'bad" leg gets its chance

My right leg's always been the good leg. The normal one. The limb I count on. The...goody-one shoe.

For thirty-five years I've marveled at how it bends, straightens, stretches and flexes the way a leg and knee are supposed to. But after a couple years of gradually worsening pain and crunching noises it's quit--in the sense of saying "Aren't all these years and months enough notice? See ya." Made like a shepherd. Got the flock outta here.

To me, things have always had emotions and relationships. Setting the table for supper as a kid, I knew I'd much rather be the knife. Be safe and cozy between spoon and plate. Definitely not the fork, over there on its own, in the outback.

My knees: organic and mechanical, separated from natural function in their youth. One traded five years ago for titanium, or whatever my prosthetic knee is. Now my other is about to be swapped for...stainless steel and plastic? (I need to read up on my Joint Camp paperwork.) But my knees have always worked together gamely.

So it's been hard not to feel affection or disappointment with my paired limbs, the twin siblings of a normal body. Especially when most of my normal got away a long time ago. (Hand clasped dramatically to forehead:) My left knee, indisputably struck down in its prime by disease, untreated, left scarred, deformed and rigid. But bravely it held up, and (as the last x-rays before the amputation showed) even diligently laid tiny channels of bone through the non-joint to reinforce it. My left leg never stopped me working, walking, riding as far and hard and long as I wanted.

Well. Almost as long as I wanted. A little more would have been nice. OK, a lot. But nursing homes are full of folks with the same opinion. Life's such a bitch...and why doesn't it last longer?

Ah, but we can rebuild it. We have the technology.

As an above-knee amputee, this puts me in an interesting position. Sometimes it puts me on the floor. I don't have a knee that will still support me bending as I stand up or sit down. Straight, my prosthetic joint is solid; shift the weight and it bends as I walk, or fall, if I misjudge.

I've been told "Your prosthetic leg can't be your good leg. It just doesn't work that way."

Ah, but my stump has been waiting breathlessly for this chance. It's eager to assume the role of dependable.  Dressed in its tie-dyed socket, it's..Good Leg!  

It's true. I'm fluent in crutches. I'm excellent with the prosthesis. No, I can't hold my leg in the air and get around like that, but I don't have to. Won't have to. Knee replacement surgery is about getting right up and teaching that new joint to bend. Seems like I should have a head start breaking in a new mechanical knee, since I've already got one to show it the ropes.

Here goes: more less-traveled roads. My life as a fork, shepherded by a super stump.

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