Monday, September 20, 2010

The Elmer Fudd Conundrum

Things have been a bit quiet lately (too quiet) thanks in part to a ridiculous "Cease and Desist" order I received on one of my travel tips posts, resulting in the addition of a neat little disclaimer in the "About this Blog" section of the site.

Needless to say, I'll have to be a bit more cautious with how I word my posts in the future.

That aside, in the last few months I've been traveling a lot for work and have managed to see some very interesting and remote places. I also have a few good personal travel stories to catch up on; no excuses there! I'll back-post a few of them to fill in the blanks.

My biggest news is that on Friday, I finally received my new definitive leg after months of working with several different agencies.

The new leg is much lighter than my old one (by roughly one kilo / two pounds) and a lot more responsive. It also fits! Imagine that...

As you can see from the photo below, the new leg is a continuous blade of carbon fibre that extends from the socket through to the toe. No moving parts this time! My old model had a separate foot strapped to a pylon with an air shock. This made the height ever changing and difficult to predict as the air pressure changed due to heat, etc.

My old model also required a suspension liner be worn over my knee, greatly reducing my mobility whereas the new model uses a "seal in" liner instead, freeing up my knee.


  1. That is one skookum looking leg and I love the Canadian touch! I can only imagine where you and your leg will go now (I hear the Space Station is looking for volunteers...)! Next up, Dancing with the Stars Australia (but first you need to become a 'B' celebrity). One, two, cha,cha,cha.

    Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure.

    Hugs to you and Lisa,


  2. Hi Michael - came across your site via another amputee blog from a fellow Aussie amputee, just wanted to say it's great to see you writing about your experiences, there aren't a lot of us out there I think! I'm an above-knee on my left, but still keep active, particularly with martial arts. Loving your travel blog and doctor dramas, I'm about to get the ball rolling with getting a new prosthesis myself, so it's all fresh in my mind!

    Keep up the good fight!

  3. Hi,

    I've enjoyed following your website, and it has been a great resource for someone like me who lost their leg nearly 3 months ago. I'm still waiting to get fitted for my first prosthetic. I'm ready to get rid of these darn crutches!

    Two questions for you: 1) What is your opinion of a pin vs suspension prosthetic? What type of interface does your new leg use? 2) How often do you have to go back to using crutches? I was told by my doctor that most people can only wear a leg for a few hours at a time, and must always carry crutches around. He also said I should always take the leg off when I'm at home.

    Thanks again!

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  5. Hi Joe,

    Exciting times getting ready for the first leg! I won't lie, the first day will hurt but if you suck it up and keep working at it over a few days, your nerves will get used to the new sensation and you'll love the freedom.

    To answer your questions: I haven't had a pin myself but I have the "seal in" liner right now which is a similar idea and I quite like it. The seal-in liner has a rubber gasket to create the suction/friction. A few things I've observed:

    Pros: Seal-in is handy when I want to disconnect the leg and can sit with my liner on without poking holes in the furniture. It has a relief valve and it's easy to get on/off.

    Cons: I had one circumstance where my suction seal was broken and the leg got sloppy. It didn't become an issue, I just had to reset but I think the pin might hold it more firmly in those situations. The seal issue is also easily solved with the seal-in liner by wearing a suspension sleeve when you know you're going to need to hang from the leg.

    All that said, your shape is going to change dramatically in the first year so I definitely would NOT recommend the seal-in liner as it'll start leaking on you.

    For the first year, mine was just purely a suction suspension system (different than seal-in), no pins. I would have preferred a pin to that but I also needed to let my leg settle down before I got that aggressive with the liner.

    As for the crutches, I think your doc might be just talking about your first few months. Your skin and your muscles need time to adjust so follow the advice they give you but don't be afraid to push it.

    In my first couple of weeks I was only able to wear the leg for a few hours at a time. By the end of the second month, I was full time on the leg through the work day and would take it off at night. Six months on, I did a five day climb up Kili without any crutches or rest from the leg and it was absolutely fine, no troubles at all.

    Now (two years later), I rarely take it off except to go to bed and to shower unless I've had a really long day on my feet or if I'm breaking in a new liner. Sometimes I do pop it off just because I can. It's more comfortable to have it off when I'm watching a movie or TV but it's inconvenient if you want to jump up to grab a drink.

    Feel free to send me more questions directly, there's a lot I can tell you about the first few weeks! Maybe just pop me an email address into the comments field here if you want (I won't publish it) and I'll be in touch.

    All the best,

  6. Hi Sean,

    What sort of martial arts do you do? How does that work with your knee? Very cool!

    I've often thought about going back to doing some myself but I've wondered how they'd react to me sparring with a carbon fibre blade!


  7. Hi Mike,

    My training's been a little varied - when I was a kid I did Taekwondo for a while, then after Uni I started doing a hybrid style of karate (Shotokan/Goju), then a more traditional style (just Shotokan) and have recently started training in Koryu Uchinadi, which is a more comprehensive system based on pre-20th century karate (more info on my blog, I don't want to overload the comments section on karate anthropology!).

    I've found karate's been a good mix of upper- and lower-body techniques, and my instructors over the years have been fantastic in helping me out. It's hard work and keeping up with able-bodied practitioners is tricky, but worth the challenge.

    I haven't had any issues sparring to date, but I normally only use my leg to check rather than strike in class given the lack of control you have as an above-knee amputee. Doesn't stop me from going all out on a boxing bag though, that's good fun :) You just have to be careful that you don't tear it up - I've already kicked through a box bag hard enough to tear it in half after a number of sustained kicking sessions, and replacing them isn't necessarily cheap! Felt pretty awesome at the time though :) I now take it a little easier on the bag, and will remember to gaffa tape the leather if splits start showing :)

    If you Google "Ron Mann", he's a below-knee amputee who competes in full-contact MMA. I've got a link to his old MySpace blog as well. I first came across him there, as he used to drop by and leave comments when I used to use that as my blogging platform before I setup my dedicated site.

    Ack, this comment's too long - keep up the posts, I'll be keeping an eye on your blog from now on :)

  8. @Joe: I can't comment from a below-knee perspective, but I had my leg amputated at 3 months old above the knee, and these days I wear the leg all the time unless showering/sleeping, though I'll slip it off in the evenings when watching TV, kinda like what Mike does by the sounds of his reply. I have a pair of crutches at home so I don't have to hop if I need to get up in the middle of the night and am feeling sleepy/lazy/hungover, but I find it pretty easy to slip on/off the leg, hop around, stuff like that. It'll take time, but your stump will become conditioned the more you use it, so stick with it, even though it might hurt like a mother f*@#$r in the interim!

  9. I use the seal-in liner also. Like it quite a lot for the same reasons. Frees the knee.

    It is good to see someone not afraid of trying new things. I might use you as an example when I visit new amputees.