Preparing for the “Wooden Leg”

During childhood, I remember being quite jealous of my classmates who came to school sporteing plaster cast-covered arms and legs. People would gather round, keen to hear the story of how the broke their limbs, and then sign the plaster cast. The number of people who signed your arm or leg was a sign of your “popularity”. I was never one of the kids “lucky enough” to have a broken limb.

Fast forward to today, at the age of 57, and I finally got a plaster cast, albeit for only a couple of minutes.

As an important step in the prosthesis fitting process, my stump was covered today in crepe bandages imbued with plaster. This marked a stark contrast to my high school years, when we clumsily concocted Plaster of Paris mixtures for First Aid practice.

Though I could be wrong, it seems like it has been ages since plaster casts were the go-to solution for mending fractured arms and legs. I assume they’re still common practice in many countries around the world, but in Australia it seems like it’s compressed bandages and fibreglass that’s all the go. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

As you’ll see in the video, another surprise awaited me: how rapidly my “first limb” would be prepared and ready for fitting.

Casting for the prosthesis.

Carl, the prosthetist, explained “The inaugural limb will be transparent, affording me insight into its inner workings.”

Even though amputations have been rare amongst friends and family, thousands of them happen each year in Australia.

A high profile case this week involved Tanya Hosch. Speaking at the launch of Referendum yesterday, she said “A little over two weeks ago I had my lower right leg amputated. Having left hospital only yesterday, I’m standing here on one leg today.” Maybe her case was a little more simple than mine, but if it was only two weeks ago, I thought it was incredible she was able to make the launch, and I thought she might have been on quite strong pain relief.

Contrary to my assumption the job of being a prosthetis was an offshoot of physiotherapy, Carl explained that he had pursued it as a distinct four-year degree. Hailing from the UK, Carl appeared to be in his early thirties and had been residing in Australia for a couple of years.

“Is it laser printing?” one of the younger doctors observing the procedure asked. Carl explained that though some are laser printed, he would be handmaking the prosthesis.

To my genuine astonishment, Carl said that the “first prosthesis” would be primed for fitting ahead of the upcoming “Amputee Clinic” scheduled for next Thursday – a recurring monthly event at the hospital.

Post-fitting, there would be more physiotherapy, with further adaptations made if required, before they produce the limb I’ll be given to take home with me. My qualification for the NDIS has paved the way for extra personalisation options that far surpass the old days of “wooden legs.”

4 Replies to “Preparing for the “Wooden Leg””

  1. Not Jake the Peg then. It is interesting that you are preparing to use a wheelchair but also going to have what I am sure will be a first class prosthetic limb. It would be great if you didn’t need the wheelchair, but perhaps that is a high expectation.

    1. The discussion has been it’s not one or the other, it’s both together. As explained to me, there will be days/circumstances when the limb isn’t appropriate. These include if it becomes disfunctional, doesn’t fit properly, need a break, or different types of mobility. The idea is I would wear the limb from when I wake until when I go to bed, but even within a day there might be times when the wheelchair is more suitable. Like a pair of shoes, a bra, or a pair of jocks, sometimes you just want to take them off.

  2. How exciting James!! It’s another ‘step’ in the journey of your new ‘normal’!!
    It makes sense to have a chair as well as a prosthetic – interesting that you’ll be expected to be ‘wearing’ it – will it be a ‘Steve Austin’ with the bionic ankle?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: