Welcome to Anne's blog!

If you are new to the blog, you probably want to start at the beginning of the whole sad story. To get there, use the "Blog Archive" tool in the right column of the blog and click on "2009," and then "January 25." From there you can continue to click on each week to see the weekly entries.

I would love to hear from you! If you would like to leave a message, you can reach me at aheetderks@wcsmiami.org!

December 19, 2010 - Friends and Family . . . meet my leg.

Yes--that's right . . . I walk. I walk with two feet. Can you believe it?

A week and a half ago, I went into Eugene Silva's office (my prosthetist at Advanced Motion Control) and he started messing around with my clear acrylic test socket. He accused me (nicely) of being a "shape-shifter." This is someone who shows up with one size leg one day, and then JUST when everything is almost ready to go . . . shows up the next day with a much bigger leg than the day before! Not very nice. I guess I will be doing this for a while--changing shape. My shorter leg (I am just going to call it a "nub" from hereon in . . .) seems to change shape depending on how long I have been up during the day, or if I just took a shower, or if I wrapped my ace wrap or shrinker sock a little tight, or if I have been eating the 30 pounds of chocolate given to me by my students for Christmas.

So he heated up the test socket a little and started stretching it out in places so I could get my leg in there (loosening a few screws helped, too)! The clear socket was cool because you could literally "see" the pressure points that needed to be addressed.

I came back last Monday to try on the new (and slightly bigger) test socket (seen here). We put a nice little sock on my nub, eased it into the test socket and VOILA!--it fit like a glove. When I would put weight on it (using the little tripod stool to act as the lower leg/foot that would be attached later), I could almost imagine how it would feel to walk. Very exciting.

So, on Friday, I went in thinking that I was showing up for another fitting--but in comes Eugene with my leg! I couldn't believe it. I didn't even think to bring a right-footed shoe along--those things are buried so deep in my closet it would take weeks to find one! So funny.

Anyway--Eugene took a pair of shoes from his shop, and put them on me and my prosthetic leg. Then he proceeded to take me slowly through the whole process of putting on the prosthetic sheath, followed by various thicknesses (ply) of socks, the liner, another sock, and then the leg! There was part of me that was ready to stand up and try it right away--and another part of me that was a little scared that I might be disappointed. Good thing I stood up. At first things were a little clumsy, but we kept tweaking the angle of the foot, the height of the leg--things like that. Eventually, I was walking around the office like I owned the place. So amazing.

Since I had to give Eugene his big black shoes back before I went home, we wrapped my bare (fake) foot up so I wouldn't get it dirty on the ride home! I wanted to wear the entire prosthetic leg home because I was afraid it wouldn't fit by the time I got to our house. I could just see myself ready to show off to Doug and the girls and not be able to get the dumb thing on!

When I got home, I found the pair of sneakers I had bought a long time ago when I first fell. Dr. Carbonell had instructed me to buy a good pair because I had to be able to support my body while wearing the external fixator. That was almost 22 months ago. Now I was hauling the sneakers out again and being able to use BOTH shoes. I put the shoes on and started walking around. Walking around MY HOUSE. What a surreal experience. Doug and the girls were thrilled.

I called my parents on the way home to let them know that I was wearing a leg. The minute I hung up the phone, they must have called everyone imaginable because I was getting 4 million text messages saying, "Where are the pictures? Update your blog NOW!"

But it has taken me a few days to be ready to broadcast myself. Getting my leg has almost felt like having a new baby. You are so excited for it to come and you dream of the day you will get to take it home . . . but then you have it and it poops and cries and keeps you up all night. Even though you love it so much, you need a few days to get used to the reality of it all.

So--yes, I adore my new leg. But I have needed to be smart and take it easy. Use my crutches. Take socks on. Take socks off. Make sure I am not getting any blisters. Not freak out when it hurts one minute and feels fine the next. Figure out how to maneuver around my house. Figure out how to dress this new body. Buy new shoes.

I remember when I first had my leg amputated, my leg felt so light. When I lifted my leg, it almost felt like it could fly straight to the ceiling without any effort. Now having a leg back on me, my leg feels so heavy and clumsy. I actually weighed my prosthetic last night thinking it must weigh at least 30 pounds. It weighed 4.5 pounds--and that was with the shoe on, too!

It all just takes a little getting used to. But WOW--what a payoff. I found myself today starting to say, "Elise, can you walk for me and get the . . ."--realizing that I could now go and get it myself!! I am still using my crutches and so it is still a little cumbersome to move around--but what a difference.

I am not at the point of looking back over the last two years and saying that the journey is done. It actually feels like I am starting a new one. A journey to freedom.

There will be a lot of tweaking with my prosthetic (I will get a new one in a few months once my nub settles into its final shape), physical therapy, development of callouses, dealing with new phantom sensations, etc. etc. but it is such a relief to see that this has been a good thing. If I am walking this well after having my leg for only two days--what will happen after a week? a month? a year?

I keep saying to Doug, "I am doing good, right? This is good, right?"

And he just looks at me like I am silly and says, "Yes, this is good. This is very good."

Thank you, Lord.

So anyway--let me tell y'all about my new leg! If you want to see me in action (just be sure to tell me how small my rear end looks in the video), just click on "First Day with my New Leg!" in the side bar (to get connected to YouTube) or just watch it at the end of this entry.

My leg is basically a socket (the flesh colored tube thing), attached to a pipe (so stylish and realistic), attached to a carbon fiber foot (that you can't see because it has a fake foot and a shoe over it). I'll explain it all in a bit.

Many of you haven't seen my real leg for a while. It is amazing how well it has all healed. The scar line just gets lighter and lighter all the time. Now that my poor leg is getting stuffed into a tight socket, I can tell that it is that scar line that is the most sensitive. When I feel it burn, I know I need to back off a little.

My phantom pain is also kicking back in now that I am bearing weight. The good thing is that my neurontin (nerve pain blocker meds) works great to tone down the pins and needle feeling that can become annoying.

Anyway--when I first put on my leg, I start by putting on a sheath that helps to "wick" away moisture from my skin. Then I put on different weights of socks. Today I started with two ply of socks but by the end of the day I needed four. Finally, I put on a liner that fits into the socket. Over time, Eugene will be able to thicken specific spots on this liner to match the parts of my nub that shrink.

After that is all done, I put one more sock over the liner so it will slide right into the socket of my leg.

After I pull my pant leg down, things look pretty good! The blue pipe will eventually get filled in with foam and then the whole leg will get covered with fake skin that will match my skin color. Of course the neighbor boy said to me today, "But what about if you get a tan???"

When you take the shoe off, you can see the fake foot that covers the carbon fiber mechanism inside (also very cool--I will show you a picture later). I tried wearing a pair of my walking sandals last night and it looked good. I just need to get a pedicure on the toes. Since this is just my starter leg, everything is pretty simple. When I get my "real" leg in a few months, I will get a foot with a split toe (so I can wear flip-flop type shoes) and an adjustable heel height. I won't be wearing any stilettos any time soon, but it will allow me to wear a slightly higher heel now and then.

All in all--I feel extremely blessed.

Thanks for helping us through all this.

Love to you all--


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