Getting my prosthesis replaced (2010), part 2: having the socket cast

So, this is a little in retrospect, but here it is!

The new socket is progressing well – a few weeks back I went in for my cast, which is always when things start to feel a bit more real! For me it’s all pretty uninteresting at this stage since it’s been a regular happening from when I was a kid, but I imagine it’d be a bit weird for someone new to being an amputee!

So for the uninitiated, here’s what generally happens – off go the trousers and replace with a weird off-white cotton unitard that goes down your real leg and over the stump. Tie the end off under the stump pirate-style, cut the shoulders on the unitard and tie it like a toga to tighten up on the correct side of the body, stand over some plastic sheeting and have cold, wet plaster wrapped around your stump 😉 Having a good amount of balance helps for this bit, so I’m right at home since I’ve been an amputee since I was a baby.

Anywho, after a bit the wet plaster starts to set and turns from being cold and wet to warm. It’s kinda weird, but I’d hazard a guess it isn’t unlike having a cast put on your arm or leg after breaking a bone or something. Once it’s set, off comes the cast and you clean yourself up by brushing off the plaster. You’ll invariably get plaster seeping through to your underwear, so if you don’t want to ruin your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles undies, wear something expendable 😉

Actually, particularly to the guys, I have a piece of golden advice – if you’re being cast over your stump, I’d recommend shaving or waxing your stump in prep, because when that cast comes off, all that hair’s coming with it.

Was it inappropriate to go into that kind of detail? Hopefully not. After all, you’re going to have to deal with it, so not talking about it won’t make it go away or anything 😛

Anywho, so that covers getting the cast done – next time I’ll be talking about the test socket stage. I’ll continue to update as we go, so just keep track of the 2010 New Prosthesis tag for all the posts related to this topic.

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Getting my prosthesis replaced (2010), part 1: starting the process

Those who have been reading up on the blog for a while will know I’ve been struggling the damage to my stump or with my prosthesis for the last 12 months off and on, and I’m pleased to say I’ve finally gotten the ball rolling to have something holistically done about it! Last time I caught up with my specialist was in… June I believe, and back then he mentioned that I was eligible for a new prosthesis since the last one built from the ground up was from 2006-ish (although when we went back to check the paperwork, I’m pretty sure the 2006 job was actually just a socket replacement, as I kept the rest of the leg as part of the build!). I was originally planning to get a move on with this in August, but some unexpected things cropped up, and now we’re in October. So I got there in the end, and it’s proof that it’s not only my training that suffers when life happens, my leg does too 😉

Anywho, I caught up with my specialist and the doctor on Monday last week, and the application has been submitted for processing. I’m told this usually takes a fortnight, and once they’ve been given the green-light, I’ll make an appointment to have a new socket cast to my stump.

I really should have looked into having a new socket put together a while ago – the stump continues to change over time and to its environment, and I have a feeling a lot of the problems I’ve had over the past 12 months have been to do with my stump no longer fitting the mould of my socket as well as it used to. These changes are caused by all sorts of variables from what I understand from a kinaesthetic viewpoint – muscle tone, overall weight of the amputee, usage of the stump, changes in gait, responding to the shape of the socket – so four years on one socket is probably a bit too long.

I think the mentality originates from what I was told as a child – growing up, I’d have a new prosthesis built each year to accommodate the fast pace you grow as a child and adolescent. Back then, I was told that, once an adult, you don’t have new legs built anywhere near as frequently, so that impression still sits with my attitude towards my prosthesis. There’s also the terrible Australian idiom, “She’ll be right”, I have a habit of subscribing to, and that probably hasn’t helped either since I figure any pain is a passing thing and I should just build a bridge and get over it, so to speak 😉

So, new leg, new opportunities? My specialist is looking at introducing some tweaks to the design to allow more flexibility for the stump whilst in the socket, but also with greater suction. We’ll also be looking at adding a more robust knee to the arrangement, though it’ll still be pneumatic as I prefer the practicality of the pneumatic knees in the same price bracket as the hydraulics – higher end of the cost scale I reckon I’d slide over to hydraulic units that offer more sophisticated features, but I’m limited by what’s provisioned under local medical schemes as there’s no way we could afford to spend $1000s on my prosthesis when Wifey and I have a Gen-Y mortgage to maintain. Mind, the support these days is significantly improved from when I was a kid, so I’m not complaining about the existing government support for amputees, just pointing out that I can’t afford or justify the cost of going outside those boundaries given everything else.

I’ll continue to update as we go, just keep track of the 2010 New Prosthesis tag for all the posts related to this topic.

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Excellent 2 part interview with Hanshi Patrick McCarthy @ Ikigai Way

Just a heads-up – Sensei posted a note on the KU-SA Facebook page that linked to an interview with Koryu Uchinadi founder Hanshi Patrick McCarthy, and guess what? It was from Matt over at Ikigai Way! Given that our club is now training exclusively in Koryu Uchinadi and that I’m trying to train my mind in lieu of some injuries that are keeping me from training physically at the moment, I’m reading up and studying information on the style, as well as viewing footage of the techniques and drills so that I’m not too rubbish when I start back in class again, so this is great timing.

It was great getting a digest of Hanshi’s varied training and experiences, but it was the discussion on KU philosophies and the extra bonus of mentioning the hakutsuru style that has particularly piqued my interested, as I’ve talked about this with Matt in the past after he mentioned one-legged kata in the syllabus. It re-affirms my interest in grabbing a copy of Hanshi’s Bubishi: The Classic Manual of Combat, though I’m currently ploughing through some study at the moment, so recreational reading has been on-hold for a while and is likely to roll on into early 2011 at this stage.

But enough of that – head over to Ikigai Way and read Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview!

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Raising an amputee – my experience growing up as a child without a leg

Back in February, one of the guys I train with mentioned that he saw a topic in one of the forums he frequents that was started by someone who had one of his legs amputated recently, and was seeing if anyone else out there was suffering from the same condition. I jumped in and made a few posts, but one of the guys on there jumped into the conversation as his daughter had her leg amputated below the knee a while ago and was curious how she’d fare when she got to school age and how other kids might react to her condition.

As someone who has had their leg amputated as a child (see the bio, as well as my posts on growing up as an amputee and my medical history), I figured I might be able to offer some advice on what to expect and I sent him a lengthy response over e-mail. I was thinking about this the other day, and thought it probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea to post an amended version up here.

In prep for writing my original response, I actually had a chat to Wifey since she’s my voice of reason, because I wanted to give an honest response on growing up as an amputee, but didn’t want to be melodramatic or anything. Hopefully, this will be a measured response 🙂

I think it’s worth prefacing that other amputees’ circumstances may be different to mine – even when looking at gender, there are differences in how girls and boys react to things by nature of the social norms obliged by gender/society, so keep in mind I’m a guy and grew up in that environment. There’s also the extent of the amputation – amputation at the ankle, below the knee or above the knee – my above-knee prosthesis slipped on my stump and then the prosthesis attached to my body with a big metal and leather waist band. Gotta love technology in the 80s, hopefully suction technology’s become the norm for kids these days, and things are better. There’s no comparison to the options available as a kid and the leg I have now, so keep that in mind too!

Anywho, about me growing up – got paid out and rubbished heaps because of my leg, both from kids in my class/year level, and from all the big kids as well at school. It’s hard and makes you angry as a kid (and frustrating as a parent watching on) – I had all sorts of aggression issues when I was a kid, and thinking back I’d say it was a combination of my cheeky personality (I blame it on being a middle child and a ranga!) and my issues with my leg and the baggage that comes with that. I wasn’t able to verbalise my issues and work through all those emotions because of how young I was, and it’s only been as I’ve gotten older that I can trace back to when I started to accept and work through my feelings and that this coincided with when I started getting in less trouble at school… so from the age of about 6 – 11 I was a bit of a handful (understatement), but I mellowed out from then onwards, and continue to be pretty chilled out these days.

It wasn’t all negative though – I always had a good group of friends who would stick up for me and didn’t care about the leg. In fact, over the years it came in handy and we’d take the piss about it, so it’s all good 🙂 Like when McAdam and I were a bit inebriated at a party and at one point in the evening my leg ended up on the clothesline and didn’t come down for the rest of the night 😀 Kids can be cruel, and if you stand out, it means you’re likely to get on the receiving end of stuff. A good group of friends will always make a world of difference though.

On the other side, having to plough through life on one leg and coming out of it well makes you stronger for the experience – I used to physically fall over all the time when I was a kid because of the leg, and what Mum and Dad had to do (and it broke their heart) was to learn to not fuss over it and let me get myself up and going again, and resist the urge to pick me up each time. One time they even got a mouthful from a mother who came and helped me up when I’d fallen over at a park and thought they were ignoring me! I became a very independent kid and remain a very independent adult, almost to a fault at times. But hey, life experience – that’s what it’s all about. I wouldn’t be as strong-willed today if it weren’t for their emphasis growing up that I had to learn to look after myself.

If you have a child who has had an amputation, the best thing you can do (if my memory holds up :P) is to just reinforce how much you love them, and prepare them by not whitewashing about stuff when they get a hard time from kids at school. Teach them to be strong-willed and independent, and keep up with all the extra-curricular stuff they might be interested in doing, like swimming (great life skill anyways, but for an amputee it helps bridge the gap and keep up with the rest of the kids if you’re a good swimmer!), dancing/martial arts (great for gait, fitness, weight [weight is extremely important as an amputee, as fluctuations affect how the socket fits the stump] and tempering the stump), basketball, etc. As a kid I was always doing something – swimming was awesome as loved being able to beat everyone in class once we got in the pool because nobody expected it (!), and I used to play hockey, basketball, footy (though I was a bit crap at footy, but still ran around anyways!), Taekwondo (to be honest this actually helped control some of my aggression and taught me to channel it in much more productive ways), tennis, even all the track stuff like hurdles and other athletics. Again, I was a bit rubbish at them, but I enjoyed giving them a go and was always active as a kid. Despite being a chubby ranga!

Things changed a lot in high school as the divide between the sporty kids and the not-so sporty kids inadvertently put you into cliques (there was no way I could keep up with everyone in high school so I stopped being active and focused more on studying instead, though looking back I wished I started doing karate when I was a teenager!)… though again, this might also be just what happens with guys, and given the quality of the prosthetics now, your child’s mileage may vary. With girls, since there can be some pretty full-on psychological bullying and bitchiness in high school, I’m not sure how that would come into it (and my solution for tormenting and bullying from another boy was hardly eloquent – I’d start a fight and try and kick them with my fake leg :P). As long as your child is strong-willed and has a solid emotional foundation, that’s probably all your can do.

The good news is that once school’s done, society’s a different beast and I’ve never been discriminated against in the workplace, and I’ve been consistently employed since I started with part-time work after school when I was 15. There may be a few things that might be out of her league (i.e. stuff that’s particularly physically demanding on their legs, but again, mileage will vary because of the child’s stump), but over time they will learn her limits and roll with it, just as I have.

There’s definitely plenty of other anecdotes I can talk about on the blog with regards to growing up as an amputee and some of the things you have to deal with, but I figure this is getting pretty lengthy already, so it’s probably best to leave it be. I’ll add more experiences ad-hoc, and remember that they’ll all be categorised under the “History” category for easy access in the future.

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Archive: Taekwondo, 1991-style

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 30 May, 2007

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about it much before, but my first formal introduction to martial arts training came when I was in Year 4, when I was about… 8 I think. Either that or it was Year 5 and I was 9. Regardless, I was in primary school, and I was still in the throes of “Angry Sean-o”. Most people I talk to now can’t believe that I was a little punk when I was a kid. From the age of about 5 or 6 until about 11, I was a great big pain in the arse. I used to answer back to the teachers, would regularly have to see the principal, would get constantly grounded, used to pick angry fights with my older brother Miguel, I started up a ‘fight club’ at school when I was 9 (not that (a) Fight Club was anywhere near to being created in all its uberness, or (b) a primary schoolyard organised scrap constitutes a ‘fight club’ :P) and was generally an arsehole.

Anywho, I had this passion for martial arts, and my Dad thought that it would be a good idea to take himself, Miguel and I to Taekwondo classes by the time we returned from a few years in Darwin and I was hopefully old enough to tell the difference when to use the martial art, and when not to. To be honest I wasn’t sure what the outcome was – I was still a pain during the time I did Taekwondo (which was for maybe a year, possibly more?), but to my credit I don’t think I actually used it to randomly injure too many kids… I know I would have used it on Miguel because we used to fight pretty full-on as kids, but outside of that… I don’t know. I remember picking a fight in class when the teacher was out getting something… I’m not sure why, I was probably bragging about the fact I did Taekwondo knowing me 😛 This  proved to possibly be a good thing however…

You see, the kid I picked a fight with used his hands, and I learnt the hard way that in order to kick at someone, you need some room… and being wedged between classroom desks and chairs is hardly fertile ground for delivering a clumsy kick at someone. So, in short, I lost the scrap, and probably looked pretty goofy as well 😉 I’ve never forgotten the lesson though – be wary of your surroundings.

But back to Taekwondo. I only managed to scrape to my yellow belt, which in my mind’s eye took forever. I daresay the reason I stopped going was because I had a habit in those days of being pretty fickle with stuff – I did swimming for a few years and was getting really good, then got bored of it and stopped. Did Taekwondo for a while, then stopped. Got really into basketball (basketball was very in circa 1992-1994, as were parachute pants and Megadrive; things change :P) for a few years, then stopped when I got to high school. In fact, I pretty much stopped everything when I got to high school – changed my focus to studying and by then I’d gotten out all of the angriness… or learnt to suppress it 😉 That, also, is the subject of another blog.

So, how did I go with TKD? Not too sure to be honest. I mean, I see the kids at karate, and while you have to admire their effort, they’re not exactly excuding perfect form. I’d be kinda weirded out if they did; in that sense, watching little kids do martial arts isn’t entirely unlike watching junior, like primary school soccer or footy – the kids get out there, and kick the ball somewhere and run after it. It’s very cute, but we’re talking elite sportsmen for the most part. Sure, it probably solidifies concepts or foundations for later on, but I’m getting distracted again… 😛

Anyway, I remember doing all the moves and stuff, the kicks, punches and so forth. It was actually a good thing I reckon in the long run, even if I only did it for a short period of time. I felt it made starting karate a little easier since I remembered some of the basics – chamber your punch, long stances, first kata, raise your knee for your kicks – and the lesson format was kinda familiar, too. And all training halls with the wooden floors and kinda aged stone walls (aka your average community gym/hall) have that same smell/feeling when you go inside.

It’s so long ago that I can’t remember in much detail how I coped with learning different things, how I overcame stuff, how my technique evolved… if it did at all 😉 But I knew from experience that when it came time to learn a martial art that I couldn’t do Taekwondo – too much focus on leg work and not enough on upper body techniques. I know this is a generalisation (and conversley, TKD practitioners criticise karate for the quality of their kicks; in fact, most martial arts have participants who have a habit of criticising different styles or different arts altogether [again, food for thought and the subject of further blogs!]), but I believe that I’ve made the right choice in choosing to go down the path of karate.

I waffle on too much 😛 Quick summary – I did Taekwondo as a kid, it was fun, but I was fickle and gave it up 😛 My Dad and brother kept going a little longer and got to their green belt (it went white >> yellow >> green), but they stopped after Miguel got hit by a car and broke his leg, which is pretty understandable.

Well, next time I report I daresay will be a post-training round-up. Oh, and for those interested I’ve added a few more photos and stuff to my pics; nothing training-related, just random stuff 🙂 Enjoy!

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