Reading some local amputee blogs

I went hunting for some amputee blogs the other day and stumbled across two new ones I thought were interesting and wanted to share.

The first one is Ordinary Situations, and is written by a fellow Aussie who lost her leg at a young age and details a variety of topics, including some of the challenges/experiences she’s had as an amputee. Unless I’m having a crazy moment, we’ve actually spoken over e-mail before, but I didn’t realise she had a blog as well, otherwise I would have put it up in my link resources sooner! She’s tagged all her amputee/prosthesis stuff together as well, so it makes it easy to read up on what’s been happening with her. It looks like she’s done a me and has dropped off the blogosphere, so hopefully she’ll come back again soon for more posts!

The second one I’ve added is Active Amputee, a blog by a below-knee amputee living in Queensland who originally hails from Canada. I certainly wont hold his heritage against him though, as Wifey and I are fans of Canadians – not only are they polite international travelers and gave the world Degrassi Junior/High, but they also produce 80% of the world’s supply of maple syrup, possibly the greatest condiment in the world. Anywho, as the title suggests, Mike’s a very active above-knee amputee, and when he’s not sporting a shiny new prosthesis with a bright red Canadian maple leaf, he’s doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro. His travel posts are also great, including the travel tips he’s put together.

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Cool, the amputee driving/travel tips worked!

Back in August (here) I blogged about a few things you can do while driving long distances to stretch your stump out on a road trip. The weekend before last Wifey and I jumped out into the far north to catch up with my little brother Tank and his lovely wife Meru, and while the drive was a good 4 and a half hours either way, I didn’t have much of a problem with the trip, which was great. While using the cruise control certainly helped (as did the liberal doses of Cheap Trick and Tears for Fears courtesy of Wifey’s iPod), taking a moment every half hour or so to gently stretch the stump made a huge difference. We also had a break half-way through the trip to grab a coffee and stretch our respective leg(s) which was good too.

If you’re interested in reading up on what I’ve done in the past to alleviate some of the aches you get whilst driving for an extended period of time, feel free to to check out the post in question – I’m not sure how helpful it’ll be for other amputees, but I thought it might prove useful to someone else out there apart from me!

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Amputee country driving

Wifey and I took a trip to the country to escape from things for a few days recently. It’s been a few years since we last jumped out that way, and it’s definitely been the first time in a while (and possibly since starting this blog) since I’ve spent a couple of hours at the wheel driving in a single hit.

Mind, the drive wasn’t too shabby at all – Wifey and I loaded the car up with tragic 80s tunes (bad habit, tragic 80s seems to suit country driving :)), so it was good fun 🙂 I did find though, rolling towards the end of trip, that my stump was getting a bit grumpy from sitting still for so long (probably didn’t help that we went straight from work, and I’d been sitting on my arse at work for about 8 hours before we headed out!). The angry muscles were along the base of the stump, my left hip and a little higher into the waist – it was nothing serious mind, but it was definitely there.

Anywho, this presented an issue – how do you stretch the stump out when it’s held inside an airtight socket, and there’s not exactly a whole lot you can do with your prosthesis when you’re driving!

What I ended up doing was clenching/flexing the muscles around my stump to start with, tilted my hips slowly left and right, and then gently twisted my stump to the left and right in the socket. Wasn’t much, but it did the job and took the strain off the muscles.

I think the reason it worked was because while the motions weren’t that big, they involved stretching the muscles relatively deeply from a restricted sitting position; the restricted position meant that the body didn’t have the ability to move with the motions, so they were all built on resisting other muscles.

… or at least I think that’s the theory behind it 😉 I’m sure those more in the know with muscles/physiology/anatomy will not only be able to dispute my theory, but possibly say I’m doing the wrong thing too! 🙂

Mind, I also might have described things really badly too 😉 Still, for other amputees involved with road trip or country driving, the above might prove useful!

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Airport security and your prosthesis – always an adventure!

One of the amusing/frustrating (but moreso amusing, you have to find things in life amusing, helps keep you sane) parts of being an amputee is dealing with airport security. Now, this wasn’t too bad pre 9/11, but since then when global airport security ramped up, things have gotten… interesting 🙂

Obviously, being an amputee, it’s generally very likely that you have a cocktail of titanium, metal plates, springs, carbon fiber, and so forth, complementing your stump. Most of these things, obviously, are metallic and set off metal detectors. Thus, whenever travelling via an airport (or just seeing people off and having to go through the security checks), you’ll set off the metal detectors. Every time.

Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about making this easier for you and the security guards:

Step 1, let them know in advance you’ll set it off as you are an amputee (normally when handing over stuff to go in the x-ray machine or to the attendant standing next to the metal detectors). Providing they have a grasp of your native tongue (or you a basic grasp of theirs), you’ve at least pre-warned them to make the process a bit easier.

Step 2, as soon as you go through the gates and set it off, let the guards know and cooperate in a friendly manner. At the end of the the day, they’re just doing their jobs, and it’s nothing personal. It also means you’re less likely to antagonise them 😉

Step 3, let them do the pat-down, and if they ask you to take your shoes off, ask politely for a chair, and generally all should be fine. I’ve never been asked to remove the leg for inspection, so I don’t have any advice there. I certainly wouldn’t want to though, I reckon that’s taking it a bit too far; but hey, that’s just me.

All through this, it of course helps if you have a partner/parent/friend to grab your gear that has gone through the x-ray machine so it doesn’t get pinched whilst you’re complying with security.

Oh, and remember to factor in that you’ll need extra time to go through security – in Australia, 5-10 minutes is more than ample, and I imagine something similar would apply overseas depending on the level of anal retentivity (I’ve heard from people travelling to the US that security is more thorough there for example, so just keep it in mind that I’m writing with a decidedly Australian perspective!).

Now, all this being said, I do have a few experiences to share!

I’ve travelled between the main airports in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia:

  • Brisbane is a bit on the shonky side, but wasn’t too bad – staff were a bit weirded out, but reasonably polite (they gave me a chair when they asked for my shoes, though some of the staff on the day were a bit rude; the guy called over for the final security check was cool though, very relaxed and chirpy, so gold star for him)
  • Adelaide’s generally very good (since the upgrade a few years ago anyway)
  • Sydney is the most thorough, and we’ve had some issues in the past with language issues and staff not understanding my condition
  • Melbourne is average — we had a really delayed flight that day so we were probably a bit grumpy, but I can’t remember any issues

Haven’t travelled anywhere else in Aus in a while via plane, so I don’t have any extra nuggets of info to share. Wifey and I holidayed in NZ a few years ago, and we found the security staff there very relaxed and easy to deal with, so big thanks to NZ for making it an extremely smooth ride, both in the international and domestic terminals.

We’re keen to travel to Japan some time next year, and I’m paranoid that there will be problems when we head home and having to get through security, since my Japanese is a bit on the shonky side by default 😛 Still, we’ll see how we go!

Oh, and the other point to consider when travelling is whether or not you’re taking a walking stick – I generally do to make getting around on foot easier (Wifey and I tend to do a lot of walking around when we go away, [a] because we don’t hire a car, and [b] you get to see more of the place your visiting), but that’s only been in recent years. When travelling domestically I don’t think there’s any problem with what type of walking stick you take (mine’s a cool old wooden cane that was my Great-Grandfather’s), but internationally you’ll need to watch out depending on quarantine rules. Whenever Wifey and I have the opportunity to do some international travel again, I think I’ll go and grab a metal walking stick to make the transition through security/quarantine easier.

So yeah, there’s some travel tips for amputees out there – granted, it’s focused primarily on travelling in Australia, but hopefully it’ll help somewhat 🙂 If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

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