"There's nothing you can't do on a prosthetic leg."
November 7, 2011 8:13 AM   Subscribe

"Every day in the U.S., about 500 people lose a limb. About 1,800 amputation surgeries are performed each year in Oklahoma. More than 1,600 of those — about 90 percent — are lower body amputations. So every day in Oklahoma, four people lose part or all of a leg." (Nationally, the most common procedure is toe amputation.) "These are the stories of four people living in Oklahoma — a mother, a senior, a Marine and a student — all living life on at least one prosthetic leg": Standing Tall

A selection of some of the photos from the feature. The article was originally formatted on this page online, before the Tulsa World turned it into a special feature.
posted by zarq (21 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't want to put this in the body of the post because their site has donation links all over it, but the Amputation Coalition advocacy group is a good resource for anyone looking for more information on limb amputation and the challenges facing amputees. They have information and fact sheets as well as links to a network of more than 300 peer support groups.
posted by zarq at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was (pleasantly) shocked to learn while reading Barbara Bush's (second, inferior) memoir that she'd had two toes amputated. As George Sr. has joked, the operation changed her from a perfect "10" down to an "8."
posted by hermitosis at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

And that's why you never move to Oklahoma!
posted by hal9k at 8:26 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's funny, my first impressions of a prosthetic limb was that they were the result of, for the lack of a better term, living an awesome life. Back on the dacha, in Russia, my family had a pair of women renting the upstairs. One worked in a factory and the other was an art critic and, as I found out much later in life, they were a couple (meanwhile, the dacha some way down from us was harboring a Russian Orthodox clergyman hiding out from Communism.)

They were really cool: they read me stories, let me play on their typewriter, went with us to the forest sometimes. The one who had worked in a factory had a prosthetic leg: she had lost it wiping out on a motorcycle. It was a clunky, utilitarian thing and looking back on it, very Soviet.

So, to this day, that is the closest relationship I've ever had to someone with a prosthesis. Other than that, when I ran the punk rock store, one of the punks on the block had the lower part of his leg replaced. It wasn't even an attempt to replicate what was there; just a bar going from around the knee and ending with what I can only assume was a rough model of a foot. He said that outside of the constant uncomfortability, one of the roughest parts was the diet he had to maintain; if he gained or lost a significant amount of weight, he'd have to get it re-fitted or possibly re-made, which was more than he could afford.
posted by griphus at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine's dad lost a leg in a bank robbery - he was a cop. Going over to their house my mother always warned us to "not ask about his leg". Meanwhile, I would find spare legs stored downstairs in the rumpus room. There was also the entrance to the crawlspace there, where we would read books about Dracula. The movie stills of Nosferatu especially creeped me out.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2011

"Every day in the U.S., about 500 people lose a limb." That seems like suuuuch a high number, kind of blown away.
posted by pwally at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2011

Leg amputations - one of those areas where the numbers make no sense. Very few people have three legs, many more (but still very few in the context of the entire population of the world) have only one, making the average number of legs less than two. So almost everyone in the world has more than the average number of legs.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2011 [11 favorites]

posted by entropicamericana at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2011

Athlete and motivational speaker Josh Sundquist (link to his YouTube channel) has a fair amount to say on this subject, among other things. Recommended.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:50 AM on November 7, 2011

The only person I know with a prosthetic limb is about 6 months into his first try using it, maybe less, after he lost his leg all the way up into his hip from flesh-eating disease, which happened when he got some specific kind of strep throat at the same time as he got a small cut on his leg. He's a remarkably optimistic person, always in a great mood, while I am there thinking I have to check my leg for cuts now.
posted by jeather at 8:51 AM on November 7, 2011

Around here, if you lose a leg, you take up surfing. Cowabunga, Ampsurf!
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:11 AM on November 7, 2011

"Every day in the U.S., about 500 people lose a limb." That seems like suuuuch a high number, kind of blown away.

It makes sense when you realize why those amputations occur. According to the Amputation Coalition, linked by zarq, about 82% of amputations are the result of vascular disease, i.e. insufficient blood-flow to the extremities, and 97% of all amputations are to the lower limbs.

In essence, diabetics losing toes (or feet) account for something like 80% of all amputations. Such amputations are on the rise, which isn't surprising considering that diabetes is on the rise too.
posted by valkyryn at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

Most folk'll never lose a toe, but then again some folk'll.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:58 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

I love my limbs and hope to keep them with me always. That said, I'm greatly humbled by the way some folks roll with their misfortunes in that regard.

Meanwhile, in Russia, something called Krokodil is costing folks more than just limbs, although this video includes a particularly horrifying amputation (Not Safe For Stomach).
posted by kinnakeet at 10:10 AM on November 7, 2011

You might be interested in the story of Canadian soldier Jody Mitic, who lost both legs in Afghanistan. He's running half-marathons now and wants to go back on the job in Afghanistan.
posted by orange swan at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2011

Ah thanks valkyrn, that makes much more sense. I was thinking (not hard mind you) mostly construction related accidents, which would be insane.
posted by pwally at 10:39 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

My stepdad was in a truck accident and lost the lower half of his left leg. He's now in his 60's and still drives and loads trucks, plays backyard cricket with the kids and whatnot, it has not restricted his life at all.

Man, have we had some fun with the prosthetics. One had a foot connected by a metal rod, and when it loosened he could walk in a way that would make his foot swing around 360 degrees.

There was always a spare in the boot (trunk) of the car, so a recurring family joke would be to get one of us kids' schoolfriends to fetch something from the car and then dissolve into laughter as they opened the boot and shrieked in horror.

And when my daughter was a little girl, first getting into makeup, she used to paint the toenails - or where the nails should be, if it didn't have them imprinted - and put fake tattoos all over the rest of the leg.

Cool post, zarq, thanks.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

My friend lost a leg as a teenager in a car accident. This later led to her getting into the V.I.P. room of a Boston club to hang out with Marilyn Manson (her idol at the time) because he collects prostheses and displays them in his home, and she'd managed get in touch with his people to offer him one of her old ones, so her name was on The List.

He was delighted with it.
posted by longsleeves at 11:36 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Of course I applaud each and every successful amputee. In particular, it goes without saying that the government should spend a lot of money on limbs for the teenagers and young people who are fighting and dying in our all-volunteer army.

But, but, but--as someone who was, as it were, born with a prosthetic leg, I want "regular people" to know that legs like that, and function like that, cost money, as I've noted elsewhere. No one will ever write an article entitled "skbw, age 34, Walks Around, Takes Train, Long Day Notwithstanding," nor would I want them to. But my experience--of a leg many "generations" behind those, one that just about enables me to walk without discomfort--is probably typical of many, many people who are neither rich nor well-insured.

Without getting into thorny resource allocation questions, just file these two scenarios away. When I'm 90, I really, really don't want to be reading about some 75-year-old veteran who had an athletic-quality leg to start with and is now, as an old guy, having problems getting the VA to pay for a new liner (rubber leg sock) or something like that. And think--just think--how many Haitians could be hobbling around on something for the price of just one U.S. "running leg." (I think 10 is probably a very conservative estimate.)
posted by skbw at 11:45 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

I twice amputated fingers - one on each hand - in separate accidents when I was a teenager. Both were re-attached and sorta work. I also almost completely broke my big toe off a couple years ago... doesn't quite work right, but its still there...
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:22 PM on November 7, 2011

OSU is one of the few places offering a degree in Orthotic & Prosthetic Technology.
posted by dragonplayer at 7:22 PM on November 7, 2011

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