As always, if you would like to start my amputee journey from the beginning click here
I had been driving the hired Hyundai Tucson for a couple of months at a ridiculous and unsustainable cost. It was time to start looking at buying a car.
I don’t need adaptions to drive, just an automatic so there are plenty of options. The things you need to think about are, what’s going to make your life easier. If I get into a normal car, I have to kind of fall in backwards as the seats are low. I then have to lift my leg up to my chest to get it into the car.
So, a higher vehicle is easier to get in, also getting out takes less effort on the weak quads. You need to be able to fit a wheelchair and/or other walking aids in the boot, so it needs to be a decent size. When you can’t wear your prosthetic, you have to get out on crutches and go to the boot to get your wheelchair out. Lifting the boot is a pain, as you have to hop backwards so it doesn’t clonk your chin on the way up. An electric boot is a god send.
I didn’t choose to go down the Motability vehicle route. Firstly, I hadn’t been assessed yet as the process is stupidly long. And secondly, once you have been awarded Personal Independence Payment (PIP) it can be stopped at any time leaving you without a car, if they deem that you are mobile. This also means you can’t get another blue badge. Even with a prosthetic you must fully open a car door to get out meaning a normal space is almost impossible.
The problem with this is, there are always times you are completely off a prosthetic and need a wheelchair or crutches. Medical experts say, for a competent prosthetic user, it averages at about 4 weeks a year. But this might be more for many reasons.
The fact is, once you’re an amputee, you’re always an amputee, and you’re always disabled. But not in the eyes of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). There are some real issues in the way the system works. I’ve met fully disabled people, who have been unable to use prosthetics properly, have their PIP cancelled and their transport taken away leaving them stuck at home completely isolated, purely due to being assessed poorly.
Anyway, DWP rant over, for now. I went to look at a Ford Edge. It was an SUV, massive boot space, electric tailgate, and it was comfortable and pleasant to drive. While I was having a think about it, I came across a Land Rover Discovery Sport for the same price as the Edge. Once I took that for a test drive, we definitely had a winner.
I’ve had it for just over four years now and it’s been amazing. As have the dealers I got it from, Stonelake of Halifax, I would highly recommend them.
I took the new motor over to Manchester for the two-day appointment, finally, after egg leg had gone down. I booked a hotel that was near to the clinic so that I didn’t have to far to go.
They had already taken a cast of my leg and created a check socket to get going, which we could easily adjust before making a definitive final socket out of carbon fibre.
This prosthetic would be very different from my NHS one, which had a foam cup moulded to my stump which then went into the socket. This was all held on with a rubber sleeve over the top. The new one would be a suction suspension system. I would have a rubber sleeve directly on my stump, which has a rubber seal close to the bottom. I would have to spray an alcohol solution in the socket first to lubricate it a bit and then slide my leg in and roll a rubber sleeve over to create the seal.
There was a one-way valve on the side of the socket that pushed air out, creating the suction that kept it tightly on the end of my leg. This was way more secure, and it meant that I had a lot more control over the foot as I was much more aware of it.
We started in the afternoon, and the basic process is to get you standing up in the check socket and trying to walk up and down the parallel bars. Then you tell them if you feel any pressure points or areas in the socket that are rubbing. They then get you sat back down, disappear with the socket and make any adjustments that you need.
Then it’s just rinse and repeat until you feel it’s comfortable enough to put up with for a week or so and you’re not having any skin problems. And if anything is going to stop you using a prosthetic, it’s skin problems. Any movement, pressure point or misalignment of the foot is usually going to cause redness, grazes, or blisters.
We got it reasonably comfortable pretty quickly on the first afternoon, so I went back to the hotel for the night, and they spent the rest of the day finishing the socket off, ready for another fitting and some physio in the morning.
Unfortunately, I made the most of being away at a hotel with a decent bar a little too much. Which left me very tender for an early morning, doing physio and prosthetics fittings.
The physio made me concentrate on groundwork to strengthen my core and glutes. These are key to balance and are the weakest after months sitting in chairs recovering. Even being able bodied, strong core muscles make the world of difference to posture and flexibility.
I had got through the physio without being sick, so I was winning in my eyes, and they had finished finalising and strengthening my check socket. All we needed to do now was make sure the foot was correctly aligned and getting a good heel to toe roll.
Now, it will never feel normal having someone sitting on the floor in front of you adjusting your foot with an allen key and a torque wrench. The feeling gets even weirder when they unscrew and detach your foot from the end of your leg.
For now, we were done. I had my first private prosthetic leg, which was way more comfortable than the NHS one, a week and a half before Christmas.
If you find you need some support, don’t be afraid to speak to friends and family. If this isn’t possible please consider giving the Amputation foundation a shout at amputationfoundation.org or even get in touch with me via my contact page
I have also started putting together a page full of different amputee charities to fit various situations, that you can find here