Saturday, May 31, 2003

It’s amazing the difference a pair of artificial limbs can make.

A number of the patients I see regularly at the hospital have lost both legs well above the knee, often through diabetes. When I first started my rehab, my reaction on seeing them was one of shock, sympathy…dare I say it, revulsion – despite my own amputation. How can anyone live a purposeful life with no legs? It seemed that even having paralysed and wasted legs was preferable to having none at all.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was with these blokes. There just seemed to be something missing.

It was when I started talking to them face to face that I had the blindingly obvious yet startling revelation that personality is not dependent on limb-count. One doesn’t forfeit a trait or a characteristic for each limb that’s removed.

And I watched something incredible happen. These guys, who looked so small and fragile in their wheelchairs, strapped on a pair of prosthetic legs. And even without feet, calves or knees they rose up from their chairs and started walking; first inside parallel bars, then with sticks, then solo.

All the sympathy, all the revulsion disappeared. They became just the same as everyone else.

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