Monday, June 09, 2003

There it is, in all its glory. My new leg. Actually, the picture shows it in its au naturel state. When I wear it for real the bit between the shin and the ankle will be covered over. It's left uncovered at the moment so that it can be fine tuned.

I arrived at the hospital in a state of excitement, eager to see it for the first time and get walking.

I went into the fitting room and – after a few minor adjustments from prosthetist Ian – was shown how to put the leg on, “donning” in amputee-speak.

Layer followed layer, like an exquisitely wrapped gift. A cotton sock over Mr S was covered by a thick foam sleeve, which I then squeezed into a rigid fibreglass socket. The whole thing was held tight by an elastic knee support stocking.

I carefully stepped up from my wheelchair and gripped onto the parallel bars.

Jo, my physio, steadied me as I made my first steps, explaining ways of improving my walk.

It felt like wearing a bucket, a fat, heavy lump of metal and plastic. Even though I was walking more freely than I had done in two months I felt my heart slowly sinking as it dawned on me, not for the first time, that every single step, every day for the rest of my life will depend on an artificial leg. It looked and felt so clumsy, so unwieldy, so…..artificial.

Then I put long trousers on over my shorts.

The change in my mood was instantaneous. The bulky socket became invisible beneath my clothes. For the first time since the accident there were two trainers poking out of the leg holes instead of one.

“You can’t see it. You honestly can’t see it,” Jo laughed.

She was right. You couldn’t.

Everything seemed to come together.

I could imagine walking into a room and no one noticing I was wearing a prosthetic leg. I imagined meeting people for the first time and them not knowing I was amputee until I told them -- if indeed I felt the need to tell them at all.

It’s still a long way off. But it’ll happen.

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