Learning to walk again

Peter Williams
Summary 
My foot was crushed in a car accident two years ago. I was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. The doctors could not save my foot. It had to be amputated. I was impatient to get my new artificial foot. Using crutches all the time was hurting my shoulders. Walking on my new foot was hard to learn. But I soon grew in confidence. I met other amputees at the hospital. Many of them faced huge challenges. But I never heard anyone complain. I still miss my foot. But I am grateful I can still do many things I love.
Posted by: 
Peter Williams on 30/08/2011
Prosthetic feet in various shapes and sizes on a factory floor.
Prosthetic feet

A wide variety of custom carbon technology prosthetic feet.

While holidaying in Adelaide I took a ride in a taxi. My cab collided with another car. An ambulance rushed me to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. The doctors had to amputate my badly injured foot.

I knew learning to walk again was going to be hard work. But I wanted to do all the things I did before my amputation. I began my rehabilitation at Caulfield General Medical Centre. The doctors wanted me back on my feet quickly. Long periods of inactivity make walking difficult for amputees. I had to wait two months for my leg to heal. It was very frustrating. My joints ached from the strain of using crutches for so long.

First steps

When my leg healed I was fitted with a basic foot. Amputees begin walking on a prosthesis designed for stability. The moment came to take my first steps. I had to walk between bars. I was surprised at how lifeless my foot felt. But I began to sense my prosthesis. I could feel it bending and flexing like a real foot. My stump was very sensitive. I had to get used to putting all my weight on it.

The therapy required to relearn daily tasks after the loss of a limb is extensive. I spent many sessions improving my balance and walking around obstacles. After learning the basics I was taught how to run.

Like many amputees I have a phantom limb. I feel the foot I have lost. Sometimes the pain associated with a phantom limb makes it difficult to wear a prosthesis. Fortunately my phantom limb is painless. But it is impossible to scratch when it itches!

Support and encouragement

There was a strong sense of camaraderie among the amputees I met at the hospital. I was grateful for their support and encouragement. The obstacles I had to overcome seemed small compared to the challenges others faced. We shared advice and tips about dealing with common problems.

My foot was not suited for running or tennis. I needed an upgrade to a high performance foot. I visited many websites that advertised artificial feet. The feet had names like Highlander and Perfect Stride. They promised dynamic response and smooth rollover. I pictured myself sprinting or hiking up a mountain. But when I tried walking on them they sadly felt like a worn-out shock absorber.

My expectations were obviously too high. I realised the foot was not going to do all the work by itself. I practiced running. I was thrilled when I began to run faster. I came to prize the foot I chose.

Patience and perseverance

My prosthetic foot allows me to do the things I love. I can run, cycle, play tennis and travel freely. But there is a lot of stress on my stump. Bruises and sores suddenly appear. They stop me from wearing my foot. I am forced to use crutches again. I get depressed when I have to postpone future plans.

I remind myself I need to be patient. If I persevere I can achieve the goals I have set myself. Losing my foot was hard to accept. But it has made me realise I should be thankful for what I have.

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