My prosthetist Tom was himself an above-knee amputee. I met him on Christmas Eve when my knee broke. I was at home with my two children—the youngest just one-month old. I was despondent. How could I care for two children with a broken knee and I wouldn’t be able to get it fixed until after the holiday? I began calling all the prosthetists in the Yellow Pages. Tom answered his phone and agreed to make a housecall. He came by and quickly ascertained the problem. He made a quick run back to his office for parts and made the repair. When I asked him how much money I owed him, he said “Merry Christmas” and winked at my children as he headed out the door.
Years later when I wanted a leg that I could wear kayaking and to the beach, Tom made me a pylon with a plunger-like rubber stopper on the bottom instead of a foot. I loved wearing that leg. It had no knee, no technology. It cost only a few dollars.
Garry, my current prosthetist, was assigned to me by my HMO. He works for a growing chain of prosthetic offices. My latest leg cost $64,000—which the HMO paid for. It has a computerized knee joint and it has a battery that needs to be ‘charged’ every 24 hours. It imitates an almost-natural knee motion. I can walk down hills and stairs and on even surfaces without fear of falling. It has a lifelike cosmetic cover. I can bounce on my toe three times to change the ‘mode’ of the knee for sports activity.
But it can’t get wet. And it makes me nervous to go barefoot because the points for the electrical charger are on the side of my ankle. I haven’t gone to the beach in two years.