Wednesday, May 21, 2008


So one of my favorite of Daughter's friends was over the other day. His name is Chris and my daughter often accuses me of loving him more than her. Of course I am not responsible for his well being twenty four hours a day, so I can afford to love him in an entirely different way than I do my own kiddos. He is a smart kid, a funny kid and always has a ready smile. I am sure my own children have these same qualities in their friends houses....and their friend's mom's get accused of loving my kids more than their own. It's just how it works with teenagers.

Anyway, I digress. Chris was over the other day and just hanging around while Daughter fixed herself a snack. It was the point in my day where I add a sock to my artificial leg.

My leg fits very snugly, so that all the weight is distributed throughout my leg socket. If and when my stump starts to shrink through the day (or if I am exercising/sweating) it becomes uncomfortable. The answer is a long narrow sock. By taking off my leg, covering my stump with a thin cotton sock, then putting my leg back on, I can fill in the socket just enough so that the pain goes away. It's a handy trick and works great in warm months(wearing shorts) because I don't have to pull down my pants to do it.

I have known Chris for most of the 20 months we have lived in New York. But I don't think we have ever really talked about my artificial leg. Most of the kid's friends just notice it, maybe comment under their breath ("cool...") then move along. Sometimes they ask my kids questions when I am not around, and my kids have pretty accurate answers, being mini experts on this bionic leg thing.

But Chris was just there, a sitting duck for my latest leg discussion.

See, I love telling people about my leg. I chose this leg, and this life, and I love sharing it with people. But I am also aware that some people don't care. It's my thing and important to me, but I never want to torture anyone else if they don't care to know.

Chris, being a bright kid who loves knowing how the world works, and also a polite kid, who might not ask me things that he wonders about, just might be interested to know more about my fun plastic leg. (this was my rationalization for torturing him with my leg lecture.)

"Hey Chris, wanna see how I adjust my leg?" I figured that tease might just work to suck in a teen age boy. Mechanics and all that.


So for the next half hour, while Daughter ate her snack (rolled her eyes a few times...she's heard the leg talk way too many times..) then checked her email, Chris and I discussed.

And as I told him about my leg, how it works mechanically, what other options I had in hardware, and how critical my prosthetist is to my well being, it dawned on me that I need to start chatting with more bright teens.

Because you see, there is this great field of work out there called "Prosthetist". I have known great ones and I have known crappy ones and the world definitely needs more great ones.

My prosthetist has the ability to affect every minute of my day, every step of my life. When he does his job right, I walk through my days pain free. If he doesn't know what he's doing, I am back to counting my steps and hanging out on the couch.

But not just anyone can be a prosthetist. You have to be mechanically smart, almost to the point of geekhood. There is a LOT to know about prosthetics today. Great new advances. But they have to be understood to be able to make them work.

But that's only half the job. The other half is being a counselor and comforter. It is a very vulnerable thing, exposing a naked amputated stump to a stranger. You have to trust this person with your mobility and with your dignity. He or she has to understand you, your goals and the things that are important to your daily life.

And honestly, it is hard to find people who are a good mix of both. Engineer types are not generally the warm fuzzy comforting types.

So the two great prosthetists I have worked with personally (Hooray for Joe and Mike!) and the handful I have known online are a rare breed. And we need more of them.

Guys (and girls) who care about people, want the best for their patients, and have the brains to figure out the puzzle of which components available will work for each individual patient.

So I guess it's time to recruit. It is time to put the word "prosthetist" on the list of career choices for high school seniors. It's time to let those smart kids know that they can use those brains to help people walk. And run. And live productive days. It's a great career choice and we need smart people to choose it.

So I had my chat with Chris. He is going into medicine so even if I don't have him convinced by 2010, when he graduates high school, he will be one more person out there, spreading the word throughout his pre-med college friends. Don't forget one of the most important professions out there in medicine.

The one legged people need you.

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