Access Your Life

On August 13th 2015 I became an above knee amputee after years of surgeries to my left knee due to Type II CRPS/RSD. 12 days after the operation I had access to a training leg, and was up and walking even before my stitches were removed. I was soon fitted with my first socket, and at first things were going really well, but the more I wore the socket, the more pain I would endure. I also had major problems with my stump swelling and shrinking whilst wearing it due to lymphedema. It became a nightmare! It would take me 45 minutes to just get the socket on and then within minutes my leg would shrink so I’d take the socket off put socks on and then after putting the socket back on for ten minutes my stump would swell again.

My awesome Prosthetists, Helen Brigham and Steven Purcell at Specialised Ability Centre in Manchester, tried everything to make it comfortable but nothing worked. Eventually it got to the point where I was told that when my stump was swollen, to just not wear my leg. The longest I could wear my leg was no more than 3-4 hours once or twice a week, which was so frustrating as my physiotherapists said that my walking was spot on! I had worked so hard to get my fitness back and then to be told “don’t wear your leg” was a kick in the gut. My leg was in the corner of my room becoming an ornament gathering dust.

I decided on researching other socket options and in December last year I came across LIM Innovations whilst going through my twitter stream. I did some research on them via their website and was in awe! I thought I would send LIM a tweet asking them if this was available in the UK, and within ten minutes they responded. I went straight in to show all of my physio team and my prosthetist to see what they thought. Everyone at Specialised Ability Centre actively want to help patients to live fully independent lives, so they are always open in to looking at new technologies coming through.

In March, the LIM team came along and met my team. I was completely overwhelmed, excited, and shocked; like a kid at Christmas. The next day I had my cast taken which was then sent back to San Francisco, so that my Infinite Socket could be made. They came back over to the UK in April and spent the day fitting my socket as well as showing the prosthetists and technicians how to do all the adjustments. I was so surprised at how soft and light it feels to wear.

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Within the first week I was invited by Limb Power and British Cycling to go to The National Cycling Centre in Manchester to have a try at track para-cycling on the Velodrome. I haven’t been on a bike in over 20 years! Even then it was on a mountain bike not a racer. The wheels are 2cms in width, which left me nervous at first but I managed to do 12 laps! I will be going back again for sure, as I want to beat those 12 laps. It felt amazing to be able to take part in sports again!

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Then in week 2 I was able to tick off another goal. I wanted to be able to walk all the way round the supermarket I go to and do my shopping whilst holding a basket. I did it! I must admit that when I got back to my car I was so hot that my face was bright red, it was a full on workout but I did it! I had not been able to do that in well over 10 years.

In a couple of weeks, I will be going to the Limb Power Anniversary Games. They have an introduction to sports where you can go along and try out lots of different sports. I’m so excited to go along and just give everything a go.

There are plenty of other amputees out there that want to wear their leg but can’t because of socket problems. I also think that the Infinite Socket would be a perfect solution for new amputees to help getting them used to wearing a prosthesis, as the socket can accommodate and be adjusted to stump changes that happen within the first couple of years. This would mean goodbye to 5 -10 castings, test socket fittings and the time it takes to get for those appointments. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Here is my rundown of the traditional socket Vs the Infinite Socket:

The old socket is hard, rigid, unforgiving, painful around the groin, doesn’t hold my femur steady and most importantly it will never accommodate my leg swelling throughout the day. I had padding added to stop my bone tapping on the sides of the socket, which hurts! It would cut off the feeling in my stump when standing for any length of time. I couldn’t sit comfortably at all. I would have to lean over to one side to sit as it would cut into me. I couldn’t drive whilst wearing it because it would cut off the feeling in my stump and it would jab into my hip and groin. My prosthetists tried everything to try and make it comfortable but nothing worked.

The Infinite Socket is soft, extremely sturdy, doesn’t cut off the feeling of my stump when I’m sat down, flexes when walking, which holds the femur in place for a more confident stride and the very best part…. Its fully adjustable! I can adjust it throughout the day, which means no more having to carry 1/3/5 ply socks and having to take my leg off and on to add or remove socks. I can sit down in comfort without having to lean to stop it cutting into me. I can drive long distances too. I now love my socket! I want to show my whole leg off now not just the bit below the socket.