What Prosthesis? Jim Schweitzer -Transtibial Amputee (BK)
For me, wearing a prosthesis has always been a normal aspect of my life. Well before I could tie my shoes independently putting on my prosthesis became a natural part of my everyday routine. My leg was amputated below the knee prior to my first birthday as part of a congenital anomaly which resulted in a longitudinal fibular deficiency, or absence of the smaller of the two bones in my leg below the knee. Rather than undergo multiple surgeries to help stabilize and correct the malalignment of my right leg, my parents elected to have my leg amputated, which for me, has always seemed the best decision. My first steps were with a prosthesis and that has always been my normal.
Growing up with two older sisters who never cut me any slack and parents who challenged me to achieve all of my goals left me no room to realize that having a prosthesis was unique or different. In my early years classmates would ask why I had a “cast” on my leg or why my leg was “shiny?” I quickly learned that if I didn’t make a big deal of having a prosthesis no one else would either. My leg was passed around “show and tell” circles more than once in elementary school teaching new classmates and teachers about my prosthesis.
As I entered my growth spurt in my early middle school years and I began playing baseball, basketball, and football competitively I began to beak every prosthetic foot my prosthetist could put on me. For me this was a frustrating time because many times my feet would break during the middle of a game and I would be out of the action, sidelined until I could get a replacement. It usually took a few days to get a replacement foot from the manufacturer and I became frustrated being out of the action for so long. After talking with my parents and having conversations with my prosthetist we were able to get a back-up foot that I could carry in my sports bag. When my foot would break I would be out of the action for a only a few plays while I quickly exchanged the broken foot for a new replacement. One of the best things about breaking so many feet was that my prosthetist never discouraged me from my active lifestyle and assured me that we just had to formulate a plan to get me back into the action more quickly. For me, this was a valuable lesson, and I firmly believe that wearing a prosthesis should never prevent you from achieving your goals, you may just have to be creative in how you approach your goals.
Spending a significant amount of time with my prosthetist during my childhood and teenage years got me interested in pursuing prosthetics as a career. After summer internships and volunteering with my prosthetist I ended up pursuing this passion and attended the Prosthetics and Orthotics program at Baylor College of Medicine. I now work at a prosthetics and orthotics clinic in Houston, Texas and am reminded daily of how strong the human spirit is and enjoy using my experience as an amputee to connect with patients. Wearing a prosthesis will undoubtedly change your daily routine, but it never defines who you are, or what you can accomplish.