The long road to freedom.

My original blog covered my amputation, the period immediately after and the subsequent 2nd operation to chop out an infection that was threatening to take what was left of my leg.

In order to speed the healing process up I was fitted with a vacuum dressing which worked via a small pump. The pump drew the slough [pronounced ‘sluff’] out of the wound and left the remaining tissue free to heal. I kept the pump on for two months [day and night] give or take a week, and it was a giant pain in the arse.

The day I got the all clear from the hospital was truly momentous. It meant an end to the thrice-weekly 40 mile round-trip from home to the hospital in Coventry. It meant an end to the huge wait for a parking space once we arrived at the hospital [it’s not uncommon to wait for 40 minutes in a queue for a space] and it meant an end to having to carry the vacuum pump around in a dainty little man-bag everywhere I went. It also meant I could finally start my rehabilitation and start working toward getting a leg.

I rang what I call ‘The Leg Place’ from the car park at the hospital. I’d visited the Leg Place prior to the Infection setting in and met a woman there that I’d taken an instant dislike to. She wanted me to go in every week to mince about doing stretches and shit but I didn’t want to disturb the vacuum pump and set my recovery back even further so refused to do it [which pleased her no end].

I made an appointment to go and see the same woman. It turns out the Leg Place only has one qualified physiotherapist and appointments are like rocking horse shit as a result.

I went in at the appointed hour and fully expected her to magic a leg up there and then, but no, she wanted to do stretches and then she wanted to inspect every square inch of my stump, and my remaining leg. Our initial relationship was frosty to say the least, I didn’t understand what she was messing about at and just wanted to move on. At one point, when she was telling me that 80% of amputees never walk again because it’s too difficult, I decided to tell her that I’d seen small children and old people wandering about with prosthetic limbs so it can’t be as hard as she was making out and could she please hurry up… to her credit she didn’t call me a twat, but a tenner says she was thinking it, and she probably said it during her tea-break or something.

After a couple of weeks of knobbing about it was time to try out for a leg. There are a number of hoops that need to be jumped through before you’re considered suitable and whilst I can’t remember all of them I do know that one of them is standing still for ten minutes, supported by the parallel bars when needed, and another was to stand perfectly still for 1 minute and balance on the remaining leg without touching the bars or anything else. I passed both tests plus whatever else it was at the first attempt and was free to trundle off to see the woman who makes the legs… joy!

It was early July when I went to the other side of the Leg Place. The right side deals with prosthetics, the left side deals with rehabilitation and physiotherapy – and the two sides don’t get along. Mention one side to the other and you’ll get a roll of the eyes, some muttered insult and a lot of finger clicking as a scene from Westside Story cracks off before your very eyes. They hate each other, which is mega when you’re stuck in the middle.

On the day of my appointment I was called in late [as usual] and the woman I met didn’t bother with pleasantries such as “hello” and instead preferred the phrase “are you wearing pants?”…I assumed it was a colloquialism and nodded slowly so as not to scare her. Perhaps, I thought, this is how they do things round here, maybe this woman has a brother/father or a sister/mother, best not to spook her.

I was directed to stand between the parallel bars as is the norm and watched as the woman readied herself. She was perched on a mechanics stool directly in front of me and in another time and place [and perhaps without my missus watching] things could have gotten interesting. Sadly though, the following took place.

Without a word of warning my new best friend plunged her hand between my legs. Ordinarily I’d take this as a good sign but on this occasion It meant danger. I’d like the reader to keep in mind the fact that this was July, in what turned out to be the warmest summer ever and my balls were seriously sweaty. I would also like to alert the reader to the fact that my new best mate had chosen not to wear gloves and had had to move my dingus out of the way as he blocked her route to my nether regions.

The whole time she was rummaging about all I could think of was “did she wash her hands after the last bloke left or is sweaty ball smell the thing that does it for her?”.

We’d been going for ten minutes or so by now and I needed a break, my left leg is pretty rubbish and having to support the rest of me takes it’s toll. I sat down in my chair and she finally explained that she was looking for certain ligaments and bones. She also told me that she could have reached them easier from behind but didn’t want to move on account of it being warm.

Oddly, after I stood up again, she scooted round behind me and started to root about all over again. This time she said she was looking for the ‘bum bone’ and this time I started to imagine that this is what prison must be like. For the record your bum bone is located a gnats chuff away from your bumhole and, let me tell you, any unauthorised activity in that area gives this bloke the heebie geebies!

At some point the invasive probing stopped and I think she might even have measured something, I was past caring by that point though and needed the missus to take me to the nearest toy shop so I could buy a doll and point out to the Police where I’d been touched.

My best mate told us as we were leaving that she was going on holiday the following day and would be away for two weeks. She said she’d leave the information with one of her colleagues and that they would be in touch in due course. I’m delighted to say she washed her hands at that point, I’m hoping she’d done that before I entered the room too, although it’s possible that she didn’t enjoy the rich aroma of my sweaty ball… posh cow.

I tootled off home in good spirits [okay, I didn’t have the urge to kill everyone for 20 minutes or so] and set about waiting for the telephone call telling me my Gucci leg was ready. I waited, and I waited and then I waited some more. Eventually, after six weeks or so, I got fed up of waiting and called them. I heard the woman on the end of the phone go quiet. She did a bit of tapping and some rustling of papers and then said she’d call me back [she didn’t] I called her again the following time and this time got through to someone in the leg department. The person I spoke to told me that they’d lost the notes and needed me to go in to be measured again – dagnabit!

An appointment was hastily arranged and the whole nasty procedure was completed again. This time my best mate said she’d deal with it herself, right then, this is bound to work. I asked at this stage if i’d have any chance of taking my boys out on Halloween around the village “I don’t see why not”, she said… wahoo!

This time I really did only wait two weeks. The call came and I fairly bounded off to the Leg Place. This was the day I was going to walk again, and I couldn’t flipping wait!

We arrived on time and were kept waiting, again, and then we were wheeled into the same room as before to find something that looked like an upturned Policeman’s helmet secured in some type of contraption. No leg, No knee, No foot, just a massive helmet.

No explanation was offered, apparently I should know the inner workings of a prosthetic clinic, why wouldn’t I? I was told to stand up and put my stump into the helmet, I did. I asked for it to be lowered because I was virtually on my tip-toes but she told me I needed to straighten my leg. I tried to stand tall but was told I wasn’t doing it right, that my posture was crap and that they couldn’t fit this thing if I didn’t stand up… I felt a similar kind of rage that Bruce Banner experiences just before he goes green and fucks shit up but I held on to it and asked if they could let me see in the mirror so I could correct whatever they needed as I just couldn’t understand what she wanted.

A mirror was duly rolled in [I looked good as usual] and I saw the issue. “Ah-Ha”, I said, “My left knee doesn’t get any straighter than this, it’s osteoarthritis and there’s sod all I can do about it”.

I was told that my explanation was rubbish and that of course I could get it straighter, she started banging on about range of movement being poor and before I knew it Bruce was gone and Hulk had turned up. We exchanged more than a few words, she was told to stop talking to me like I was 3yrs old and her parentage might have been questioned too. It’s fair to say that our relationship hit a bit of a road bump that day. Appointment over, I was told to go and see the original woman as there was no way I was ready for a leg and the other lot had stuffed up, the bastards!

Yet another appointment was made, another week delay followed and in I went again, for about 15 minutes. My range was tested [the movement of my hips basically, how far they’ll move given everything on the right hand side hasn’t been used in months and is busy shrinking] once again my range was declared suitable only this time the physio woman [dubbed ‘Mad Lizzie’] called the Leg woman [dubbed ‘That Twat on the other side’] and told her to come and see for herself – she refused – so, guess what, another appointment was made, only this time it would be for a fitting. An absolute cast-iron guarantee this time, my leg was just two short weeks away from being here!

The morning of the next appointment rolled round but, a few minutes before we were due to leave the phone rang… the parts needed to complete my new leg hadn’t been delivered. Not to worry, they’d be in later that day and they’d call me with a new appointment… they didn’t.

I rang the next morning and was told the parts still hadn’t landed, that they were in touch with the couriers and not to worry. A short while later they called again, the couriers had lost the parts and they now needed to be re-ordered… Balls!

No appointment was made as there were no parts and no lead-time. They would be in touch when they landed and until then there was nothing anyone could do. Sorry. I was offered some physiotherapy, which I refused, and told to wait until they called, a couple of weeks passed but no call came so I rang in and was told that they still hadn’t shown up. At this I got the arse and decided an email to head office was the way to go, I was months down the line by now, Halloween had come and gone and my new goal was to be walking by Christmas. I emailed head office but got butkus by way of reply, not a peep.

I absolutely hate using the phone, anyone who knows me knows this. I don’t ring people and very rarely answer if they ring me, but this time I figured I’d ring head office and demand answers.

I called the number advertised and a woman picked up. I thought I’d called the wrong place though as she said it was ‘Opcare’ and I’d called ‘Blatchford’, I explained I’d called the wrong number but just before I hung up she asked who I wanted, I told her and she said “Oh they’ve gone, we’ve taken over and the number has been transferred to us”. Eh?

It turns out that Blatchford had lost the NHS contract to supply prosthetics and related services but rather than actually tell me that they decided simply to make up stories about Couriers. The reality is that Blatchford didn’t want to spend any more money and had pulled all of it’s machinery out of the building so no more legs could be built. All staff but the centre manager were being retained

[which would make it a tad awkward when I next spoke to the woman who
lied to me]

and it would be business as usual in a couple of days. The lady I talked to happened to be one of Opcare’s directors. She happened to be passing reception when the phone rang and figured she’d answer it. She promised to get me squared away ASAP and, amazingly, as soon as they opened the next morning they were on the phone booking an appointment for a leg fitting!

This time all went smoothly. I went in at the allotted time and was kept waiting [nothing changes] but as I entered the room with the bum forager, there was my leg, an actual real-live leg!

I tried my new leg on, Christine took a cheesy thumbs-up photo and that was me done! A couple of weeks practising and I’d be out of there.

“A couple of weeks” turned into another four months. Christmas came and went and then the new target of walking by my Birthday was missed. The root cause was me needing to have another leg made, which involved another set of measurements and, amazingly, another set of measurements because the first ones had been lost, again!

When the leg arrived I got cracking straight away, I had more hoops to jump through such as walking a slalom course of cones, practising going up and down stairs, opening and closing doors, going up and down slopes, picking things up off the floor, picking myself up off the floor should I fall over and, sitting… I got through all of that lot only for my bastard stump to change shape! The stump is prone to change for the first two years post-op and it wasn’t entirely unexpected. At first they increase the number of ‘socks’ you wear [a sock is exactly that, it’s an over-sized sock that goes over the stump to prevent sores and rubbing] the socks come in thick and thin types and I got up to needing 4 thick socks which is the trigger for a new socket. Off I went to see the bum forager again only she was off sick [hooray!] so someone new got to fondle me instead [boo!] the only good thing is that no dudes ever got involved in the bum-foraging. It’s bad enough when a chick does it but a dude would be too much and someone would get whacked, me probably.

I’m loathe to even write it but, for the umpteenth time, my measurements were ‘mislaid’ so they took another set ‘just to be sure’. They then sorted my leg out in double-quick time and off I went to see mad Lizzie again.

Mad Lizzie needs to see patients performing the tasks set twice before she can sign them off so we set about knocking them off sharpish. It only took a couple of weeks to complete the list and she started making sounds about taking the leg home for a test drive. A day here, a day there, that kind of thing. I told her one day that I’d been coming to the Leg Place for 7 Months, and that I’d just read about a guy who lost both hands and both feet to an infection. He was in hospital for 7 weeks and walked out under his own steam… she told me I could take my leg home there and then!

The leg has been christened “Doctor” in homage to Dr Legg from Eastenders [Christine’s idea] and for the first few days I felt guilty that I wasn’t wearing it often enough. I’m meant to be using it in 30 minute bursts 3 times per day, the intention is that you slowly add minutes to each session until the sessions meet up and form one big one. I had two walking sticks on day one but I tossed one of them on day two because my posture was crap and I looked more like Caesar from Planet of the Apes than Andy from Huncote of the Apes.

One day I decided to see what could be done so I kept the thing on all day from 8am until 6pm, it was fine, but I didn’t really go anywhere, just mooched about at home, and then I picked up the Infection and things slowed down again as my left knee has been wrecked for a week or so. Due to the osteoarthritis I have no cartilage in the knee but I suspect the infection I didn’t know I had was keeping the joint filled with fluid and that acted as a shock absorber in the same way a normal knee uses cartilage. Once the infection went, so did my knee.

The past few days has seen me venturing out like a big boy on my own. One day I made it ¾ of the way up the street before being forced to turn back but earlier today [Tuesday 21st May] I made it all the way to the end of the road, across the main road and over to the bench at the end of the next road. I even took a picture! My next goal is to make it as far as the park although I need to be careful not to go too far if I get there as the effort of walking means I’m massively out of breath and, trust me, the children’s play area is not the place to be when you’re a bloke, and you’re panting, and a bit sweaty… I can see the headlines now “Mothers Club Together – suspected kiddy fiddler found with a Hedgehog jammed up his batty”.

Over and out, good people [person] until next time.

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