A short story of appreciation
It was 2010 and the soccer world cup was in full swing. Germany and Spain were set to play a game at the new Moses Madiba Stadium in Durban. We (Myself and Wolfgang my business partner) were invited for lunch at Moyo restaurant by Otto Bock, the biggest prosthetic supply company in the world, based in Germany. I arrived at the restaurant and found a spot at the end of a long table. Otto Bock had invited all the Prothetists in Durban and it was good to see my colleagues again. We settled down as each person found their seat.
One of the Otto Bock reps came and sit directly opposite me on the table. He introduced himself as Hans Nader. We spoke about open water swimming, I told him that if he came to Durban again, he should try swim the Midmar mile as I explained to him that I had swam it 3 times and was training for the 4th one.
We chatted for bit and then he asked me why I’m using crutches. I told him that I wore a prosthetic leg with a mechanical knee and that it was very difficult for me to walk with the prosthetic alone. He nodded his head in understanding and then started speaking German to one of the other Otto Bock members. I did not know what was said, but a few minutes later it was explained to me that Otto Bock would donate a C-Leg and prosthetic foot to me. In 2010 this knee was the very latest in micro processor technology and the price for a new knee in 2010 was R 300 000.00, costing more than a SUV.
I then found out that the representative that I was chatting to the whole time and sitting opposite me at the table was none other than the billionaire sole owner of Otto Bock. I was completely flabbergasted.
I received the package one month later and attended a course in Johannesburg to become certified in fitting a C-Leg. My business partner also attended the course and together we learnt how to assemble and interface with the prosthetic knee. The day came that my new prosthetic socket was complete, we attached the knee and foot and I donned my prosthesis like I always did using a slip slider sock. I tentatively took my first few steps, Albeit with the crutches. I was not used to the new knee and felt it was heavier that my previous knee.
We made the adjustments through the blue tooth adapter interfacing with a computer and programmed the knee to my specifications. I eventually took a few steps with one crutch. I knew immediately that if I wanted to successfully walk with the C- Leg knee, it would require my complete trust, I had to learn to lean into the prosthesis like I have never done before. It was my fear of falling that took some time to overcome.
It was late and I was exhausted from the whole day of testing the prosthesis and I needed to get home for a rest. I decided to make a quick stop at the garage 1 stop shop to get some bread and milk. When I stopped in the parking, I knew that I would eventually have to trust the prosthesis. I remember my heart beating in my chest as I grabbed one crutch only and got out the car and headed towards the sliding doors. By the time I reached the doors, I knew it was possible to try hold a basket. I picked up the shopping basket for the first time since I had my amputation and set out down the first aisle. I was supposed to get bread and milk, but it turned out to be a whole basket of goodies.
With a smile on my face, I exited the shop and got back into my car. I sat there for about 5 minutes thinking about what I had done. I have been using the same knee for 13 years and can honestly say that the C-Leg has been the most rewarding impactful event that had ever happened to me in my entire life. The C-leg knee learns how you walk, it uses an algorithm and makes millisecond adjustments to make sure I walk comfortably and stay safe while doing so.
I eventually resorted to using a cane with my prosthesis as the momentum from moving the prosthetic forward creates torque on my spine, which can lead to back pain.
f you are an above knee amputee reading this story and you are unsure which prosthetic knee will be best suited for you. I can categorically say that any of the C-Legs from Otto Bock will be suitable if you can afford it.
This story does have a downside and that is the fact that the majority of amputees (99%) cannot afford such a knee. Medical aids and injury on Duty do not pay for these knees and the saddest part is that every amputee would benefit from such knee, and it will remain out of their grasp due to financial constraints.
If I can explain in one sentence what the knee does for me “Walking without thinking of walking”
It was the biggest and most useful gift I had ever received, and I will be forever grateful to Hans for his philanthropic heart.
My heart to yours…..