Amputee Round-Up: Prosthetics and Amputees in the News

Photo: Born Just Right bornjustright.com
Photo: Born Just Right.

As your token amputee GeekMom writer, I love periodically filling our readers in on what’s going on in the amputee world. Of course, there are always new advancements in designs of prosthetic limbs, but there are also issues facing today’s amputee that are unrelated to how our hardware fits.

Let’s start with some stories that have been making the rounds, about how amputees are accepted (or rejected) at amusement parks and water parks. This is a huge issue in the amputee world. It’s becoming an even bigger issue as more and more amputees are no longer hiding their artificial limbs, and celebrating the mobility they have achieved.

In my childhood, there would have been very few amputees seen at a water park, and if they came in the gate, they probably wore long pants and didn’t participate on the rides. Those days are over. Current amputees are realizing there is nothing to hide and no reason not to participate in fun activities with their family and friends.

Photo: Judy Berna Enjoying Canobie Lake in NH
Enjoying Canobie Lake in NH. Photo: Judy Berna.

On the flip side, you have amusement park owners who are living in a sue-happy society and are doing everything they can to stay out of court. Every summer, there are more and more local news outlets reporting on an amputee who was turned away on a ride, solely because of their prosthetic limb. I have a variety of feelings about this practice, some which might surprise you. I plan to share those with you in another post next week. For now, here are a few of the most recent stories hitting the internet.

This one hits me the deepest. It’s a story about a little girl who is very active, even with her prosthetic leg. She and her family have often frequented water parks and amusement parks and had no issues. Then, on their last visit, she was made to exit the water slide “because her leg might scratch the slide.” Now, I can understand if the park feels like her safety is at risk, but turning away an 8-year-old because she might scratch your slide? Ridiculous.

Here is one about one of our Purple Heart recipients, who lost both of his legs fighting for our freedom, being turned away from a ride at Six Flags.

And here’s one that might surprise you… a man turned away from an amusement park ride because he has no hands.

GeekMom Judy's friend Jordan, and her prosthetist. Photo: Born Just Right
GeekMom Judy’s friend, Jordan, and her prosthetist. Photo: Born Just Right.

Now, on to more uplifting stories. It has not been a burden to continue seeing this next story pop up in my feed over and over again. A fitness photographer named Michael Stokes has turned his camera on to some of our own military veterans, and photographed them like he would his able-bodied models. The pictures are stunning (but a bit too graphic to post here). He has started a Kickstarter campaign to be able to publish his photographs in a book.

When people approach Mr. Stokes and tell him what a great job he’s doing to help the self esteem of these amputee vets, he quickly corrects them. He has been amazed by the confidence and power his subjects had when they walked in his door. They are already at the top of their game and ready to take on the world. I have to say, I love seeing amputees portrayed in this empowering way. I know these stories help every adult who might lose a limb in the future and every child who is facing this surgery. It’s no longer about your life being over. It’s about your life being changed.

How can you not love a story about kids with prosthetics and Lego building blocks? Here is a great article about one of the newest bionic hands, which is Lego adaptable. This means a kid can build whatever he wants in that spot where a hand might go. Be sure to check out the precious picture of a little guy who built a backhoe for a hand. All of the sudden, not having a second “real” hand doesn’t seem so awful.

The field of prosthetic hands is changing by the day and here is one of the latest hands that has been created. I have a young friend who uses her “helper arm” for some things in life, and is watching with interest as these new bionic options are being created. For her, these are all just steps toward a hand she might wear in the future. It takes a lot of mental energy to operate a prosthetic hand. But for now, it’s fun to watch the technology explode in exciting new ways.

If you’re a gamer, you might like this article, about how they are using gaming technology to help some amputees learn to walk again.

Here’s another inspiring story, about a teenager with two prosthetic legs, who is excelling at high-school level sports and making his way to the Paralympics.

Are you a surfer by chance? Here’s a great link about a guy who is competing at the first ever World Adaptive Surfing Championships, as a double amputee.

And speaking of the ocean, we can’t forget the two brave teenagers who lost arms this summer off the coast of North Carolina, all because of shark attacks. Hunter Treschl is actually from my home state of Colorado, and has shown stellar maturity through is experience.

Twelve-year-old Kiersten Yow lost her arm on the same day, on the same beach, and is also showing great maturity as she was released from the hospital recently. I know both of these young people will be welcomed into the amputee community and will never have to feel alone in their journey.

Photo: Challenged Athletes Foundation
Photo: Challenged Athletes Foundation.

I can’t finish this post without calling attention to a great advocate of the amputee world, who is now gone. Robin Williams would have turned 64 last week. Yes, he was a genius in the world of comedy, but he was also a genius of humanity for the great energy he put into supporting disabled athletes through the Challenged Athlete Foundation. The CAF hands out grants every year, to help people of all ages be able to buy the equipment they need to stay active. Every year, they finance hundreds of those bladed running legs (and many more adaptive devices), so more amputee athletes can have the chance to run. If you were a Robin Williams fan, consider clicking over to the CAF site and making a donation in his name, in honor of his birthday. I’m sure he would have been very pleased.

So there you have it; some of the latest stories that are floating around the internet about the world I live in. Feel free to send me links that you might see. It’s nice to stay up to date on the latest in prosthetics and amputee life, with the help of my friends and family.