Tag Archives: amputee


photo of two feet, one is normal and one is roboticWhile boarding a plane in Dallas last week a man stopped me and asked if I was an amputee. This question, asked by a stranger, often makes me wary.  My reflex is to cut off contact with the stranger as soon as possible because it’s my experience that I will then be stuck listening to that person tell me about every amputee that they know and about every news story that they’ve seen about amputee Olympians.

This time, though, went a bit different. Rather than explaining his question, he pulled up his pantleg and showed me his hardware. We were two of a kind. We spoke in our own lingo, confirmed that we were both RAKs and started talking technology. He has the latest and greatest knee, one that I will never qualify for because they are only available to ex-military. I had to stifle the urge to run my hand along his calf as I admired the sleek look of his knee and ankle joints.

We walked on to the plane and found we were seated a few rows apart. We kept talking, standing in our seats and speaking across the seats that divided us.

Two minutes in and we were talking sweat. He lives in Texas and I in SoCal. We agreed that there was no technology that could help as walk better as long as there was sweat–it causes our prostheses to slip and twist and slowly slide off of our bodies.

“I pour out cupfuls every day,” he said.

“Me too, and no prosthetist really listens to that issue, they keep telling me that if I was wearing my leg correctly, I shouldn’t be sweating so much,” I shared.

As the plane filled I shared with him my best advice, these spendy sweat blocker towlettes that I order online and that made walking in Rome and Pompeii possible. I also use them when we have a heatwave, which allows me to survive the workday without having to pour sweat out of my socket every few hours. He hadn’t tried them, but he said he would.

We exchanged business cards and promised to keep in touch.

I turned around and sat down.  As I fastened the belt and adjusted the position of my fake foot underneath the seat in front of me, I marveled at how satisfying it is to be seen by someone who lives life like me. I don’t even remember his name now, but we shared more in that brief conversation than I have with many people close to me. And somehow it’s a comfort to know that my problems with sweat aren’t just mine, but that he shares them.


better than able…

When I go through the “TSA personal massage” process, the agents giving the patdown are usually skeeved when they feel my right calf and foot, which are textured to feel like real flesh and bone.  I’ve been told that it gives them the “chills” to feel something so real and know that it’s not.  Or, as has happened more than once, they assume that my titanium thigh (which is evident as hard metal even through clothing) is somehow connected to a real flesh-and-bone knee, calf, and foot).

From Cyborgology:

This may or may not be so – it’s difficult to be sure, in what are arguably still early days of this particular kind of human augmentation, but again, I would take this a step further: that, as both Jenny and I have argued, what makes us the most uneasy right now about human augmentation is the idea that it might make people – especially people with disabilities – better than abled humans. We can usually stomach humans with close relationships to objects and machines, provided they don’t begin to transgress the boundary that not only delineates a category but defines that category as an ideal.

I don’t yet have bionics that rival an organic limb, but I welcome that day and I assume that it’s not far away.  For now, my fake-leg-wishlist includes the ability to add a wifi hotspot and a USB port for charging my phone.  I’m not far off from that goal, either–my awesome friend Scott has already built up a prototype of the USB-adapter leg with my old bionic knee.

And once that’s in place I suppose that I’ll even let my friends charge their devices off of my battery once in awhile.  Because I’m nice like that and I feel a little bit sorry for the rest of you that don’t have awesome bionic peripherals like mine.  😉