Saturday, June 27, 2009

Week Ten and a Paralympian

From left, my CP Larry Wiley of Floyd Brace, Paralympic champion & Ossur Regional Clinical Manager Brian Frasure, and me. At Ossur seminar at HealthSouth (S&L Photography)

It has been a good week to be this gimp. Highlights are: I received an autographed book by Dick Traum, founder of the Achilles Track Club; Jennifer and I met Paralympian Brian Frasure; and I made an appointment for Monday to get an x-ray that might lead to my getting a foot next week.

As I write this Blackbird is playing...nice.

I plan to read Mr. Traum's book when we go to Hannibal, MO, for Jennifer's annual family reunion. As mentioned in a prior post, Dick Traum is the first person to run a marathon with a prosthetic leg and is the founder of the Achilles Track Club.


On Thursday I had an appointment with Larry at Floyd Brace to see if my incision had healed in order to start the fitting process. The last scab is showing a great deal of stubbornness, this attribute irritates some but I think it should be one of the seven virtues, certainly for runners and amps alike. It was decided to wait but Larry called and chatted with Dr. Ohlson and I will be getting an x-ray on Monday to see if the bone has completely healed. If so we will proceed with the fitting with some accommodations for this tiny pothole in my leg.

Jennifer went with me to this appointment and subsequent Ossur seminar, and while in the patient examining room Brian Frasure stepped in and introduced himself.

A word about greatness and role models:

Olympians are rightly held on pedestals as examples of the potential realized by the human mind, body, and spirit.

The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius."

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

The Paralympic motto is "Spirit in Motion."

Brian Frasure realized both of these ideals. His amputation was the result of youthful indiscretion, something no doubt many of us were just as guilty of yet escaped relatively unscathed. Brian did not. Yet he took what may have been a destructive thing, embraced it, and went on to be a champion in a way that gives that word the meaning it deserves.

Olympic champions, mostly able-bodied and without physical disabilities, have pushed the limits of human performance into a realm that few can ever touch even in their dreams. Paralympic athletes, given broken bodies or some design flaw of nature or God, go beyond that rare air, beyond those dreams, into a place reserved for the best our human spirit can achieve.

No, this not a place I can go, but I have been given the eyesight to see it now. Before my amputation, the Paralympics and the athletes who participated were something I might read about in an ancillary article in Runners World or elsewhere; now I see, in this different slant of light I have been given, something better about us human beings. Something noble and real.

This is the light I see Brian in, and I am a lucky man to have shook his hand and chatted about running with no limits whatsoever.


I discussed my main concern with Brian, which is moisture (sweat) control in the liner, especially in our hot and humid summer climate. This affects athletes and walking amps; a wet liner is the source of many problems. Brian said I was correct to identify this as something I will have to deal with, there is no solution, only methods to help control the problem.

As a sprinter, Brian did not have much problem with moisture, as his workouts were shorter in duration and between interval sets he could take time to dry out his liner. As a distance runner, this becomes a more significant source of aggravation. I intend to keep asking about advances in moisture control, as I believe the technology exists to fix it or make it way more manageable that it currently exists.

Sweating in the summer as an able-bodied athlete can be problematic, but it is mostly managed with high tech fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin, creating a microclimate that helps make the runner comfortable. The liner has no way to dissipate sweat; the design is flawed and requires abnormal solutions. Looks like I will have to see how this will affect me in the months and years to come.

Brian is a CP (certified prosthetist) as well as a Paralympian. Here is a tidbit: he fit Oscar Pistorius with his first Cheetah feet. He went on to say how he liked Oscar as they had similar personalities when it came to running. With his new feet, Oscar went on to beat Brian in competition, but imagine the lasting satisfaction in helping a fellow athlete bring such notoriety to amputee running.


The Ossur seminar was geared to professionals but was informative to us as well. Brian was wearing the Re-Flex VSP foot, one that I might be wearing as an every day prosthetic. I could do easy runs in it if I chose and it would be a backup to my running blade. Brian demonstrated how he could easily jump off a chair with the foot, very impressive as that was impossible with my old ankle.

We finished talking to Ricky Miller, a technician, and a couple who attended with the husband participating as a patient wearing an Ossur foot. We had plenty to talk about, phantom pain, TENS units for helping with it, various stories about falling and infections and all sorts of delightful things to look forward to or leave behind.


Tomorrow the x-ray will show whether or not the bones and screw have all fused together to provide a solid bridge at the end of my right leg. If so I can - with luck - have my socket fitted on Tuesday and then get my leg on Wednesday just in time for our trip to Hannibal on Thursday.

If I can get the leg I can leave the wheelchair at home, which will make our cat Cutie very happy as she claims it a night for a perch. It will make traveling way more comfortable or else I will just have to hang the stump off the seat with no support. I think that will be doable, not sure what we'll do if it's not.

At least we will be able to board early and avoid the pushing and shoving until we meet the family.

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