Friday, November 11, 2011

A New Order

At a recent physical therapy appointment I was surprised to learn that Chris, my therapist, and Jason, my prosthetist, want me to try a completely new approach to learning to walk. The new procedure is called, "Short Leg Graduated Protocol" (SLGP).

Jason, a lifelong amputee himself, and a very accomplished athlete, had recently attended a seminar with other prosthetists, physical therapists, and doctors who have taught many bilateral above knee amputees to walk quite proficiently.

Short Leg Graduated Protocol (SLGP) was developed by Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, to train bilateral transfemoral amputees (like me) to confidently ambulate within the community on full length legs. The SLGP was developed to clearly define and systemize the key elements for bilateral transfemoral amputees to achieve successful prosthetic use.

The above paragraph was taken directly from a handout given to the attendees of the aforementioned seminar called, Prosthetic Management of Multiple Limb Deficiency.

This method has helped many war veterans with limb loss regain their mobility, many of whom were taught at Walter Reed Medical Center.

What the technique involves is quite different from what I have been trying to do. Instead of continuing the  way I have been for the last five monthes on two full length prosthetics, I have now been fitted with shortened legs that do not have knees.

Over time the length of the legs will be increased and the knees will be reincorporated into the legs. The purpose of learning to walk using shorter legs is multifaceted. First of all, the closer your center of gravity is to the ground the better your balance will be, hence the shortened legs.

The idea of this SLGP program is for me to live in these legs as much as possible and become as proficient as possible at a myriad of tasks, not the least of which is learning to fall correctly and standing back up.

When I speak of shortened legs I mean shortened! It is similar to having your feet attached where your knees would normally be located minus the knee component completely. The first time I tried on the preliminary shortened legs, my appearance almost brought me to tears.

I have been 5'10" tall all of my adult life and while wearing the shortest legs I am about 4' 8" tall. Visually this was quite a dramatic and shocking change.

Since this idea was introduced to me about ten days ago, I have experienced many ever changing emotions. One of the first things Chris said to me, upon presenting this idea, was not to look at changing from the full length legs to the shortened legs as a failure.

One may ask, as I did, if it is not a failure then why are we changing the status quo (learning to walk on full length legs)? There are at least two reasons. First of all, because I was so adept at walking on one prosthetic leg and a walker within days of losing my second leg, the doctors, prosthetists, and therapists thought maybe I could walk directly on two full legs, which I have, however not as proficiently  this new program has demonstrated.

The second reason is because many feel that losing a second leg and then being put in shortened legs and introducing SLGP immediately would have been too much of a loss all at once.

Whatever the reasoning may have been, I have decicded to give SLGP a try. I could not live with myself without exhausting all the possibilities presented to me that will enable me to regain as much normalcy as possible.

I must admit that when the idea was originally presented to me I felt somewhat discouraged. I still do not have the final shortened legs. I will receive them this Tuesday and I will begin my new learning process.

I have been accused of being an "A or Z" person, looking at situations as all or nothing, disregarding the entire area inbetween. It is true I do have a tendency to overlook the middle ground. I am choosing not to do that in this particular instance. I will try living my life and learning to walk on shortened legs, but at this stage only in controlled enviroments, i.e. the therapy gym and at home alone.

I really have to stay focussed on my goal of  walking on full length legs in order to put myself through the stringent SLGP program. I know it must be difficult for you to understand the emotional and psychological affect using shortened legs  has on me.

The reason I am writing to you about all this is because I want us, you the reader, and me, the participant  to go through this procedure together.

This Shortened Leg Graduated Protocol is completely foreign to both of us. I thought by writing about this to you we could witness, figuratively, the emotional and physical changes of the next few monthes.

I know in the end I will walk better and live a more normal life, I must keep that thought in mind at all times, although that is easier said than done. As my dear friend Ruth pointed out, "it is just as easy to look at this positively as it is to look at it negatively, possibly easier."

As I have always done throughout my limb loss scenario, I will remain positive and optimisitc about my success, knowing all of you, my readers, are rooting me on, gives me strength. I thank you for that understood encouragement. 

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