Prosthetics knowledge/experience wanted
November 17, 2008 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm writing a screenplay in which one of the main characters uses a prosthetic leg. WANTED: Mefites with knowledge of/experience with prosthetics.

In a nutshell, the character was born missing the lower half of her left leg, so she grew up using a prosthetic. So among my questions, in the interest of authenticity, I'd like to know:

What sort of child prosthetics were used about 20 years ago?
When are children fitted for them for the first time?
How are children trained to use them?
In adulthood, what sort of day-to-day problems, annoyance or inconveniences might one encounter with a prosthetic leg?
What sort of day-to-day care, maintenance and/or upkeep is involved?
How is one "fitted" for a new prosthetic?
Do they come in sizes (as silly as that might sound)?

Any and all help will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
A family member has a prosthetic leg due to a birth defect. It doesn't slow him down much at all, although the faster he walks, his limp (actually more like weight-shifting) becomes more pronounced.

Airport security can be a problem, and even though he is not embarassed at all about his leg, the airport procedure can become quite a spectacle. I don't think he has regularly been required to remove it, although it has happned at least once. He is always personally inspected. Oddly, I saw a TSA guy scan his leg with the handheld magnetometer, concluding that, yes, it contained metal, then he was sent on his way.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 2:02 PM on November 17, 2008

Pluses: You can store loads of coke in it (see Red Heat)

Minuses: Kimble will find you...eventually (see The Fugitive)

But you know what might be good? Grab yourself a notebook and a pen, or a dictaphone, get out there, and interview some people with artificial legs. Speak, if you can, to the director of the prosthetics/orthotics department of your local hospital, ask him if any patients might be interested in speaking to you, put up flyers, etc. I'll also bet you twenty bucks that there are plenty of prosthetics support groups/forums online where you could speak to people about what it's like.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:32 PM on November 17, 2008

I went to junior high (c. 25 years ago) with a girl named Adrienne Rivera who had had her leg amputated above the knee due to bone cancer. (It didn't slow her down a bit; we went to the Police concert together and she was jumping up and down more than I was!) She wrote about the experience here in one of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books.

I know it might be a bit of a wild goose chase, but perhaps you could contact the authors or publisher to see if they might have any current contact info for her (or even an updated name, in the event that she might have married and changed her last name)? Adrienne was always very open and frank about talking about her experience when I knew her, so perhaps she'd still be open to answering some questions. (This is, of course, assuming her cancer stayed in remission... knock on wood!) She and I wound up going to different high schools and so we fell out of touch after a few years, but I'll ask around via facebook in the meantime to see if anyone else might know.
posted by scody at 2:36 PM on November 17, 2008

I have a coworker with occasionally gets knocked askew (foot facing the wrong way) if she's not careful with it-- and then she has to try to subtly bang it back into position if she can't take it off to adjust.
posted by availablelight at 3:35 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ellery/Hellery lost her legs in a freight hopping accident and wrote a lot of zine articles about the experience. I worked with her in Seattle. She had both normal prosthetics and this awesome pair of like metal sticks with shoes on them which, if I recall correctly, she used when she was wrestling (!). I've moved since but she was a totally excellent and open person and I'm sure you could learn something from checking out her zines and/or getting ahold of her. I bet Left Bank Books in Seattle knows her whereabouts. You would probably also learn a few things by reading this article (nsfw) which mentions Hellery. She is also in this movie and this picture. She's a great person.
posted by jessamyn at 5:00 PM on November 17, 2008

There is a great book called Poster Child: A Memoir, by Emily Rapp, which is about her life growing up as an amputee. She has very detailed descriptions of her various prosthetic legs and the process of fitting them. She's in her mid-30's now, if that's the right time frame for you.
posted by Princess Pea at 7:42 PM on November 17, 2008

Thank you, everyone, this was most helpful. I'll keep you posted, if you're interested, in Projects.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:42 PM on November 17, 2008

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