SINCE it’s Amputee Awareness Week, I thought I’d provide answers to some of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked in the four years since losing my leg, writes new WA Veteran Mark Daniels.
On 17 December, 2015, just three days after returning from deployment onboard HMAS Arunta, I was struck by a car while riding my motorbike home – resulting in the loss of my right leg above the knee, among many other injuries. Read the full story on that here: Warrior amputee Mark Daniels a force for Veterans
Do you have one of those fancy blade-runner legs?
I actually have six different legs and, while Oscar Pistorius doesn’t best represent amputees with his recent actions, he was a hell of an athlete.
My running blade is very different to his, as he’s a below-the-knee amputee. This means he was able to use his own knee instead of a prosthetic knee, which is a lot easier.
Do you get phantom pain?
I do and while it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be, it still kicks my ass. Each amputee experiences slightly different phantom pain, depending on how their nerves were cut in the amputation.
For myself, it feels like a hot knife cutting down the back of my calf, or that I’ve put my foot in a bear trap. There’s not a lot you can do, apart from scream and wait for it to settle down…but you get some pretty weird looks when you’re driving with the windows down.
Do you get half price on shoes?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this … I could probably afford shoes for the rest of my life! No, I use a prosthetic leg most of the time so I wear shoes just like any one else…though I can get 25 percent off a full body massage (true story).
There’s actually a Facebook group called Sole Mates, for amputees who don’t use a prosthetic. You can find someone else that wears the same size shoe with the opposite shoe to yourself to trade shoes with.
How do you fund your prosthetics?
Funding prosthetics is the worst part about being an amputee. My set of six legs cost $440,000, with two of them costing $160,000 each. The Navy have paid for two, the insurance company funded $60k and I took out a loan from them for the remaining $100k. My mum lent me $20k for another leg and we fundraised the $20k for my running leg.
Unfortunately, most amputees aren’t as lucky as myself, although I’m in a crazy amount of debt for my legs, I get to live an extremely active life. I have plenty of amputee friends who have been rejected for prosthetics being funded, because the insurance companies and NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) don’t deem them to be necessary or justifiable.
Why do some amputees use wheelchairs and some use prosthetic legs?
This is a really interesting one. I class myself as a pretty active person, I’ve competed all over Australia and the world in many different sports, and train more than most able-bodied athletes … so I wouldn’t call myself lazy.
However, the perception of amputees in society really gets to me. When I wear a prosthetic and achieve amazing accomplishments, I’m told I’m an inspiration, but when I’m using my chair due to injury or overuse, I’m questioned publicly about why I’m lazy and don’t use a leg.
There can be many different reasons that amputees don’t wear prosthetics: such as pain. Wearing a prosthetic hurts, it’s like wearing a set of high heels that are three sizes too small. The stump can be too short to fit a prosthetic, there may have been recent surgery, or they may have a blister. If you get a blister from a bad-fitting prosthetic, it can mean that you can’t walk for two weeks while it heals, or you risk infection.
How should I treat an amputee?
Like anyone else …we are people too! We also get that people are going to point and stare, and that your kids are going to yell “look at that one-legged guy, mum!” It happens daily, so dont worry about it. Instead of dying from embarrassment and pulling your child away, bring them over and ask if they can ask us a question.
This way, we’re educating the next generation that people with disabilities are just like anyone else.
Do you miss having two legs?
Every day! My biggest regret in life is taking being able-bodied for granted.
Despite all my accomplishments, such as competing on Australian Ninja Warrior, in 24-hour obstacle course races and winning gold at the Invictus Games and the Warrior Games, I would trade everything just to feel able-bodied again for 24 hours.
But thinking like this doesn’t help anyone, so I’m just focusing on the future and kicking down doors so others may walk through them.
To all the able-bodied people reading this, I hope it has given you a bit of insight on the life of an amputee. And to all my fellow amputees, always reach out, this life is a tough one but you’ve been given it because you are strong enough to push through all the crap to come out the other side.
- –Mark Daniels