My leg: a letter to a young friend
I wrote the following letter to a young friend recently. He was interested in learning more about my prosthetic leg.
Dear [Young Friend]:
I heard from your Dad that you’ve been learning about prosthetics and that you wanted to learn more about my leg.
My leg is a lot like the one in this picture.
However, my leg doesn’t really look like that right now, because I have a covering over it. The covering is called “cosmesis” and is made of soft foam shaped to look like a real leg. My leg is covered now because the metal parts on it kept tearing holes in my clothes and I kept pinching my fingers in the moving parts (and that hurt a lot!).
One of the strangest things about having a robotic leg is that it’s powered by a battery and I have to charge the battery every 24 hours or else the computer in my knee will turn off! So when I take my leg off at night I plug it into the wall to charge it up (through a cord that plugs into my knee). Sometimes when I travel overnight I have to charge my leg in airports or in bathrooms or anywhere that I can find an outlet. A few years ago I found myself stranded in a Canadian airport and my battery almost ran out (I can tell when the battery is getting low, because my leg makes some beeping sounds and vibrates–sort of like a cellphone). When I finally found an outlet and plugged in at this airport, the security guards got very nervous. I think they suspected I was trying to set off a bomb! If you want, you can see a photo of me charging my leg in an airport here.
I can’t get my robotic leg wet because water could damage the computer in my knee. So I don’t wear it when I go to the beach. I have a special beach leg that’s got a round black rubber foot. I also wear my beach leg for rock-climbing–you can see a picture of me doing that with my beach leg here.
I can get my beach leg wet and the special rubber foot keeps my leg from getting stuck in the sand when I’m walking around in the water. Sometimes I just don’t wear a leg at all when I’m at the beach or at the pool–because it’s really easy to swim with just one leg.
If you have any questions for me about my leg, you can send them to me in an email message or you can save them up for the next time I see you.