Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Freedom Innovation's Kinterra foot/ankle system review

I became in amputee in March of 2015 and received my prosthesis in May. My insurance company and the doctor rated me between a K3 and K4 for fitness level and decided that this foot ankle system would give me the best overall motion and ability to ambulate safely. 

As I don't have much experience with different feet and ankle systems other than what I have read and watched on YouTube, I may not be the best to take advice on here. However I would like to drop off my two cents worth on this wonderful foot and ankle system.

The Kinterra Freedom foot and ankle system allows for motion that rivals that of a real foot. With the exception of lateral movement of the ankle, which would allow for rotation of the foot. I like to golf and am having difficulty rotating through my swing. Overall it is very easy to walk on comfortably. My stump is still pretty tender and the socket is still a bit loose in places, but the actual foot and ankle perform exactly like I remember my "meat" foot did. 

The actual adjustment is so simple a kindergartner could do it. There is an adjustment wheel for plantar and dorsal flexion is an easy way to adjust for the type of ground you are on. I usually run mine at about half resistance, This is the only adjustment that I have made to the foot since I received it. Here are some of the statisitcs for the Kinterra's system:

Kinterra’s articulating ankle delivers:
  • Increased ground contact and a more symmetrical gait
  • Improved stability and safety, especially on slopes and varied terrain
  • Reduced socket pressures for healthier residual limbs
  • Enhanced comfort while sitting and squatting
  • User confidence and satisfaction

Range of Ankle Motion: 12 degrees 
Sizes: 22-31cm  (Sandal toe option available sizes 22-28cm)
 Build Height (averages): 120mm (4.3″) 25cm User Weight Rating: 275 lbs. (125kg)
Product Weight (averages): 795g (25cm including foot shell) 
Stiffness Categories: 7 (low & moderate impact) Heel Height:3/8″ (10 mm) 
Warranty: 36-months (shell 6 months) - 

See more at: http://www.freedom-innovations.com/kinterra/#sthash.mcysLklL.dpuf

They also have a good video on the system that I found

My viewpoint is that this is a great system to put someone who is relatively active but does not run or do any sort of high impact sport. I use mine for light hiking, fishing and general use. I had little to no trouble adapting to the way it functioned. I plan on using it for quite a while into the future 

What is "Normal"?

Have you ever noticed something that just seems off? You tend to look twice, perhaps even go so far as to stare.  Now imagine being that something.  How would that behavior in others make you feel? I really don't mind having people do a double take.  But I am not the average person when it comes to "body image" 
I grew up taller than most people. I am still over average in height, even with the younger crowd getting bigger each year. I stand just under 6 foot 6 inches and weigh close to 250 pounds. a large percentage of people throughout the years have commented on my height or my weight, telling me that I'm as big as a linebacker. So when I had my amputation, the stares continued. Some of the questions I have heard tend to make me chuckle inwardly. I know they make some people uncomfortable even to ask. Josh Sunquist has a great video about some of them, you can watch it here
I was amazed that I had people actually say some of this stuff to me. It is always good for a laugh. The whole body image problem many amputees face is riveted in the poor understanding of how people lose their limbs. Most people have never considered how they could lose their limbs and have no idea on how we survive. True, there are a lot of challenges that we have. Limb loss is a huge annoyance. Having to plan ahead to do everything really takes a lot of forethought. Making sure I have the security of my wheelchair close to my bed in case I have to hustle to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or carrying my little bag of socks to add volume to my socket.

The looks I get at some of the places go from disgust, to pity, and even to reverence. Some people assume a lot of things about people with one leg. The ones that boldly walk up and thank me for my service to our country are the ones that really get me. Yes, I served in the military. I served during a the Grenada invasion. No, I did not lose my leg in that conflict. I lost my leg to a simple one celled organism called MRSA. Yes, it was a war. It lasted a year. Am I bitter? Yes, I am. It has done irreparable harm to my body, my family and life in general. But, please, do not assume I am a war hero just because I wear a prosthesis.

In the end, and I know that I am preaching to the choir here, Body image is what we make it. We can own the fact that we are different in some way from others, whether it is our legs, arms, fingers or toes that are missing. We can be proud of our ability to adapt and  overcome. Alternately, we could wallow in self pity of the things that we perceive that we are not able to do. I chose to find solutions. I chose to proudly show people that with a little perseverance, anyone can overcome adversity. I am normal, for me, and in the end, that is all that matters to me.   

Thursday, July 16, 2015

LifeTrak Core C200 Fitness Tracker

Since my amputation I have decided that I wanted to not only be more active, but to track my activity levels for each day and keep track of any discomfort or pain. I have been looking at different activity trackers that are available and decided to start out with a small investment first. I decided to go to the local drugstore and look at their offerings. 
I wanted a tracker that would be a good pedometer,  keep goals, show progress and be a real watch.  The LifeTrak Core C200 Fitness Tracker provided all of those features in a simple wrist watch design.  Overall it does an excellent job for the price (39.95 mrsp)  It is accurate,  lightweight and the simple control work well.  The heart rate monitor is difficult to use, especially during a workout.  Sweat seems to make it not read the pulse.  Other features that would make it better would be connectivity with peripherals such as a phone or computer.  Daily numbers must be written down or they are lost,  however there is a weekly day to day graph available. 
I feel that this product would be a good entry device that would be worth the investment, as long as it motivates you off the couch into activities.

Adjusting to a new way of life

We hear it all the time about how a life event changes the way people live, their paradigm of life, their family's life. This is especially true with the amputee. For 50 years I was able to just jump into the pool, or the shower without thinking of more than making sure there was a towel somewhere nearby. Now both of those activities take a lot more planning. Standing on one leg in a slippery bathtub while covered in slick soap is really not a very safe way to clean your body, while sitting on a shower chair still leaves parts of your body unclean. Talking about the pool is a whole different story, needing to take off my leg and set myself up to get in and out is another level of complicated.

There are a lot of things that I have to use different processes to complete. Even my morning routine has had to  change. Getting up a little earlier, to make sure I get my leg on right, or fishing my foot through my pant leg before I put it on are examples. Exercise is another thing that is different. The more I work out, the more I sweat.. The more I sweat, my liner gets ... squishy. I have to take a towel out and dry stuff off. 

Overall, the changes in my lifestyle hasn't changed much. I still walk regularly, play with my kids and do some yard work. I walk in and out of work and through the grocery store. If anything, I am more active now than I was before the amputation. The major difference is in the planning. Making sure I have suffice socks, or towels, making sure that I will have a place to rest. With a below knee amputation, it is not as difficult for me as it is for others. I have a friend who lost both of his legs to an IED in Iraq several years ago. He is AK on the right and BK on the left. He has more issues with his BK than the other leg, and finds a lot of activity very challenging. His son helped my daughter through my transition phase, encouraging her to support me.

Which brings me to the family. They have to deal with the transition also. In many ways it is harder on the family than it is for the amputee. Spontaneity is not an option, since the amputee must plan out how to do each activity. Allowing for the difference in ability is another aspect. Where I would have been able to demonstrate how to slide into third base was an option a year ago, its not really an option. Climbing over rocks or hiking is much more difficult. 

Then there is this whole aspect of body image. I have needed to wear shorts to work so that I can adjust and remove my leg throughout the day without having to go from the fourth floor down to ground level and the locker room. (Men's rooms seldom have seats) People stare, or ask silly questions that they know the answer to. Josh Sundquist has a long video about this type of problem. I swear, there are times you just want to stare back and say "What are you staring at, you two legged freak!" I have been known to tell people that sometimes people lose their limbs, get over it. I know that this often wears at my family, since they are empathetic to my situation. It doesn't bother me as much as I know it does them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The decision to Amputate

March 9 2015, at the Washington County Medical Center Wound Care clinic, is a day that I will not forget any time soon. I had spoken to a couple of people that had amputations and had done a little research on amputation in general. I had been forewarned that amputation was a viable solution to the MRSA infection in my bones and that the bacteria was spreading. What I did not know yet was how serious it was. MRSA kills more people each year than AIDS in the US alone. World wide it is much, much worse. Osteomylitis MRSA has nearly a 70% mortality rate in adults 50 and above. It is an acquired disease, usually found in hospital settings. Had I known all of this before the amputation, I
probably would have moved forward with the decision much earlier.

My doctor was relieved at my decision, but for me, I was a little numb. I cannot even imagine what it was like for my family.  We got settled in and the operation took place on March 11, 2015.  Two days later I was transferred to a rehab hospital for a week.

I was able to return to work part time from the house a week later, and did that for about 2 months until I was fitted for my prosthesis.Working from home was a very good experience for me, as it gave me time to heal yet feel like someone who was contributing to life, my company and friends. Most people do not realize that this is one of the most important parts of recovery. The patient MUST feel like they are worthwhile and have a purpose in life or they will wind up losing motivation to get better. I thank my company J.B. Hunt Transportation for allowing me to work during my recovery.

 I have a Freedom Innovations Kinterra foot and a suction socket presently. I will be looking at other options later as I learn more. One of the great things about this foot is that it does give me great stability. I have had the prosthesis for about a month and a half now, and I can walk fairly normally. Since I have returned to work full time, many people don't even notice that I limp slightly. Usually only when I first stand up. All in all it is a good starter foot for my K3 and early K4 levels. Eventually I may move on to one of their more high end models. I will be writing a review on this foot in the weeks to come and I learn more about how to adjust it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How my Journey Began (Graphic photos)

On my return from the beach
the wound began to fester
The story of why I got an amputation is a long and complicated tale. Let me preface this to say that my story will be graphic at points and may disturb those that have any sort of a sense of empathy. I also need to define a couple of conditions that affected my outcome.
First - Diabetes: I am a type II diabetic, since my diagnosis in 1994, I have taken it seriously with various degrees of sincerity throughout the last 20 years. My average hA1C was in the mid 6 ranges the first 10 years, with occasional spikes into the 7's and once even into the 8's. Each time I let it slip, I lost a little feeling in my left foot. It started out just being my little toes but then progressed into the ball of the foot. I would not get all the other symptoms of neuopathy, such as stabbing pains but I did have to check my feet every day.
The day the accident occurred I was mowing the lawn. I was wearing a pair of Crocs and everything was good. I stepped around one of our landscaped beds and accidentally stepped on the green metal border. It was old and had a very sharp edge that cut through the shoe and deep into my foot along the outer edge of my foot. The cut went all the way to the bone and bled like a sieve. I got the bleeding stopped and went to the hospital where they told me that they couldn't sew it up because of the deep callouses on my foot. They cleaned it up and put steri strips on it. and in about a month it healed over. I wish that was the end of the story, but it isn't.
In a week it really started to look bad.
We tried hyperbaric treatments and
a wound pump to no avail
You see I contracted a little known (publicly) bacteria called MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.  This bacteria claims more lives each year than AIDS, yet remains safely out of the public eye. You can learn more about it here. MRSA Survivors Network  It became an osteomyelitis (bone infection) and slowly began to eat away at the bones of my foot. I became very ill and eventually it broke through the surface of my foot after a visit to the beach. I went to our local wound care clinic and had the infection excised through surgical debriedment.
To make a long story short, even with the care of a surgeon and an infectious disease doctor, and months of treatment we were only able to maintain a slim toehold (no pun intended) on the infection. Eventually the infection began to gain momentum and the amputation was truly the only course of action that would save my life.
My amputation took place on March 11 of 2015. That will forever be my Ampu-versary. I spent three days at the hospital and was transferred to a rehab hospital for another 6 days, where I made their lives difficult by my desire to get back home. I have pushed my recovery just about as hard as I know how, and wish now that I had done the amputation when it was first suggested 9 months earlier.
The main point of all of this back story is to let everyone know that this decision to amputate my leg was not an overnight decision. I had spent 9 months of rigorous treatment trying to save the leg from amputation. For me, the thought of actually losing my leg was a sign of failure, either on the part of body or my self-control over my diet and exercise. I thought only of how it would affect my life and for me that seemed like the end of the world. Looking back at it from where I am now, a little over 4 months post operation, the paradigm that I had was much worse than the reality.

The first surgical debriedment where I lost two of the long
bones in my foot. This wound never healed. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Welcome to NWA Less Than Four

My name is Keith Allen, I am a below knee amputee who lost his leg to MRSA in March of 2015. The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences as an amputee, my struggles, my triumphs and some of the things that I have learned; both to inspire others that being an amputee is not the end of the world, as well as sharing my solutions to some of the every day annoyances that we face. In addition to this I want to address the stresses that we place on our family, who bravely stand beside us, haul our wheel chairs around and listen to hours of our whining on a daily basis. I am starting this blog in the middle of July 2015, 4 months post-op from my amputation, I have had my prosthetic for a month and a week and am getting along pretty good. I can walk 2 to 3 km without taking a break and my overall goal is to be able to participate in a 10k walk by the end of August. I have learned that using my prosthetic is far easier than using a wheel chair, and that driving is pretty much the same as it was when I had my natural leg. I am very fortunate that my amputation was on the left leg, so my vehicles do not need to be retrofitted with hand controls.
I will post tomorrow about how this all got started, what I did right and what I did wrong and the consequences of my actions.
Most of all I am hoping that my story will help you in some way.