This is not my first post concerning the importance of developing an open and trusting relationship with your prosthetist. After the surgical wounds heal, an appropriate and comfortable prosthetic relationship becomes imperative for the amputee's recovery. Finding a prosthetist that can not only manufacture and service the devices but also can meet the various needs of the amputee is paramount. This is a powerful issue for many amputees, so I thought it was worth revisiting.
I must confess that I believe I hit the jackpot with my prosthetist Elliot. Before my amputation I thoroughly researched various prosthetists in my area. I asked amputees for recommendations and I was surprised at how many amputees are dissatisfied with the care that they are receiving. These people wouldn't recommend their prosthetist, yet they were uncomfortable or unwilling switching to a new practitioner.
Elliot and I have maintained an open dialog since my initial visit. I am able to tell him my goals and my concerns. He has never told me that something is impossible, or that I need to learn to live with discomfort or an inability to perform a task. We share the same ultimate goal: to minimize the impact of my amputation by providing me with the tools necessary to fulfill my dreams. In my opinion, a prosthetist should never limit the opportunities for the amputee but should strive to open up the possibilities.
If I had a leaky roof, I would not accept a roofer telling me to use buckets to catch the drips, or to walk around the hole. I would demand that the roof be fixed correctly, and if it wasn't I would look elsewhere. I would not accept a prosthetist telling me to "deal with" an uncomfortable socket, nor would I passively comply if I were told that I would not be able to do something (for example ride a bike) because I am an amputee.
I have been asked, "When is it the right time to find a new prosthetist?" My answer is simple. When you find yourself doubting the care that you are receiving is adequate or when the trust in the prosthetist is gone, find somebody new. If you are told that you will never be able to do something that you used to enjoy before your amputation, go elsewhere. It is the role of the prosthetist to provide the tools necessary for the amputee to return to a happy, active lifestyle. If your abilities are being impeded because of the prosthetics that are offered to you, find a new prosthetist.
It is always uncomfortable and slightly painful when the new amputee is fitted with a prosthetic. The limb is not used to new pressure points, and strain is put on muscles that are not accustomed to working. It is difficult for the new amputee to decipher if the discomfort he is feeling is normal or the result of an ill-fitting socket.
If the discomfort persists or if pressure sores or pinch cuts are developing, the socket is the culprit. In my experience the discomfort associated with a new socket only lasts a few days to a week. After that time, your muscles may be fatigued and tired, but you should not be experiencing pain. If you are still in pain longer than you think is normal or if the leg is so uncomfortable that you cannot stand to wear it, call to have the socket checked. If your practitioner is unwilling to make adjustments or implies that discomfort and pain are the norm for the amputee, I would suggest finding somebody new. A painful prosthetic is not due to mistakes by the wearer, and any implication of such should be a red flag.
The amputee is the one who is ultimately harmed by staying with a prosthetist with whom they are not satisfied. It is always uncomfortable making the switch, but when you consider that your mobility and happiness are at stake, the call may be easier to make.