random thoughts


11.6.14 Random Thoughts

While I love the possibilities that modern medicine offers, I have to admit that I find the concept of osseointegrated prostheses creepy. The thought of having a piece of metal attached to my femur and sticking out the end of my leg so that I can clip into a prosthetic knee and foot reflexively fills me with mild revulsion. That may be irrational, but I can’t control it.

With this bias freely disclosed, I have to register my concern with a recent article I read about the first U.S. patient to receive an osseointegrated prosthesis. The piece read like one of those magazine inserts that looks like a real article but has the thin banner up top labeling it “advertising” that you only notice after reading for 30 seconds and then saying to yourself, “Hey, this seems a lot like a commercial for [insert topic].” Except here, you get that feeling, look for the banner and it isn’t there.

I’m happy for the woman who got the osseointegrated prosthesis – she seems satisfied with her decision. But at the same time, to trumpet the fact that she has walked 100,000 steps in 3 months as if that’s a major accomplishment – that’s an average of 1,111 steps a day – strikes me as ridiculous. She’s walking nearly 2/3rds fewer steps than the average amputee (see this post, which includes step data from a 2007 U. of Washington study of 77 amputees who averaged over 3,000 steps a day).

This doesn’t mean the surgery was a failure or doesn’t have a place for the right patient as the technique evolves. But let’s report on it with appropriate perspective rather than promote it without critical analysis. Ok, I’m done with my rant.

*   *   *

I played bass guitar for Max’s band, One-Click Waiting, a few days ago when his bassist had an unavoidable last-minute conflict. That means that over the course of the last 18 months I’ve played drums, guitar, and bass at different times in support of my son’s musical career. Despite my involvement, the band continues to generate good buzz and grow its fan base. My final and definitive contribution to One-Click Waiting will be not singing for the band. Ever. You’re all welcome.

A related aside: carrying large amplifiers with a prosthesis – not fun.

*   *   *

Max has also obtained his driving permit and now jockeys with me for control of my car several times a day. I am going on the record here: I want Max to get his license as soon as possible … so he can drive his siblings everywhere. I’m also very proud of the fact that between his exposure to (1) my personal two-step with a Mazda nearly 18 years ago and (2) Louis C.K.’s comedy routine about cars as weapons, Max has approached his driving experience with an appropriate degree of conservatism. It’s a lot easier to teach your kids to treat the responsibility of driving with respect when you can simply lift up your pant leg to show them the consequences.

*   *   *

When I hear prosthetic experts opine that future prosthetic devices will give amputees abilities that exceed their biological limbs, I keep asking myself a simple question: what good is having a limb that allows you to do things that make you “super-abled” if your remaining (biological) limb can’t match it? Am I the only one who sees this as problematic? Am I also the only person who notices that the people making these kinds of headline-grabbing statements all happen to be bilateral amputees?

I’m not saying there’s anything particularly wrong with their hopes/vision – just that for the vast majority of amputees (i.e., individuals missing only 1 limb), I don’t think it’s all that practical.

And while I’m on the topic, can we first work on creating prosthetic joints that accurately replicate all aspects of their biological counterparts before we paint visions of amputees’ superhuman future? I work in the industry and even I wouldn’t argue that the fanciest, most sophisticated knee joints, feet, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers come close to their biological counterparts. The best devices do a nice job of approximating certain key elements of natural human anatomy, but the gap is still enormous.

But by all means, let’s talk about how the Paralympics will someday feature athletes running the 400M in 23 seconds. That’s a useful discussion.

*   *   *

At least once a month I read a human interest news story about an amputee who is appealing to the public for help locating the prosthesis that robbers stole from their automobile. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this in the distant past, but if I didn’t, a word of advice: you can avoid this problem by not leaving your prosthesis in your car. Or let me rephrase that: do not leave your prosthesis in your parked car. Ever.

*   *   *

A (very large) guy at the gym asked me to spot him as he benched 100 lb dumbbells on Monday. I was wearing shorts, so he clearly knew my situation. Either he’s a fervent believer in the power of a prosthesis to return an amputee to full strength, or he spends his non-gym time jumping out of planes without parachutes just for the thrill of it. Of those two possibilities, given my overall physical appearance, the latter scenario is more plausible. (I did successfully help him lift the dumbbells over his head to start his set, so he avoided physical disaster.)

*   *   *

I would like a clothing manufacturer to have a special offer for lower extremity amputees that gives us discounted access to replacement pants. No matter what countermeasures I employ, carbon graphite and titanium always triumph over cotton and denim. Little rips start appearing in every new pair of pants roughly 6 weeks after I begin wearing them.

*   *   *

Non-limb-loss-related note: if you like music and you’re not watching Sonic Highways every Friday night on HBO, then you deserve to get trapped in a vehicle going cross country playing only Bryan Adams (Everything I Do) I Do it for You at max volume. On repeat.

Especially enjoyed last week’s installment, where we see Dave Grohl’s trip to Nashville to produce the Zac Brown Band for what later became The Grohl Sessions EP. Best moment is Grohl sitting in the studio and telling the Zac Brown Band that he had never – never – heard one of their songs before and the band members trying to figure out if he’s joking. (He wasn’t.)

Very cool to see musicians from totally different musical backgrounds come together like that. If you want to hear the results of that collaboration, check out Day for the Dead from The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1. I’d listen to country music all day long if it always sounded like that.

One thought on “random thoughts

  1. Great article. I esp enjoyed the Bryan Adams-torture chamber. Pretty sure my younger stepbro was similarly tested during a family roadtrip to Vegas where my Dad played Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” album continuously — IIRC, it might even have been a cassette(!)

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