Do You Need a New Leg?
By “Awake!” Correspondent in Germany
REALLY, that is not an unusual question. This is because thousands of persons each year lose one or more of their limbs, owing to either sickness or accident. Other persons are born with deformed limbs.
Much study and research have been done to help amputees to compensate for missing limbs. First, improvements have been realized in the surgical removal of body parts, making the fitting of the prosthesis, or artificial limb, less complicated. Improvements, too, have been made in the design and construction of the artificial limbs themselves. Would you like to see a shop where such limbs are made? Come along with me. Let me acquaint you with technical orthopedics and rehabilitation.
“What is orthopedics?” you might ask. It is a branch of surgery dealing with the treatment of deformities, diseases and injuries of the bones and joints. Although the word “orthopedic” is derived from two Greek words, or·thosʹ (straight) and pais or its genitive case, pai·dos (child), it has become applied to correction or prevention of bone deformities in both children and adults. Technical orthopedics helps to correct these disabilities with the aid of artificial limbs, braces and corsets. Rehabilitative training and instruction are necessary in order for amputees to use these orthopedic helps to eliminate their disability.
The institute referred to in this article is divided into several departments. For example, in one department specialists work on the forming of artificial limbs.
When you think of an artificial leg, please do not think of the peg leg worn during the Middle Ages. No, today artificial legs have been greatly improved.
Unusual precision is involved in making an artificial limb for someone who has lost a leg above the knee. Often a contact limb will be made that fits snugly to the stump, and serves to assist in maintaining proper circulation. Thus, atrophy and circulatory problems are avoided, which used to appear with artificial limbs. Even knee and foot joints are so constructed that they correspond as nearly as possible to the movement of the natural joints.
When the amputation is below the knee, patients can now be fitted with an artificial limb that fits right onto the stump, so that a leather thigh corset is not even needed. This new type of limb for the lower leg is usually made with a soft inner socket lined with special rubber and covered with leather. This socket allows the amputee to endure the unusual weight on the stump. When the artificial limb fits well, you have to watch closely to tell that the patient is an amputee. Wood still makes the best artificial leg, but other lightweight materials are also used.
In one instance, a woman lost both her legs below the knee in an accident. Deeply depressed, she came to our orthopedic institute. Repeatedly she asked: “What will happen? Will I be able to do my housework again? Everyone will see that I have artificial legs.”
With the aid of photos we showed her how others had been provided with limbs. But her doubts and depression remained. Also, there were problems with her first fitting. Pressure spots appeared. However, each fitting was better. Slowly she became accustomed to her artificial limbs. When she managed to take a few steps without the aid of crutches her mental attitude improved. After a year she was even able to go dancing with her artificial legs! Today she is very happy with her new legs, even though they are poor substitutes for her lost ones.
Artificial Arms and Special Supportive Parts
Vinyl-resin plastic has proved very suitable in forming artificial arms. Modern knowledge of electronics is used to imitate the movement of the natural arm. Special electrodes follow through on muscle impulses that cause the hand to turn, a finger to move or the arm to bend or stretch.
We use the term “foreign power prosthesis.” The prosthesis, or artificial limb, can be operated pneumatically by employing pressurized carbonic acid. Minute valves, which are operated by means of a special bandage, regulate the arm’s functions. Yet these technically ingenious devices do not come anywhere near the efficiency and ease of operation of the natural arms made by our Creator.
Many persons have suffered severe injury to their limbs at birth or through illness. For example, consider the damage to newborn babies caused by the drug thalidomide, which was incorrectly administered to pregnant mothers. In some cases the fingers grow out of the shoulder or the feet have grown where the knee otherwise should be. For such deformed persons new forms of artificial supports have had to be developed. Can you imagine how happy such a person is when he is able for the first time to take a few steps by himself?
Putting on a new support part for the first time may be quite an ordeal. Ouch! How it hurts when, with some effort, that deformed little foot is forced into the socket of the artificial support. A tear rolls down the cheek of a small boy. Another boy looking on encourages him: ‘Stand up, please. We want to see how tall you are now.’ The length of the limb part has to correspond with the rest of the body measurements.
The first steps are a bit clumsy. The child has to be helped a bit. But, despite this, his joy knows no bounds. For the first time in his life our small patient is standing on his own two feet, that is, on the artificial feet of his limb part. With pride he shows his comrades that with this artificial aid he can soon walk. He wants so badly to go to school, and that makes practicing much easier.
Nearly all orthopedic appliances are made after a cast has been made of the stump. It is around this cast that the assisting brace or support is molded, according to the instructions of the physician. Cooperation between the physician and the orthopedic workshop is absolutely necessary in order for the disabled persons to be helped.
A Real Solution
But can armless, legless and otherwise deformed persons really be helped? Actually, artificial helps are only of very limited assistance. Consider the limbs made for children. They do not grow with them, and until the child has reached his full growth they have to be renewed from time to time. Even for grown persons it is often necessary to make new artificial limbs. Naturally, this is expensive. So all these efforts are only makeshifts, and bring with them many problems and tears.
Yet there is a real solution. The Bible shows that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, truly healed lame persons when he was on the earth. (Luke 5:17-25) This foreshadowed things to come, things for which you have prayed when repeating the Lord’s Prayer, “Let your will be done . . .” (Matt. 6:9, 10, AV) In the last book of the Bible the following comforting promise is given: “And [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) This will be a complete rehabilitation, brought about by the Creator of man, Jehovah God.