A Fellow Sunshine Coast Cyborg

At work the other day Flatmate 1 sent me a link to an article he had seen on The Brisbane Times website that outlined some of the technology that would be available for athletes at the 2016 Paralympic Games.

A thrill ran through me as I read the first line.

“Imagine an implant in your thigh bone that is attached to your prosthesis, and sensors in your knee joints that link up with advanced computer-controlled components,” it read.

“Professor Burkett hopes this technology – called osseointegration – will feature at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.”

Holy smokes Batman, that’s what I’m having done!

Hailed as this amazing break-through technology (which it is) I couldn’t believe I would soon be among this elite group.

But what excited me more so was the mention that Professor Brandon Burkett not only had had the surgery done, he was based right here on the Sunshine Coast.

What are the chances!

I was filled with a cocktail of nerves and excitement as I scrambled to look up his number and give him a call.

As it rang I wondered where on earth I would begin.

“Hi, Brandon,” I began nervously.

“It’s Miranda here. This might seem a little odd but I was just reading an article where it mentions you have had osseointegration surgery done and well, I’m about to have that surgery.”

A lovely guy, Brandon was more than happy to chat to me and answer question upon question I had.

He had lost is leg in a car accident more than 20 years ago but had since gone on to win gold at the Paralympics in swimming, As a sports scientist he said he had been watching this technology over the years and keeping tabs on its development.

He was the first patient to have this operation in Australia about 18 months ago. I was stunned. How had I not heard about this? Why hadn’t the paper done a story, this was pretty break-through exciting stuff after all.

That’s when I knew I had to tell my story, not just as a record for me and my friends but for others like me that previously had no idea that this type of technology and way of life was out there. A few months ago I had never heard of osseointegration, how many other amputees out there also had no idea that this was possible?

Brandon could not speak highly enough about the surgery explaining that prior to the operation he would never voluntarily walk any where, only doing the bare minimum because it simply hurt too much. Now he loves to go for daily two kilometere walks along the beach.

Not only is it less painful but his gait is smoother and more natural which all his friends had commented on.

But he warns it’s not all smooth sailing.

When I ask how long it took him to be back walking and fully functional the answer hits me like a speeding punch to the stomach.

“I would allow about 12 months to be back on your feet and used to it,” he says.

This is the first time I have heard that the recovery process may not be quite as simple as Mitch made out at that first appointment.

Brandon’s case is slightly more complicated but still, I had never even entertained the idea being out of action for so long.

A slight feeling of dread descends upon me.

He tells me he got a few small infections after the surgery but they were easily treated and to expect up and downs especially in the first couple of months.

I gulp.

But despite the tough road he could not speak highly enough of the surgery, Dr Al Muderis and the way the surgery changed his life.

“I would do it all again in a second,” he tells me before I hang up.

He tells me to stay in touch and if I have any more questions to feel free to give him another call.

I am very grateful for his honesty but after the call I am flooded with a tapestry of emotions. I felt them wash over me half-way through the phone call and inexplicitly I had wanted to cry.

It’s the first time I realize just how huge this thing is I’m about to embark upon is.

But a few months of pain and frustration for a lifetime of benefits is not a bad payoff.

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