“You’re femur looks longer,” Dr Al Muderis remarks as he peers at the x-ray.
“It looks like it has moved.”
I’m confused and slightly concerned.
“What do you mean? Is that possible?” I ask puzzled.
Bones don’t just move do they? Surely I would have felt that?
“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just been a while since I’ve seen your x-rays,” he responds.
“There’s some very good bone growth from the weight baring.”
“I’m very happy.”
Mum and I grin at each other. This is great news.
I can’t believe it’s been nine months since I had my first surgery. It feels surreal really. It feels simultaneously like it was only yesterday I was nervously being wheeled into that operating theatre and yet at the same time a life-time ago.
So much has happened between then and now. So much has changed. I was a different person back then. Mentally, physically, emotionally: the difference in the Miranda who first embarked on this cyborg journey and the Miranda that writes this today is remarkable. Looking back and reflecting it is mind-blowing.
And I have to say I love it. I quite like this new improved Miranda 2.0. I often find myself almost having to pinch myself that I could be this happy. That my leg could feel this good. It hasn’t been an easy journey and there is still much ahead of me, but boy am I glad that I stumbled upon that brochure almost a year ago.
A year ago I had no idea of this surgery. I had no comprehension of the dramatic turn my life was about to take. Thinking back on this makes me incredibly excited for the future as we really have no idea just what exciting adventures are in-store and on the horizon. Life can change in the blink of an eye.
“How’s your hip going?” Dr Al Muderis inquires.
I tell him there has been no dramas, no real pain.
“Good, we’ll leave it then. If you haven’t had any pain by now it looks like you could be set for life.”
I grin. This had been the biggest gamble about me having this surgery. It was the great unknown and from day one I had been warned ‘I would piston and I would have hip pain,’ but (touch wood) none of this has eventuated.
I do like to prove people wrong after all.
It’s kind amazing what the human body is capable of.
“So are you going to the conference in Florida?” He asks me.
A couple of weeks back when I had called Dr Al Muderis about a cyborg leg related matter he had raised the possibility of this trip.
The conversation had gone something like this:
“I would like you to go to an Amputee Conference to talk about your story and the surgery. Would you be interested?”
“Of course,” I had replied.
“Oh good. It’s in Florida at the end of the month.”
I think my heart had stopped beating for a second. I worried I had heard incorrectly but dared not clarify in case I had.
“Oh awesome, that sounds great,” I responded in what was probably the biggest understatement of the year.
Florida! I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.
“Good. We’ll see if we can organise the funds and someone will call you in the next couple of days.”
But then a couple of weeks had passed and I hadn’t heard anything so I thought perhaps it was something that wasn’t meant to be this time around.
But here it is raised again. I dared not hope.
I told him I hadn’t heard anything from Mark, who works for Orthodynamics which is the company that manufactures the implant in my femur.
He pulled out his phone and immediately dialed the number.
“Mark its Munjed. Miranda wants to go to Florida. Yes she’s here, I’ll pop her on and you can organise it.”
My heart quickened like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
He explained that since Osseointegration hasn’t been FDA approved and is still in clinical trials in the US that we weren’t allowed to openly promote the surgery at the conference. The keynote speaker is a surgeon who is wanting to launch the surgery over there and wasn’t too keen on Dr Al Muderis speaking or presenting any competition.
So we had to be a little sneaky in our approach. We would go over under the banner of of Mitch’s gym, Good Vibe Fitness. We would focus on the importance of fitness and keeping active for amputees. And it would just so happen that Mitch, myself and Fred (who had recently come over from the US for the surgery and had been training with Mitch) would all have had osseointegration and we could share our personal stories, our experiences and our triumphs and successes.
He said he hadn’t contacted me as he wasn’t sure where I would fit in the with the fitness aspect.
I laughed a little. Fitness, me? Well it’s pretty much my life. I explained that I train at the gym three hours a day, have rock-climbed, done my first 5km fun run/walk and was just about to start my Cert 3 in Fitness.
“In that case I’ll look into some flights today,” he said
And that was it, I was in!
But until I saw the official confirmation I dared not yet believe it was actually happening.
I couldn’t be that lucky could I?
In what now seemed like perfect timing I had arranged to meet Mitch at his gym that afternoon as he was hoping to take some photos and footage of me working out to show on a screen at the conference.
I excitedly told him I would be joining him in Florida and he grinned before handing me a Good Vibes shirt and putting me through my paces doing some strength and cardio exercises that showed off the leg’s capabilities.
Ah my second fitness shoot. Now I just need Woman’s Health to give me a call.
Since day one we had heard nothing but how amazing Mitch’s recovery and journey to walking had been. While we had been told not to compare ourselves we had constantly heard how Mitch pretty much just strapped the leg on and away he went. A few weeks later he threw the crutches away and that was it. During those rehab days oh how I envied him. Chris would constantly tell me not to compare, that everyone was different, my journey was my own. I knew he was right but at the some of the time I would find myself only half listening as my my inner negative voice chirped away telling me I wasn’t good enough, working hard enough or strong enough.
But talking to Mitch today he told me he wished he had stayed on the crutches for longer. He had thrown them away on a boys weekend to Melbourne but really should have used them for longer and he had noticed a difference in his walking.
This was a surprise. That first day back at the clinic nearly a year ago when I had met him he had made walking seem so simple, so blasé and here he was telling me that it was important to take it slow and not rush things.
I had just days ago been again beating myself up for not being further progressed after seeing the videos of Fred walking. He was only 20 days with the leg and he was already walking to what I perceived to be better than me. I couldn’t help it but I cried when viewing the footage. I had felt so inadequate. Just the day before I had felt so elated with my progress and then like a ton of bricks slamming down I realised how far I still had to go and perhaps I wasn’t doing well enough. I worried I hadn’t achieved enough. This has been a common theme for me throughout my life, not feeling good enough. Not being ‘enough’. I have come a long way but there are still days when the doubts weight heavy.
“Everyone is different and how long they need the crutches for really well depend,” Mitch said sagely.
“It’s not a race. Or a competition.”
He is right. No one is scoring us. There is no medal for walking unaided first. They are happy with my progress and I’m making progress and getting stronger everyday. Already I am able to do so much more than I was six months ago and more than even before the surgery.
I need to focus on my achievements and what I can do rather than what I can’t do and what I still need to work on.
This is the key not just to cyborg life but happiness and life in general. Be grateful for what you have rather than sad about what you do not.
I had been emailing and keeping in touch with Fred throughout his whole journey and surgery process and was looking forward to finally being able to meet up with him in person.
Mum and I gatecrashed his physio session. It was strange, we had just met this guy and yet we were privy to what was something quite personal but it didn’t feel awkward, forced or unnatural at all. It almost seems like there is this unspoken bond, this understanding between us cyborgs. We are part of an elite group after all.
He’s a pretty incredible guy. He started looking into the surgery a couple of years ago, organised an event for Dr Al Muderis to speak to amputees in the US and then came out for the surgery this year. He and his daughter have been living in Mosman for the three months he is over here and he travels across the city to train with Mitch and for physio via public transport in his wheelchair. Not an easy feat when you are in another country and recovering from surgery. He has lost about 20kg since training with Mitch and like me this surgery has completely changed his life. Like my journey it’s not just about the leg. The flow on effects this surgery can have is just incredible.
Nine months ago I was heading into surgery unsure how it would all turn out, now I have quit my job, have a whole new life purpose and am heading to Florida to talk to other amputees about it.
Who would have thought? If this can happen in just nine months, what does life have in store for me next?