Prosthetic Limbs and Disabled Athletes: How Do They Do It?

 

Watcamputee-copyhing paralympians most of us cannot help but be impressed. To see athletes sprinting on artificial legs, overcoming serious disability to display extraordinary power, speed and stamina, we can only watch in awe. They have achieved amazing things through sheer sporting ability, gruelling training but also high quality prostheses.

My colleagues and I have acted for many people who have tragically lost limbs after avoidable medical accidents. We get to know these people well and work closely with them. We visit them at home to understand as best we can what life is like for them and hear how they cope with the challenges of daily living – getting to the shops, walking on rough or sloping grounds, getting into cars, buses and trains, managing at airports and trying to hold down a job.

A couple of things strike me watching the paralympics.

Firstly, many of these athletes are able to achieve levels of mobility most of my clients can only dream of, despite long hours of physiotherapy and putting hours of effort into getting back to an ordinary way of life. Many tasks we take for granted become a daily struggle. Simply getting out of bed and putting on a prosthesis, getting into a cramped bathroom and trying to wash in what seems a small space, managing stairs, reaching low cupboards, carrying saucepans – and the list goes on.

One of the most satisfying things we can achieve for people is to make life easier for them. In many cases we are able to enable them to find housing with extra space and no stairs, equipment to assist with daily tasks and help at home with tasks they find difficult.

Secondly, the paralympians can only perform at so high a level because they have top qualities prosthetics. The sort of limbs people can get on the NHS tend to be very basic. The better quality ones available privately and lighter, easier to put on, often lighter and cope with difficult terrain. They still have to do a lot of work to learn to use them properly but with good physiotherapy they can do much more.

However they come at a cost which unfortunately puts them beyond the reach of many people. They are expensive not only to buy but to maintain and they need replacement within a few years. On one recent claim I claimed over £½ million for 3 different prosthetic legs for life. They included a top-of-the-range Genium (used by the athletes), a slightly older but still excellent C-leg as a back-up and a special water-proof leg for washing and swimming. The technology is changing all the time and better products keep coming on the market.

Again it is very satisfying when a successful claim enables people to buy the best prostheses available. The purpose of damages is so far as possible to put people back in the position they would have been in but for the negligent act which caused them harm. No one can give them their limb back but damages can sometime enable people to get back the ability to walk and to do everyday tasks which had become impossible.

Watching the paralympics we may be misled into thinking that losing a limb is not so disabling. From working with many people who have struggled with their disability I know quite how disabling losing a limb is. These athletes have achieved extraordinary things. One of my goals in pursuing damages claims is to restore as much mobility as possible to my clients. If that means their opponents are forced to pay for top of the range prostheses so be it.

We work closely with Diabetes UK, UK Sepsis Trust and Meningitis Now in supporting campaigns for better recognition and management of serious medical conditions. We also work with Abdo Haider, prosthetist, and The London Prosthetics Centre. Our
specialist solicitors have experience of claims for people who have suffered amputations as a result of medical negligence.