Outdoor adventures with William Pike
The Leg Shop
For the past seven years I’ve been a patient at the Auckland Artificial Limb Centre. For ease of reference, I have nick-named the Auckland Artificial Limb Centre, The Leg Shop. I apologise to the upper limb amputees if I cause you any offence.
Stepping, hopping or wheeling yourself into The Leg Shop for the first time is like joining a club - you never know who you’re going to meet, and what opportunities you’ll be presented with. At The Leg Shop there are people from all walks of life; rich, poor, young, old, good health, poor health and every single one of those people has a story in common; how they ended up at The Leg Shop.
My story starts by explaining how my legs were crushed by rocks from a volcanic eruption, causing severe and traumatic crush injuries to both legs. I explain how my right leg was so badly squished it needed to be amputated. Most people would turn green listening to the explanation, but to the hardy souls at The Leg Shop, it’s just another story they can relate to.
Then there are the prosthetists - the men and women that build and fit legs and arms. Limb fitting is an art, not a science. So the prosthetists tend to be patient, comforting, understanding and most definitely talented. They also advise amputees and provide support for issues that the general public don’t even know exist - and why would they?
In general, the limb fitting process can be very time consuming, frustrating, sometimes painful and exceptionally rewarding. I have left the limb centre smiling, crying, furious and ecstatic - never with anyone to blame. To date I have had 20 + sockets made for me, most going into the bin.
The old saying goes ‘the greater the effort, the greater the reward’. If I hadn't invested months and months of my time into fine tuning the fit of my limb, I may not be able to hang my washing out, let alone climb a mountain. The Leg Shop has played a pivotal role by guiding me, and allowing me to live my life as I did before my accident.
Nowadays my wardrobe at home is filled with sockets and feet, not shoes. As my activity level has increased over the years and I have acquired different components (feet/sockets) to suit my needs. One must understand that every amputee has different components due to a variety of circumstances; fitness level and strength, condition of stump, function of remaining limbs, lifestyle, aspirations, and so on. While it may be desirable to have high tech components, they may be completely unsuitable. For instance, I’d love a carbon fibre socket because it looks cool and I might save 50g in weight. However, I often need socket adjustments so I’m better off with a fibre glass socket due to it’s malleable properties. Likewise, for someone who isn't particularly active, a high-tech and responsive foot might feel too stiff, like driving a Ferrari on a farm track.
There you have it, a little insight into amputees and The Leg Shop. For most people, a prosthetic limb isn't ideal. No surprises there! Yes they can be a little uncomfortable at times. Yes I’m slower than others, but I get there at the end of the day. When you’re legless, what else can you expect? I see my leg as an advantage, not a disadvantage. Without a leg I wouldn't be able to do the things I love. No matter what, I’ll always be grateful for my ability to put one foot in front of the other - thanks to The Leg Shop.
William is a well-known Shore identity, a sought-after motivational speaker and an accessible role model to New Zealand youth. He was one of two young climbers caught in a volcanic eruption on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu in 2007. William is passionate about the outdoors and education and has worked as a primary school teacher on the North Shore. However, an exit from teaching has seen William set up the William Pike Challenge Award which is a popular Intermediate and Middle School outdoor education programme run over one school year. He is a monthly columnist for Channel Magazine.