My name is Kees van Herpt and I am somewhat of a longbearded rocker, who is occasionally mistaken by children for a pirate, because of my prosthetic.
Sixteen years ago, when I was in my early forties, I had a serious motorcycle accident when I was commuting from work to home. I assume my left foot had gotten stuck between the pedal of my motorcycle and the bumper of the car that hit me, which torpedoed me into a ditch a few meters along the road. Whatever may have been the cause: my left foot was completely shattered and my lower leg bone was broken into two pieces pointing in different directions towards the clouded sky.
That night my forefoot was amputated by a surgeon whom me and my wife now, after many years, are still friends with. But, despite his good efforts, fate decided I should meet more surgeons, since my stub kept being extremely painful and was very often tormented by bacterial infections too. And so I had undergone yet another surgery, which was called a “syme amputation”, where they basically amputate through your ankle joint. That was somewhat of an improvement (less pain, less nerve stinging), but still I could not walk properly. And after a while the nerve stinging got worse again and more importantly; my stub felt very cold all the freaking time. While I was watching one of the hundreds of versions of CSI in the evening, I always wrapped my leg in an electric heat blanket, but still my stump would hurt because of the extreme cold.
So after three years dealing with this, and listening to my daughter's whining about her wanting her blanket back, I was kind of fed up with the situation and was in need of change. So I booked a return ticket to the hospital and came back home with a bit less leg again; I got an amputation of my lower leg.
That made a bit of difference! I was still anguished by stings in the nerves in the stub, but my walking improved and the coldness seemed to be history too. I got a socket for which I needed to wear a liner, with which I should be able to walk nearly effortlessly. There was even a chance I could participate in the men's 100 meter sprints at the Paralympics, so I was told by my doctor. Little did he know that I had never run an inch before in my life when I was still lucky enough to have two legs. Unfortunately the liner and I did not end up being best friends. In summertime the liner would get real sweaty and that made my skin very vulnerable to inflammation. My stub would be inflamed most part of summer which resulted in me not being able to wear my prosthetic for weeks in a row.
In 2016 – twelve years since the accident – I was talking to the surgeon who had already shortened me once before and he informed me about a colleague of his in the Radboud Hospital in Nijmegen. That colleague was carrying out a fairly new kind of method in the Netherlands, called osseointegration, in which they install a pin inside the bone, for the prosthetic to be locked on to. I had heard of it once before, but had not paid much attention to it.
In December 2016 however, I attended an information meeting about osseointegration and behold: in March 2018 I was lying down on the operating table again for the insertion of the pin into my leg bone. One month later I had the second operation (my thirteenth in total, but hey, who's counting) where they fabricated a stoma and they installed a connecting part to the pin in the bone. This connecting part is the part on which I can click my prosthetic.
I must say: what a relief! I still can not run fast enough to compete in the Paralympics, despite the promises of my former doctor, but I am near complaint-free. Despite the heat in summertime these last two years, I have had no problems whatsoever. No liner, no more sweating, no more infections. I can recommend it to everybody. To anyone who is already missing a piece of their leg I must add.
What I do for leisure? A bit of woodworking, binding books and I volunteer at a thrift shop (unfortunately I have been declared incapacitated for work). Despite the fact the motorcycle accident was the start of all this, I am still a big fan of doing just that and I am thrilled I am still able to do so. After I had bought another motorcycle (my former one had had some crucial parts amputated too, during the accident) I went to Rob Janssen in Assen in the Netherlands and he installed something called an "Easy-shift system”on my motorcycle. Because of this system I am able to shift gears using just two little buttons on the handlebar of my motorcycle. I was already cruising through North-Brabant a year and half after the accident! (For those who may be interested: MMvG in Assen in the Netherlands is the business I am talking about.)
Well, I guess this pretty much sums it all up. Because I have been walking crooked and wrong for around fourteen years, sadly my back is completely worn out. Osteoarthritis, and a hernia on top of that, are causes for the fact that I still can not walk properly nor work the way I would want to.
Luckily my beautiful children (especially my wonderful daughter, who might have helped me write this piece) have given me four granddaughters who all have somewhat princess-like behavior so I have got myself a fulltime job there.