It was November 2000. I was coming home from work on my motorbike when an elderly driver who was travelling on the wrong side of the road ran into me. When I woke up, I was on one side of the crash barrier and my leg was on the other side. My life as I have known it was over. I became a right above knee amputee.
After my rehabilitation, I was using normal prosthetics reasonably successfully but over the years I was gradually having more and more problems with socket fit, skin breakdowns and back pain. I tried everything but nothing seemed to be working. In a last-ditch attempt to address my issues, and at my own expense, I travelled to England. I went to London Prosthetics and Crystal Palace Clinic, but unfortunately there was nothing available to me there. On my return, I found myself relying more and more on a wheelchair or using crutches without my prosthesis.
Not long after my amputation I had actually enquired about osseointegration with my prosthetist but his opinion, at the time, was that it was still quite experimental and the risks involved would need to be considered.
As my mobility declined, I began investigating the osseointegration procedure further. I eventually made contact with Dr Munjed Al Muderis and the specialist osseointegration team in Sydney, and soon after my wife and I flew over from Perth to meet with Dr Al Muderis and the team. I was assessed by the team to ensure I was a suitable candidate and I was also given the opportunity to talk with other amputees who had already undergone, or were planning on having, the osseointegration procedure. My wife was encouraged to come into the clinic to ask questions and to better understand the procedure as well.
I left Sydney feeling confident that osseointegration was the right decision for me. On the 3rd May 2014, two days before my birthday, I underwent a two-stage operation with Dr Al Muderis. The first stage involved reshaping the residual muscle and bone at the end of my stump and inserting the internal component of the implant. The wound was then closed for six weeks before the second stage of the surgery could commence.
The second stage involved creating a circular skin opening at the end of my stump (a stoma) through which an adaptor is connected to the internal component which was then attached directly to my prosthesis.
I was amazed that within only a few days after the final surgery I was able to partially weight bear, and within a week I was wearing a prosthesis. I used crutches for the first six weeks until I gradually became independent, at which point I didn’t need the crutches.
We used our motor home, driven over from Perth, while I recovered from the second stage surgery. It was during that time that my wife and I decided to go for a bike ride, and unfortunately, I fell off the bike and landed in a bus lane which resulted in me breaking my right hip on the same side as the osseointegration. I was immediately concerned that the fall had also damaged the osseointegration implant, but thankfully it was fine. Dr Al Muderis performed surgery to repair my hip and finally everything was back on track.
For hygiene reasons, it is important for me to twice-daily clean the stoma, around the implant, as there can be some slight discharge. Initially I attended three monthly and six-monthly follow-up appointments with Dr Al Muderis, but I now only attend annual appointments.
The outcome of having the osseointegration procedure has been everything I could have hoped for and, in fact, more. The surgery did involve out-of-pocket costs but, knowing the incredible outcome it has had on my life, I would have sold my house if I had to in order to have this surgery. I haven’t used a wheelchair or crutches since I had the osseointegration procedure! In July last year my wife, daughter and I made a big decision and opened a retail business; something I would never have imagined or considered prior due to my low level of functionality prior to my osseointegration.
The osseointegration has positively affected me in so many ways. I never used to wear shorts, but now I never wear long pants. I also openly talk with anyone who is curious about my physical appearance. I no longer have back pain and I can walk hand-in-hand with my wife as opposed to clinging on to a pair of crutches. It’s the little things that make enormous differences. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m proud of the ‘new me’.
I’m so grateful to Dr Al Muderis’ team for their professionalism and I’m so thankful to my family for their ongoing support.
Kelvin provides peer support to other amputees who have had or who are considering the osseointegration procedure. Kelvin also started the ‘Osseointegration Peer Support Australia’ group on Facebook.