Over the years Legs4Africa has received hundreds of prosthetic legs and we are very conscious that behind each donation there is someone’s personal story. It isn’t often that we learn what these stories are but when we do it makes us all the more aware that these legs have been such a significant part of someone’s life.
I learned this most profoundly when I collected a leg from a widow whose husband had been an amputee since he was two years old. He had lost his leg in a freak traffic accident and, although she was pleased that she was going to be able help an African amputee with the donation of his most recent leg, she told me that she couldn’t part with the first leg her husband had been given as a toddler. She proudly showed me this carefully wrapped leg and told me some of his story. Of how he hadn’t allowed this impairment to jeopardise his future but had worked his way through life, raising a family and gaining the respect and admiration of his friends and work colleagues. I realised then how much a leg can be a part of someone’s personality.
Personalities show through on some of the legs that we receive, particularly from young people. They may have had them treated with a vibrant skin – bright colours to differentiate them – Superman or Spider-Man are favourites and you long to know who this person is who stamps their identity on their prosthetic, making it truly a part of themselves. Then there are the ones that arrive with varnished nails….were they painted for a special night out? One story I would love to learn belongs to a pair of children’s feet which recently arrived in a large delivery of assorted prosthetics from a hospital. They weren’t customised but for some reason I was drawn to them. They look so perfect and I’m sure their original owner has a great character and I would love to learn more about him or her. But we’ll never know. The feet with their pilons will eventually find their new owner in Africa and that will be the start of another story.