Family man Courtenay Humphreys from Berkeley, Gloucestershire spent almost ten years using basic mechanical prostheses following the loss of his leg in a motorcycle accident. Earlier this year, he finally received an advanced prosthetic leg, known as a Microprocessor Controlled Knee (MPK) through a new NHS fund designed to support many hundreds of people living with limb loss every year. Courtenay explains more about enjoying his retirement, staying active and spending valuable time with his grandchildren whilst enjoying the stability and reassurance provided by his new MPK, the C-Leg 4.
Courtenay was just 52 and travelling home from a motorcycle meeting when a catastrophic mechanical failure led him to lose control of the bike on a tight bend. He collided with the metal safety barrier dividing the carriageways and was propelled over it. As a result, he suffered a badly broken left wrist and serious injuries to his right leg, which was crushed between the bike and the metal barrier. When he arrived at the hospital Courtenay found out that it wouldn’t be possible to save his right foot and his leg was amputated through the knee before later being revised to above the knee after complications. In total, Courtenay had five surgeries, three blood transfusions and spent five weeks in hospital.
A few months after his discharge from hospital Courtenay was given the all-clear to begin trying prosthetic solutions and was fitted with a mechanical knee: “I was referred to the excellent Bristol Centre for Enablement where I was fitted with a prosthetic leg with a free knee.” He explains that whilst he was very happy with the NHS programme, the mechanical knee had some limitations: “It was ok to walk on but you had to kick your leg forward with every stride then plant your heel and transfer the weight. It was a difficult technique to master and I had regular stumbles and falls, usually due to the foot catching on the ground on anything other than a completely flat, smooth surface.” explains Courtenay. Courtenay was used to a busy lifestyle and so he continued to pursue sports and activity despite the challenges posed by a mechanical limb.
It wasn’t until Christmas 2016 that Courtenay began to feel that he was truly struggling with his mechanical knee. He had a heavy fall when walking a very short distance down his drive and damaged the knee, suffering bumps and bruises. When he returned to his NHS Centre his prosthetist told him that the older product was beyond repair and suggested that he should be put forward for new NHS funding that would allow him to receive an advanced microprocessor-controlled prosthesis known as a C-Leg 4. This product uses ground-breaking technology to ensure that the wearer can enjoy confidence and a natural walking gait so that they can move with ease during everyday activities and push their mobility to the maximum.
Courtenay credits his C-Leg 4 with providing him with more confidence. “The knee is stiff when you walk through which means that you feel secure and it’s ready if you begin to stumble. The tension then begins to fall away as you step, offering you a stable and measured pace. You can walk normally, not swinging or kicking or going side to side. I use far less energy walking this way and I feel safer, smoother, quicker and 100% more confident. If I stumble the leg stiffens again and it adjusts itself immediately.” Being new to the C-Leg 4, Courtenay’s confidence is growing day by day, and is able to navigate bumpy terrain and stairs more easily than ever before: “I can’t believe how good it is; it’s transformational” he says.
Courtenay explains that amputees should never give up when it comes to finding the right solution to maximise their mobility. “You’ve got to have that can-do attitude and remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” He emphasises that amputees should not give up and should always try and make the best of each situation. He estimates that with the C-Leg 4 he is using 60% less effort to do everyday tasks than before “this means that I can do ordinary activities so much quicker. I am still going to do my normal things like cutting the grass and going out walking, but I now have the time to improve my fitness day by day, losing weight and becoming more active. I have done everything I can to make the most of this opportunity”.
The C-Leg 4 is now available through NHS England. For more information, download our guide at www.ottobock.co.uk or speak to your prosthetist.