Mick gets a new leg

Err where to start: - I had read about Micro Knee being made available on the NHS but like most Amputees I thought yes its good news but it will be years before it gets round to me (if ever) and after the initial chat with my leg lady Karen, she agreed that it would be “some time before” it got around to my turn, and that she wasn’t even sure what the criteria was and if I would even meet it.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I was invited in to be assessed for one, but firstly I had to make and fill out a Slips, Trips and falls log to take in with me in a months’ time.

Getting prepared

I decided that as always the better prepared I was the better chance I stood of getting accepted for one and so started to hunt out info on the good old internet, naturally it was full of best guess hearsay and rumours rather than any hard and fast rules or if there was any good common sense facts I failed to find them, so I decided that I would make my own portfolio with what I thought might help my case and take it along this included:-

A copy of a letter from my consultant stating that my good knee (real flesh and blood) was buggered and I was on the waiting list for a total knee replacement

A letter from my employer stating that the Micro knee might help me stay at work for longer (the thinking behind this was I would continue to be a tax payer rather than someone drawing benefits)

Several letter from out-door people / originations  like the Northumberland national parks, national trust, north Pennines people, local parks and wildlife sanctuaries , open access . JLAF etc. etc. all saying what a good kid I am and how I had done loads of good work for the less than able community in doing various tasks from assessing access to what would be needed to open up the area for the disabled community so I could  carry on the good work if I got this leg .

And finally a few photos of me taken on mountain tops which I hoped would say, yes I am fit and strong enough to use a Micro knee.

Like I stated I didn’t know what the selection process was or what the criteria was, as it was I didn’t even need any of these letters but better safe than sorry.

The interview

So on the day, it started off with a meeting between the head staff, my leg lady Karen, and a physio , where lots of questions were asked and I did my best to answer them , I decided that I would be 100% truthful even if I thought that my answer wouldn’t be the answer that they wanted to hear , then I was given a mountain of forms to fill in , fortunately they were mainly tick boxes or on a scale of 0 to 100 and it was a case of marking the paper in the right place .

Then the fun started and I was given a few simple tasks to do, walk around in circles, then change direction, walk backwards.

Then I was timed from sitting down on a chair walking a few meters going around a bollard and sitting down again I had to do this a few times, with going around the bollard a few times in the opposite direction.

Then the fun really started I was took out into the corridor and was hooked up to a machine that took my stats or is that sats? Basically took my o2, pulse, heart rate info

Then it was time to start:-

I had to walk for two minutes and again I was hooked up to the machine.

Then another walk for 6 minutes and again I was hooked up to the machine

Then finally a ten minute walk and again the distance walked and my stats where taken,

It did cross my mind that anyone doing this test would “shoot themselves in the foot” with regards to calming the PIP as I believe its now walk 60 meters unaided (APPRANTLY A FALSE LEG DOESN’T COUNT AS AN AID !!!) or something like that , but seeing as I get bugger all that didn’t concern me.

Then back to another chat with the staff were we talked about how I wouldn’t even think about doing any adjustments on the knee myself (as if I would!!!!) and various other knee related questions and answers, like what do I hope to get out of the knee, how do I plan to use it etc. etc. and that I must be willing to come in for as many physio sessions as required to which I agreed and informed them that I had already cleared it with my work place (trying to get extra good boy points in) . Then that was it and I was informed that they would contact me with a date to come back in to have the knee fitted.

What the NHS offer

The knee that I would be fitted with was the Orion3 with the Echelon foot thrown in. now from what I understand there are four knees on offer:-

C Legg 4

Orion 3

Pile 3

Rheo XC

As my limb centre is run by Blatchford’s they are pushing the Orion3 which is there company’s  knee and just to sweeten the deal they would throw in the Echelon foot as well , I didn’t mind , to be honest I was just pleased to getting a chance of a new Micro knee so I just went along with the flow.

This wouldn’t be the first time I had worn this set up as I was invited into the centre for a staff training day on this knee / foot and I have to say that I enjoyed the day were I got to wear the knee whilst the staff got some hands on training with setting it up, and I came away very impressed with it.

Finally the day arrived for the fitting and Blatchford’s had sent Allister there rep up to do the set up and programing which was good news as I have worked with him before .

Setting it up:-

All very easy, Allister gave me instructions and set the lap top to talk to the knee via blue tooth? WI FI? Anyway first things first was to check the alignment, which didn’t take long, then it was a case of sitting down onto a chair whilst the resistance was upped or reduced to suit my needs, all done with a touch of Allister’s finger, when we was happy with that it was a simple case of a slow walk, then a normal speed walk then a high speed walk with me asking Allister to up or down the resistance till we got things more or less right for me , there was a couple of small hardly noticeable “dead spots” when changing from slow to fast as the resistance changed but after a few more walks along the corridor this was smoothed out and for want of a better word I could speed up and slow down very smoothly , we played with various setting to see what I liked and what I didn’t then that was it , next it was outside to the ramp / hill (it’s really the footpath with a downhill bit on ) and then it was a case of walking up then down this ramp setting the resistance , this is where the hydraulic Foot really helps as the foot takes up a fair amount of the slope before the knee kicks in , at first the foot and knee didn’t quite work together , however a quick tweak with the Allen keys on the foot and a touch on the computer screen this was quickly sorted and I came away with a lovely smooth foot / knee action , the knee can be programed to give as much support as you want , but as I found the down side to this was speed the harder the resistance or braking (sorry don’t know the technical words for this) the slower it seemed , of course it’s a personal thing what I consider slow someone might think as fast and so on .

We did a bit of work on the stairs and I have to say I was very impressed when going downstairs step over step by luck we seemed to get that setting just right first time .

All setting where saved onto the pc, so if this knee buggers up it’s a simple case of swapping the knee and sending the program across via blue tooth or WI FI to the replacement knee.

Allister filled me in with other info about the knee, battery life , how to switch on , battery life checks etc. etc. , all useful stuff then went on to tell me about an app that is being trailed where we can have some limited access to altering the setting ourselves via an app on our mobile phones or I pads etc.  Which if successful will be realised at a later date.

And that was it , I felt quite tired but happy with the Days work and said my thanks and goodbyes , however whilst making my escape I was met by Emma who rather sweetly informed me that she will see me next week to start my physio , what is it about Physio that scare the shit out of me , yes I was looking forward to it , I know that I have loads of bad habits but after 13 years I couldn’t see me changing much , however I am more than willing to give it my all .

Trying out the new leg in the real world

Normally the first thing I would do would be to get my hiking kit sorted and disappear into the hills for the day as soon as I could, however due to my real knee playing up I decided that I would put that on hold for a while and take things easy, so that meant just going about my day to day activities, work, shopping, dog walking, you know just the run of the mill stuff that we all do each day without thinking about it.

I will say that the Micro Knee did make a difference I could feel that the constant pressure was taken off my real knee and within a couple of days I stopped getting that bloody awful pain in my knee, yes I still have a dull ache but it is so much better, almost imminently my friends noticed that I was walking much better , myself I felt yes it does make a difference , my real knee ached but was so much better than what it was soooooooooooo time to up my game a bit , I had already been practising going down steep banks and going down stairs step over step was a dream so after a quick chat with the pup’s we decided that we would start going for longer faster walks starting right now and so we all headed to the beach and the dunes to really start to push my new set up.


Back at the limb centre to be put through the mill by the lovely Emma , all I can say is despite my thinking that “yes I have too many bad habit’s to change now” Emma wasn’t having none of it within minutes she picked up almost all my bad habits and set me on a corrective programme along with a good old fashioned chat about them which made me feel like a naughty schoolboy who was waiting outside the headmasters office ………..I mean how can I be so frightened of her ? , but she was right and I took her advice on-board and promised myself I would give her my full cooperation and work as hard as I could to get the most out of this wonderful service that was being offered .

I had several sessions each time Emma had me doing some weird and wonderful things and to be honest I enjoyed and looked forward to the next session even though I would often return home aching in places I didn’t even know existed. But I figured if I ached it must be doing good and to be honest along with the new set up and this physio my friends did comment that I seemed to be walking much better which might not be something that I am bothered about it is nice to hear.

Finally (after a month or so) I got called back to the centre to complete the other half of the tests which was basically a repeat of the same paper work and walking test that I had done before, I have to say the paper work seemed a bit hitty missy with some of the questions and I felt like perhaps the NHS was winging it with some of the questions, but after the walking test the results showed that my sats? Stats where much lower using the new set up I think this more or less proved that having a Micro Knee is beneficial.

The day was finished off with a question and answer session with the same staff and that was it, no one actually told me that the leg was mine so I decided to sneak off, thinking if I’m not around they can’t ask for it back.

A few weeks later:-

The pain in my real knee has all but gone just a constant ache , something that I can live with so it’s time to get back into the hills and really start to put the knee and foot through some serious testing , as you might know I love getting out into the distant fells and hills something that I had to put on hold for the last few months , I’m not sure how my real knee will hold up so I intend to start slowly and carefully and build up as I go and so far to date things are getting better and better.

Back to the centre:-

I was back at the centre to get my standby leg (the sensor knee) looked at …it’s been a bit poorly and as a result I needed a new cylinder fitted , when by chance Allister was there and after a quick chat with my leg lady Karen it was decided that we could spend a few minutes retuning my Orion Knee , I had a few issues with the knee locking (something I hate) and a few minor issues with certain downhill walking , however after literally a few minutes we sorted all these issues out and I came away with the knee set to do what I wanted .

History to date:-

The setup has worked very well so far doing what it is supposed to do and has already taken me to some wonderful places with no difficulties, my hikes are slowly getting longer and taking in more difficult terrain without any problems but the real good news is my real knee isn’t giving me any more grief ………yes I know its buggered but as it is I can live with it so I can put off getting a total replacement for a while longer which must be a good thing .

Important points:-

These are things that I find about this set up so it may be different for you

The pickup from various speeds i.e. slow to fast is very smooth and natural

With the hydraulic foot and knee my walking gait is very natural and easy, at times I feel like I am gliding along

Going down stairs foot over foot is smooth natural looking and feels very safe

Going downhill is much more easer and stable and dare I say it safer

Don’t expect to get the settings on the knee “just right” on the first session it will take a while for you and the knee to get to know each other , I couldn’t believe how much better I came away after the second session …………and I consider myself an experienced user.

Like all set up’s the harder you drive this knee the more you will get out of it and so far it hasn’t let me down.

The downside:-

One thing that I don’t like about the knee is the way it locks up when you stop admittedly it comes off as soon as you start to move but I don’t like it and as such Allister has upped the time before the “break” is applied so it isn’t an issue for me, I might get it taken off all together ……….that’s something for the future.

The knee isn’t waterproof, (yes I know its shower proof) so I have had to get a waterproof leg cover (a bit like a Santa sack) so if and when I have to cross any streams when out on hikes I can get across without buggering the knee up.

It does seem heaver, but again after a few days the weight wasn’t noticeable

And finally I fought against the knee in the early days; I wanted one thing …..the knee wanted to do something different and so we had a battle …………..I think that was just part of the process of “marrying up to the knee” and understanding each other , I pleased to say that we now get on very well.

Three day max before the knee needs to be charged up, (have been told that with care it can go 6 days) I suppose it all depends on how you drive the knee.

So to sum up

I love this set up and am very grateful to all the staff that made it happen, the knee does what it is meant to do...it’s that simple .

Medically it has been proven to be beneficial to use and it has given me a stay of execution with regards to getting a total knee replacement so that more good news

There is talk about all users getting an app (under trials as I write this) which can go on your phone / iPad to allow us to fine tune some of the functions ourselves which must be a good thing.

Now finally how does it compare to the other knees on offer? That I can’t answer I dare say that there isn’t that much difference between any of them but unless you have tested them all you can’t really know and of course what’s good for me might not be good for you .

Any questions please feel free to ask away