For Busselton resident Kelvin Cook, life could not be any sweeter after he had life changing surgery – called osseointegration – giving him the ability to do all the things he did before he had his leg amputated.
The procedure worked by inserting a titanium rod directly into his femur, a prosthesis then clicked into the rod, giving him a greater range of movement, and less discomfort than a traditional prosthesis.
The surgery was performed by the pioneering Sydney surgeon Dr Munjed Al Muderis who uses the technology to give amputees the ability to walk and move around similar to how they once did.
“For me it has been a game changer,” Mr Cook said.
Traditional prosthesis were highly uncomfortable for Mr Cook, with the discomfort getting so bad he could no longer use a prosthesis and was confined to a wheelchair.
He had even traveled to the UK in the hope of obtaining a better prosthesis but it was still no good.
“I had just about given up on wearing prosthesis when I went full time to a wheelchair,” he said.
“I lost my leg in a motorbike accident in 2000 and had heard about osseointegration, so I sort of knew about it but my doctor had said if you have a fall and break something you are stuffed.
“So I didn’t, but when I got to this stage I had nothing to lose and since then it has been great.”
Mr Cook said after the procedure he could do virtually anything he liked and recently got back into boating after his wife Lucy bought him a boat for his 50th birthday.
“I used to have a wet leg but it would just move everywhere, with this leg I can walk straight into the water, I used to panic with my old sea leg in any sort of water because you could not get wet at all,” he said.
“This leg can go in anything I go kayaking, boating, swimming and dancing, it has been great for me.”
Mr Cook said he never used to wear shorts but now wears them everywhere for everyone to see hoping people will ask him about his leg.
People often approach Mr Cook because they had a relative who was an amputee and noticed that he could move around so well.
“They ask me how I am able to do it, one guy told me about his uncle whose arms and upper body had blown out from using crutches and one leg, and he is going to contact me about osseointegration,” he said.
“It is just a matter of getting the word out there, I even tell every doctor and nurse I see about it because if it can get through to just one other person it will change their life.”
Mr Cook had the surgery in May 2014 and was one of the first 200 people in Australia to undergo the procedure which has now been done on more than 1000 people around the world.
“Within a matter of days you start to put weight on it and the bone begins to strengthen, because it had been a long time since was used,” he said.
“At the time I had a computer controlled knee, called a sea leg, but since then I have the latest all singing all dancing knee, it is completely salt water proof I can swim with it.”
Dr Munjed Al Muderis: Surgeon, Sydney
The surgery is mostly done in Sydney by Dr Muderis and is partly covered by Australian private health insurers and Medicare.
The procedure is currently undergoing clinical trials in the USA where it will hopefully become more accessible to amputees living in the States.
Osseointegration can be performed on people who have lost a leg below their knee, above their knee or an arm.
Dr Muderis said over the last 600 years rehabilitation of amputees had been utilising archaic technology he likened to Captain Hook.
He said it was the same technology invented in 1529, which was a socket mounted prosthesis, like a bucket wrapped around a residual limb with significant limitations.
“So this technology has revolusionised the principal and the concept of rehabilitation of amputees by directly inserting a titanium implant into the residual bone and reorganising the muscles and nerves around it to operate a prosthetic limb through a small opening in the leg or arm,” he said.
“In the arm, for example, we rejig the nerves to operate a myoelectric robot that becomes mind controlled, in the leg it is a similar mechanism using gyroscopes to allow the patient to have fluidity of movement.”
Dr Muderis said for the patient it significantly increased their range of movement, decreased energy consumption and brought them as close as possible to being able-bodied.
“We have been able to get this technology available in [Australia’s health] system and refunded by the private heath funds, worker’s compensation and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs,” he said.
“It is accessible to Australians we are very lucky here, I just came back from Iraq and did 21 cases and have done nearly 131 Iraqi soldiers so far.
“It is applicable to anyone around the world and all types of patients regardless of their ethnicity, environment and cause of amputation.
“We have done over 800 cases and throughout the world there has been nearly 1200 with the majority being done in Sydney.”
Lucy Cook said it was amazing to see her husband be able to do simple things around the home he was not previously able to.
“Even booking hotel rooms you had to think about disabled rooms and accessibility whereas now I can go to any room it does not matter,” Mr Cook said.
“We do not have to plan and worry about whether there will be a disabled toilet, now I do not have to use a wheelchair or crutches or a stick – I am unassisted.”