Justine Dawe's Story
I became a left below knee amputee in 2016. Weirdly, it was one of the best days of my life. I know that may sound a little odd, but five and a half years prior to my amputation I had an accident on my honeymoon in Canada. A silly and simple injury, a sizable calf tear sustained getting out of a kayak. That accident, then led to a series of events that didn’t quite go to plan.
After many surgeries, complications and infections on my leg, it became apparent that an amputation was the best course of action. In preparation I had had a getting legless party with my friends to celebrate the next chapter in my life. Yes, I have a classic twisted nursing sense of humour, but it was wonderful. Everything was leg themed from food, party games and even one of my friends made a cake of my leg using pictures from all stages of my leg.
I’m a focused and determined person and so rehab became my total world. I wanted my first prosthetic more than anything I think I have ever dreamt of. In fact, all I wanted for Christmas that year was to walk. It was 8 weeks post-surgery when I received the gift of my first leg and just 5 weeks later I was learning to run on it.
It was at this time that my amazing rehab physiotherapist told me about the Össur Mobility Clinic. Once I had read the info on the website I was ready to sign up and attend. Wow, what a life changing event. Not only did I meet so many amazing amputees, coaches, physiotherapist and prosthetists but I was “normal” in that room. All my questions were being answered and I was pushed to challenge what I thought I could do with an interim basic leg. I was so sore after those two days, but you could not wipe the grin off my face!
What I didn’t know when I attended was that someone at each clinic is chosen to receive a running blade. I can honestly say I was speechless when my name was called. It was beyond my wildest dreams to be given something I really desired to get back to an active life but knew that I couldn’t afford it at the time. I was so excited I was bouncing for a few days afterwards.
Late last year I reached a point where my stump was able to have a socket made for the running leg I had won. Within this time, I had returned to triathlon and was competing on my everyday leg and used my Össur Pro-Flex XC foot for the bike and run. Taking my running leg home was incredible and learning to run has been challenging but so wonderful. I was very excited to return to the Össur Mobility Clinic this year. I had the opportunity to be in that environment again, connect with other amputees, pushed and challenged my limits and even improved my running. The Mobility Clinic is not just about running, but about improving an amputee’s mobility in general, so that every participant can optimise their lives to reach their own individual goals. Having the Champions there pushing you and showing you what they have been able to achieve makes the experience even more powerful.
I will always remember sitting chatting with Joany Badenhorst and her commenting on my improvement from last year to this year and how much that helped me to reflect on my journey and think about my next goals. It’s a small example of the impact of the clinic on the life of a participant!
I have returned to playing sports and even won the National Championship for the paratriathlon in the PTS4 classification over the sprint distance, returned to clinical nursing shifts, travel constantly with work, life and sport and live a completely normal life, cherishing every moment.
There is nothing I can’t do as an amputee. I might have to push myself to get there and it might not always be pretty but if I want it, I can achieve it. I wish I had had the chance to learn this life lesson earlier.
The Össur Mobility Clinic has been one of the most positive life experiences I have ever had. I am achieving things I never expected to achieve, pushing my limits every day and I cannot wait to attend the next Mobility Clinic. The Össur Mobility Clinic for me is an annual trip to push myself, correct bad habits, tap into expertise that you can’t find all in one room, meet old friends and make new ones.