Tanja Michel

Tanja is the engine of her family of six and a central player in the tight community of Lützellinden, Germany. She lives with husband Ralf, who she met at high school over 30 years ago. They have four children – Max, Luna, Emma and Jule. And a golden Labrador, Paula.

Watching Tanja today as she runs a full life using her Össur Power Knee, you’d never know what she has been through…

It’s a lot.

And spans a long period.

When her journey from having a sore knee to undergoing a leg amputation began, her youngest child was 6. She is now 16.

“Everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”

Oscar Wilde

And it all started with the most ordinary moment…

Common ski accident

In 2004, Tanja hit the slopes with friends and came home with a damaged cruciate ligament. This is a common enough injury, even for someone like Tanja who played handball at a high level and was super fit.

Her knee seemed to recover well enough, no doubt helped by her great physical condition and positive mindset. Her life running a family of six and playing an active role in her community continued as it was.

Except for playing handball.

Her knee injury got in the way.

No big deal

Giving up handball didn’t feel like a big deal at the time.

“There comes a time when you’re getting a bit older and family life demands a lot. And then there’s a moment where you decide to really invest and keep playing, or transition into becoming a coach. This decision had been on my mind and the injury made the decision for me.”

Tanja accepted the change without missing a beat.

Life continued for 12 years. Tanja’s family thrived and grew from two children to four.

Vacuuming a tricky spot

Then one day while vacuuming, Tanja hurt her knee again. Although she didn’t know it at the time, her life was about to change in a big way. Forever.

Yes, her life changing journey began with vacuuming.

In true Tanja style she was volunteering and giving her all. She went to clean a tricky spot between two benches and felt a twinge in her knee.

She knew it wasn’t good. The pain was deep.

She got it checked and the doctor told her it was just a sprain. So, she put an ice pack on it and got on with life.

Her busy household continued to rumble.

And so did her knee.

Until one morning, she tried to get up and she couldn’t.

The hospital told Tanja that she had osteoarthritis, which had developed from her earlier ski injury. She was told that the two bones in her knee had connected, which meant it was no longer able to move.

Tanja was told she would have to get a knee replacement. This wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but it also didn’t feel like the end of the world.

A new knee

Tanja got strength from the Oscar Wilde quote, “everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.” 

She really lived this quote. Because what happened next wasn’t alright.

Tanja got her knee replacement and as she recovered, she noticed a small wound on the surface of her skin.

She was told time would heal her wound.

But it didn’t.

Family and life demands remained high. As her husband was away for work a lot, her son Max stepped in and helped with the younger siblings.

By this time, Tanja was in a wheelchair.

Tanja’s closest friends and family were right there to support her. In big and small ways. So, for example, when she was in hospital for months at a time, a friend would bring her young daughter in to share precious time with Tanja.

Lying in bed not able to do all the things she always did, knowing her daughter needed her, took a lot of strength to endure.

Strength that she had to call on again and again.

Over 100 surgeries

Tanja and her family then went through another 108 surgeries, including another knee replacement.

It was a tough time for everyone.

The knee replacements weren’t working.

On the eve of her third attempted knee replacement, Tanja’s doctors said they would give it one more shot to replace her knee. They also raised that it was time to start thinking about the possibility of losing her leg all together.

The leg that had carried her through her whole life…

“That’s me. What happened to me was not alright. It was hard. And I made sure it wasn’t the end.”


New beginnings

Tanja’s leg was removed on 20 December 2020. It was a difficult procedure. Her recovery took months before rehabilitation even began.

The strong, positive mindset she developed as a handball player helped get her through this intense time.

“Keeping your spirits up is part of the game,” reflects Tanja.

New knee, new life

Tanja has now been fitted with an Össur Power Knee, giving her a new life.

“I couldn’t be more thankful to my prosthetist, Frank. He’s an expert, full of empathy and I know he won’t rest until he’s found me the best solution.” “Anyone who knows me, knows me for being an energetic person. So, I guess we are a perfect match – my Össur Power Knee and me. My son calls me the bionic woman and says I’m like some kind of superhero! “

Tanja is go, go, go and so is her knee.

“My days are long and full and sometimes I forget to charge it up at the end of the day, so I really appreciate the extra-long battery life – my Össur Power Knee can keep up with me for another full day without a charge.”


“To go back to Oscar Wilde and what he says about even if it not alright, it is not the end. That’s me. What happened to me not alright. It was hard. And I made sure it wasn’t the end.”

In fact, Tanja has successfully built a rich life with her Össur Power Knee.

She’s full of energy and is surrounded by the people she loves. She is doing what matters to her most.

“Yes, my leg is still recovering and changing and there are lots of things on my list that I want to be able to do. Like riding a bike with my daughter and jumping into the ocean without a worry in the world. It may take time, but I will get there.

And when I see my daughter playing handball, I feel so proud and so happy. My whole family is with me, cheering her on!  

That’s a life well lived.

And I will keep giving it everything, no matter what.”

Keeping spirits high

Name: Tanja Michel
Occupation: Head of Household, Mother, Community linchpin
Location: Lützellinden, Germany

Dog walking
Community volunteering
Running a busy household
what i love
  • Family life
  • Keeping active with Paula the Labrador
  • Supporting local handball