Sunday, August 22, 2010


It is Sunday morning at about 11:30 right now. I finally got those pictures up and I am probably about two hours away from really being finished. It's a beautiful day. When I first got back here we were in the midst of a very tiring heat wave. For me personally the heat made life very uncomfortable and my first few days I found it hard to get motivated to do anything. I mean, I hate to say that I had been spoiled but everybody in New York and Florida had air conditioning and with the exception of playing bocce, we were not really out in the weather so much.

The new office of course does not have air conditioning and so all you could do was to keep the windows open and continually use this very loud and not very well balanced desk fan which has to be at least twenty years old to try and keep things cool. Luckily it has cooled off a little and you can now feel the first tingles of fall in the air and so it is a bit better.

I also want to say that I have been spending a lot of time wrenching on the leg and I found out some secrets about how the thing works. When I was talking about doing the cleaning and whether or not I needed a cleaner to come in and really, I don't know why I do this, I guess I had forgotten where I live. The beautiful and interesting Republic of Belarus is a do it yourself haven and local culture does not allow one to depend on other people to get personal things done. I also forgot that I am still, at heart, a bike mechanic and the simple physical understanding of how the plastic, steel, carbon fiber and titanium of the prosthetic works is no different from setting up a bicycle for someone so it works for them in its most efficient manner. Maybe it is laziness or maybe I am just out of practice.

Having Annie with me on Saturday was of course also an inspiration for many things. Amongst other lessons, I try to teach her self sufficiency and I have noticed that she has a real aptitude for mechanics. There is a story about how adept she is from when I took the table that I use in the office. Its legs are attached by bolts which are imbedded in the wood and tightened into place with nut. One of the bolts had come loose over time and when we were looking at the table we could see that it was really wobbly. I don't remember how many people were in the room but Annie was there, I think she was about three years old, and when we mentioned how unstable it was, she immediately ran under the table and said "Here is the bad leg right here." and she pointed out the one that had the loose bolt. And of course as the story goes, about three hours later we asked her then thirteen year old brother how the table had been and he simply said that it was fine. So of course we are talking about aptitude. I also want to add that Annie one time put the bell on her bike back together. We were riding near the river and Annie found some uneven road- surprise, surprise. The bike went over and when it hit, the bell opened up and its parts spilled out all over the pavement. Anya is MY daughter though and what she did in place of crying about it was to look around and collect all the parts, examine how they went together and then simply rebuilt it, ringing it a few times at the end with a big smile on her face. Anya is a very cool little girl.

So because she is so cool and handles things so well, when we were sitting together on the couch, I just popped the leg off and started talking to her about what had been bothering me and where the problems with balance were. Being the genius that she is, my five year old immediately pointed out that the leg itself simply was not straight. It was not bent; it had just been set up by the protheticist, or whatever you call them, to account to the natural angles of my body as he saw them to be. And if course she was right. All of the shifting and pigeon toeing that had been going on had come from the angles dictating to the foot where it needed to go.

So, as we were watching Alice in Wonderland, I started chipping off the epoxy resin which was holding the bolts in place and studied how the foot was set up. Right below the socket there is ball joint with four screws which set the angle of the pylon, the pipe or tube which connects you to the foot. When you open one side and close the other the angle changes a little and, when I moved the pylon, the center of gravity shifted and when I tested it, as if by some miracle, I found myself walking much more easily and with my weight going straight down the center of my leg, through the pylon and into the foot. The effect was so dramatic. And what was more, the drifting stopped, less padding was needed to keep the thing snug to me and it became about 10,000 percent more comfortable to walk on. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks Anne.

I should add in that there was a little more adventure with the leg this morning. When I took the epoxy off, I knew I had to put something on the screws and bolts to keep them from coming loose so a little while ago, I set off for the bike store at the market. I was hoping Egr, the proprietor and a good friend, had this stuff called lock tight, which is a breakable adhesive that keeps bolts from coming loose from vibration. It was a very short walk to the market, but as I was walking, I could feel the alignment screws giving way and the joint getting looser. Talk about a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Of course I had forgotten the damned wrench and also of course, it was not like I could just pull the thing off and carry it. There were only 20 meters to go but I could hardly move for fear the thing was going to break in half. Somehow I got there and luckily, though he didn’t have the bolt adhesive I wanted (there is no real bike shop in Pinsk) he did have some gasket maker which did the job. It took me a while to find that sweet spot again, but I did. I guess it is just like old times.

So, by necessity or by default and because it is the truth, I am the leg mechanic now as well the house cleaner. And this is nice because it means I don't have to fly back to America or to take a train to Germany or Lithuania to get a simple tune up. These things are going to be done in the office and as I actually have the lone allen wrench needed to open and close all of the bolts, I guess I am confident that I am capable of doing a decent job.

Today is Sunday and tomorrow I have my first interviews. My things-to-do list has gotten really, really small. Today is the final clean up day; the diplomas are on the wall, the flags are up, the chairs are at the table and Annie's room is put together pretty much as need be. The sun is out, it is a beautiful day, pretty much everything has found its place and I think I can open the door and allow people to come in. There was never any reason to worry. I know how to do this. I am confident. In fact, I could probably do my whole year standing on one leg.

More soon...