Spare prosthesis

Amputees can benefit greatly from having a spare prosthesis. Heinrich Grimsehl discusses

Talk to a patient about a “spare prosthesis” and their face lights up! Talk to a funder about the same thing and it feels like you just opened a fridge door. You get responses like: “But surely the patient cannot wear two legs at the same time?” This is true.

But so is the following:

  • A normal limb maintains itself while still attached to the body. No extra maintenance is required, accept of course to eat your vegetables. A prosthesis, on the other hand, does not maintain itself. You must remove it from the body for maintenance, which often takes more than 24 hours.
  • I hate car-leg comparisons, but let’s throw one into the mix. If your car needs a service, you can take it to several garages with literally dozens of mechanics qualified to do the job. Your limb, on the other hand, needs the attention of the very artisan who carefully crafted your appliance – the certified prosthetists orthotists who understands your prosthesis, but also your needs as an individual; the prosthetist who walked years with you. Blood, sweat and tears comes to mind. If he or she is not immediately available, what then?
  • Different prostheses have different functions. The fast and slow-walking everyday prosthesis is usually not suitable for a jog or run. Total different components are needed. The same applies for swimming, diving, showering, and riding a bicycle.
  • If a component breaks and needs replacement, it might not be in stock. It might even have to be sourced from abroad.
  • There are different cosmetic finishes for different functions or activities. You might want to dress up and look beautiful, but you don’t want to necessarily carry the heavy cosmetic finish with you every single day. It’s just not dynamic and comfortable for everyday wear. The same might apply to wearing high or low-heel shoes. The prosthetic foot that works with the heel height of a stiletto will not work barefoot on the beach.

I have touched on but a few examples of why a spare prosthesis is necessary. So please, whoever makes these usually “financial” decisions, keep the above in mind!

By not supplying these much-needed spare limbs, an amputee’s daily routine and responsibilities might grind to a screeching halt. Leaving them dysfunctional, stranded and frustrated.


Heinrich Grimsehl is a prosthetist in private practice and a member of the South African Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (SAOPA). email:

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