Meeting the challenge head-on

Heinrich Grimsehl
By Heinrich Grimsehl
3 Min Read

You’ve no doubt heard the saying “When life gives you lemons…” But how many times have you seen someone making that lemonade? We recently met Victor Thango, who makes kilolitres of the sweetest lemonade!

As you might know, the list of challenges any amputee faces is longer than we would like to admit. Pain, discomfort, disability, financial pressure, depression, frustration, you name it. Add to that list a waiting period of four years for an entry-level government prosthesis. Any reasonable amputee would feel like simply giving up.

When Victor, 64, lost his leg in 2012 due to diabetes he made it his mission to avoid becoming a victim of his circumstances. He might have lost a limb, but he still possessed a creative mind. He realised that he was facing one of his greatest challenges, but he was determined to walk and was not prepared to wait for someone else to make it happen.

As an experienced prosthetist, even I was shocked and impressed by the initiative he took to build his own prosthesis with scraps of material lying around his house. With very limited means, he creatively fashioned a socket from wood by building a horizontal base and two lateral supports in a H-shape to contain his residual limb. He keeps it all together with screws, nails and wire.

Victor Thango with his self-made prosthesis is proof that if you want to walk, you will make it happen.

It gradually narrows down to form a wooden foot block. He glued a piece of old car tyre to the bottom of the foot block for grip and shock absorption, and suspended the prosthesis to his residual limb by bandaging it tightly around the two wooden posts. Despite having received no physical therapy, he gets by, using only one crutch to mobilise himself … with an almost unnoticeable limp.

He drives his own car!

I also noticed that he has minimal skin breakdown despite the immense shear forces that must be working on his residual limb.

Often, we prosthetists have a struggle on our hands with patients who make countless excuses for not wearing their prosthesis. Victor is walking and talking proof that if you want to walk, you can make it happen – regardless of your circumstances.

Maybe it has something to do with his surname. When Victor lost his leg he didn’t get all tangled up, he just tangoed on!

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