Patchwork Pants

Despite having the same level of amputation, amputees can struggle with very different issues. Socket fit, components and phantom limb pain are all issues that greatly impact an individual’s emotional and physical well-being. While the big issues are dependent upon a number of variables, many times the smaller aggravations tend to be universal.

I have been an amputee for 11 years and have had the opportunity to meet thousands of individuals living with a prosthesis. Although we all lead very different lives, most of the time we end up talking about the common frustrations we all share. With colder weather approaching and longer pants being pulled out of the back of closets and drawers, another universal annoyance is starting to materialize.

A lower extremity amputee can have the prosthesis covered under pants and can walk with a flawless gait. Despite being completely concealed, those who know where to look can easily discern prosthesis use. The proof is in the trouser fabric, in particular the tiny little holes and tears that form where the socket pulls against the pant fabric around the knee.

I have ruined more jeans and dress pants than I care to admit because of my prosthesis. The constant pulling of the fabric against the top of the socket wears down the fibers until they are completely destroyed. Bending and sitting speeds up the breakdown and causes the holes to develop sooner. Being a Mom, I bend and squat a lot!

For years I just accepted the little holes as an amputee aggravation. Obviously not particularly versed in my home-economics skills from patcheshigh school, it never occurred to me that an ounce of prevention could stave off the issue. It wasn’t until I was with a group of amputee friends, engaging in one of our sharing sessions, that I learned of an embarrassingly easy solution.

After I buy a new pair of pants, the first thing I do when I get home is reinforce the knees by applying a thin iron on patch on the inside of each leg. The patches are thin and quickly lose their stiffness after a wash or two. I don’t concern myself with matching fabric color, or even ironing the patch on neatly, because it is applied to the inside of the pant leg. Nobody sees that it is there, silently taking the blunt of the socket abuse and saving my jeans and dress pants.

It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of my holey pant legs, I would have to agree. Spending a few minutes prepping the inside knee with a patch has stopped all of the annoying little rips and holes from developing. I guess I should have paid attention in Home-Ec!

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