“‘Prosthesis?’ You keep using that word.”

“I do not think it means what you think it means.” Or maybe I’m just behind the times. That’s not uncommon.

I happened to be reviewing the game camera mem card just now. Nothing on it but some rodents hanging around and a Corgi and an old man walking around a bush several times. And I kept looking at the way the boot sat on the old man’s left foot and thinking, “Man, that foot is worn all the way out.” And it’s not going to be fixed any time very soon because I’m a high desert hermit and the closest prosthetist I know of is five hours away by highway. Until it actually breaks, the hassle cost is too high. The only real damage to the foot at present is cosmetic and it’s been this way ten years; as far as I can tell, the real functional part of the foot is effectively immortal. So I’m not interested in spending days or weeks in the city far away just to replace my foot.

But the exercise got my mind spinning on a related tangent … what would it cost to replace the whole leg? It’s over 20, pushing 25 years old and hasn’t fit right in this century, plus in the meantime I’ve rather reconciled to the idea of one of those titanium pegs which are goofy-looking as hell but much lighter and cheaper to keep in service than mine*.

Which, given all I went through to sign up for medicare six months ago, naturally led to the question, “What prosthetic stuff does Medicare cover?” A question you’d think would be easy to answer…


Notice something that list doesn’t specifically include? I’m (almost) sure it’s just an oversight, because specifically excluding limbs from that list would be like saying, “I’ll replace any broken part on your car except the steering, suspension, wheels and tires, you’ll just have to get along without those.” I’m (almost) certain this is just a writer throwing together something that’s good enough for government work. Almost. But yeah, the list of covered prosthetic parts on the main page officially includes everything except arms and legs.

It’s just poor writing, though, because if you type “prosthetic limb” into the search window you do get sent someplace else that does specifically say…


So, yeah. In money, I could even afford to do it right now. But it would mean spending more weeks in a city, and I’m not at all sure I’m over how I spent my summer vacation.


*When this leg was made back in the nineties, the prosthetist asked me, “endo or exo?” Which was not a question anyone had ever asked me before. Those space-age peg legs were just coming into vogue at the time, and I made the snap decision that I wasn’t ready to look down at one of those things every morning. Little did I know that they weren’t just a fad, and that replacement parts (like feet, for example) that would fit my new leg were about to entirely leave the market. I had to have my leg extensively revised in 2008 just so I could get a decent off-pavement foot installed.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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8 Responses to “‘Prosthesis?’ You keep using that word.”

  1. A truly weird thought crossed my mind, which isn’t entirely unusual. There are junk yards for cars where you can go and get parts. If your leg/foot is no longer the standard, I wondered if there were “junk yards” for prosthetic parts. I did a bing search and it does look like you can buy parts online at various sites. Nothing cheap of course, but if you could find the right one and attach it yourself it’d probably be cheaper than the official real deal replacement.
    https://www.bing.com/search?q=prosthetic+foot&qs=AS&pq=prosthetic+f&sc=8-12&cvid=B725F07A09144B11851C5702A917D5A0&FORM=QBLH&sp=1

  2. John H Brooks says:

    Check out The Feral Irishman for the post about Acrotomophilia with a pix. And Google the term. I learned something today.

  3. Mike says:

    Put it off as long as you like Joel, but you know how uncle Murphy loves to play tricks on you. That means when you need it the most, you know that the prosthetic is going to fail and will not be fixable. Just saying…

  4. ZXelda says:

    What Mike said. What is your back up plan if it does fail and duct tape won’t do the job? Do you have crutches? A cane? Two canes? Do you carry them with you? An old Desert Hermit needs at least one back up plan. So how about a visit to Big Brother to have a leg made? Probably there are better and maybe cheaper (higher volume) places to get that done with better techniques.

  5. Ben says:

    I think that Joel is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Use your hard-earned Medicare benefits to see a local orthopedic Dr. He may know of a more convenient option to get a new leg fitted. At minimum, you will get your needed prescription.

  6. bmq215 says:

    Piling on with everyone else to say that “two is one, one is…”

  7. Robert says:

    Am I the only one that flashed on the scene from Young Frakenstein wherein Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Friedrich Kemp’s wooden arm pops off and he announces “To ze lumberyard!”? Probably…

    And what Ben said.

  8. Norman says:

    Still having the OEM stuff, I’m completely ignorant about prosthetics, but the thought(s) crossed my mind that the high-tech version might offer standardization in attachment method; if I’m understanding correctly, your current prosthetic is a calf (or knee)-to-toe construction which requires the entire thing be remade. Might the high tech version establish offer universality from knee to foot attachment point, plus multiple foot options?

    The other thought was that perhaps the task should be moved to the top of the “to do” list; it will certainly be not just “involved” but very f***ing involved, multiple visits, scads of providers and administration types, lots of paperwork, inordinate numbers of bureaucracies involved, etc. so it ain’t gonna happen overnight. Another “hemorrhoid surgery with a rusty butterknife” type of thing. Sooner started is sooner finished, and especially for someone who moved away from civilization because he didn’t care for it much, or trust it overly, the possibility of such technology and related human-administered services becoming a casualty of an increasingly fragile society would seem justification for raising the haste quotient.

To the stake with the heretic!