Erik Ax was 46 years old when he lost his left leg in a hunting accident. At the time, he was working as an engineer in the midst of starting up his own business. Happily married and with two children, Erik had no intentions to change anything in his life.
Although he was provided with an artificial limb after the amputation, the Norwegian didn’t wear it due to the discomfort caused by the socket. I never adopted my first leg, Erik said. During two years after the accident, Erik found himself leaving the prosthesis in the closet and only using crutches.
– My previous socket prosthesis gave me blisters and a lot of pain which made me use crutches instead.
Eventually he was fitted with a better prosthesis which although provided him with some mobility, it was still far from solving Erik’s requirements of functionally and comfort.
– This situation forced me to investigate further possibilities, Erik commented.
Through his search for a better solution he came in contact with Prof. P.I. Brånemark, the discoverer of osseointegration, a relatively new technology at that time. In 1999 and thanks to the research on bone anchored prosthesis, carried out by Dr. R. Brånemark, a titanium implant was surgically placed into Erik’s femur. Erik then became one of the first amputees ever treated with this new procedure, the “Osseointegrated Prosthesis for the Rehabilitation of Amputees” (OPRA).
Six months had to pass to assure that osseointegration took place. Then an abutment was surgically attached to the osseointegrated implant and the training phase started, which aimed to regain muscle strength and bone calcification. This was a necessary procedure to ensure the safety and success of the treatment. Three months later, Erik began the training with his new leg and soon he started to use just a cane instead of crutches until he walked again freely and was able to participate in activities such as cycling, sailing or even horseback riding.
A revolutionary change
The whole procedure from the first surgery until he was fully able to walk took Erik almost one year. This period and the fact to undergo surgery twice are the only disadvantages according to him, “and they are well worth doing!” he said.
– In return, I gained the ability to walk; stand and sit without having any pain; a prosthetic leg with a simple attachment mechanism; and not least, a little pride wearing this special type of prosthesis.
“The other prosthesis ruled my life, it was my master in a way, it’s inevitable…it affected my mood and my interest in doing things that I knew would demand an extra effort. You had to weigh the pros and cons and that’s all gone now. Now it’s actually me…I am in command and not the left leg (socket prosthesis) and that’s a big difference.”