“To be able to walk from my car to the grocery store would be awesome.”
Almost two years after beginning the process of learning to walk on prosthetic legs, Westboro bus crash survivor Marcie Stevens is shopping for new knees.
“It felt kind of strange to be able to swing the leg through,” she said after testing out two different styles of prosthetics with microprocessor knees at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre last week.
“It’s one step closer to actually having a normal gait pattern … To be able to walk from my car to the grocery store would be awesome.”
The first steps will make the process of walking easier for Stevens, who has been using lock-kneed prosthetics until now. She has been a bilateral amputee since January 2019, when she was inside a double-decker OC Transpo bus that crashed into the Westboro Station shelter awning. Three people were killed, and Stevens was among 23 others injured.
After a two-day coma and four surgeries within a month of the collision, Stevens began her journey to live without her legs.
Dr. Nancy Dudeck, who works out of the rehabilitation centre, says walking again is very challenging for people like Stevens who have had their legs amputated above the knee because losing the knee and ankle takes away much of the power needed to propel the body forward. As a result, Stevens must use up to 300 per cent more oxygen than the average person to walk.
“This is a very difficult level of amputation to learn to walk with prosthetic devices,” Dudeck said.
“The vast majority of people with amputations at that level do not return to walking,” she added, “(but Marcie is) someone who was very understanding and accepting of the work that it was going to take to get her to the point where she could consider using prosthetic devices.”
Shopping for new knees has been hindered because of the lack of many women who are bilateral amputees above the knee, Stevens says. She adds it has been hard to find other women to talk about the usability of a product she is making a three- to five-year commitment to and “costs basically as much as a car, each”
Also, the pandemic meant Stevens has had to wait longer to use the microprocessor knees as COVID-19 has led to delays in many surgeries and has rattled supply chains.
“I was only supposed to walk with lock knees until I got to the height that I wanted to be at, (but) everything was delayed. Surgeries that I needed to have before I could get the microprocessor legs were delayed because of COVID.”
Despite the challenges, though, Stevens remains motivated to moving forward.
She has been on a rigorous training routine since March 2020, seeing a personal trainer three times per week, working on her cardio and core on an at-home gym and meeting with a physical therapist.
“When you’re faced with a lot of hard times, you basically have to find the good in what happened,” Stevens said.
“Just because people knock you down or you get dealt a bad card doesn’t mean that you just curl up. You have to get up and keep going.”