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  • Writer's pictureDenise Schindler

A question of attitude: perfect imperfect

Denise Schindler - Para-Radprofi
Denise Schindler - para-professional cyclist and transtibial amputee since the age of 3

Anything but perfect...

Do you also know the feeling when you look at your body and “find” something not beautiful? As a child, the feeling of being imperfect was my constant companion. Growing up in a small village, I was the only child at daycare with a disability. Later, when I went to school, I realized even more that I am different. I'm not the same. Because of my disability I'm treated differently.

I limped and could not walk like the other children, play soccer or go on vacation. Instead, I spent most vacations at the hospital because I had to be operated on, again. From my point of view I was everything, but not perfect. I clearly remember that I wondered at that time in my life ”Why am I the one who has to wear a prosthetic?” I had so many doubts as a child and as a teenager.

The protective wall crumbling

As a teenager, feeling comfortable in your own skin is one of those things which is difficult anyway. A disability on top doesn't really make it any easier next to the pimples on your face. That's why, when I was a teenage girl, I was a master at hiding everything perfectly: My crooked leg on the left and my fake leg on the right. What I liked best of all were the really hip flared slacks, which were in fashion. The style gave me security, because people didn’t look me up and down. The problem was, once my protective wall of long pants and skirts fell off, I was naked.

It's a lot like a house: On the outside put on some fancy plaster so it looks perfect. But on the inside, it's still in need of some renovation. Of course, there were always situations in which I could not maintain external protection. For example, as soon as I had taken off long the flaired pants and wanted to go into the water at a public pool from the lawn, my pretty plastered protective wall crumbled. So I was again, scrutinized from top to bottom. Like a zoo attraction until I was finally in the water. Relief, in the water!

A matter of attitude

Today, 15 years later, it is completely different. I wear hot pants and short skirts, whenever I want. The fact that everyone can see the prosthesis is no longer a problem for me - in fact - just the opposite. What’s changed that even now I have positive reactions towards my disability? It is not the world around me - but my attitude towards myself! I have ceased the want to live up to the preconceived idea of beautiful and flawlessness. Yes, I am missing a leg. Yes, I sometimes limp more, sometimes less on my left leg. but, I'm no longer afraid neither of being myself, nor from living my life. Everyone can see: This is me as I am, perfectly imperfect! It makes me approach people in a very different way and that affects how they react to me. When I cycle, for example, I wear a special cycling prosthesis which consists of a single steel tube that I click right into the pedals myself. When I take a coffee break after three hours of riding, I click off my cycling prosthesis, park my bike and walk like Captain Hook into the café and order a cappuccino. Of course I am also stared at here. But it doesn't bother me anymore. When someone looks me up and down, I smile at them and suddenly the ice is broken!

Self-acceptance: It’s not an easy process - but it's worth it

I have noticed: When I am ready to mentally "unblock" myself and learn to accept and love my body as it is, so many possibilities open up. However, I also know that this does not happen overnight. There's no switch you can flip and say, "Now I'm confident." The path to self-acceptance is a process which is not always easy. It has its ups and downs. But, the path to it finding it is important, and valuable. I'm at a point now where I haven't worn a cosmetic prosthesis for years - because I don't want to hide it anymore. IT IS's a part of me and my story. It's shaped me and made me strong. I closed that door and a new one full of opportunities and possibilities opened up.

My prosthesis - designed by me

To show this self-confidence, Mecuris is an important partner on my side. I enjoy working together with them - because we share a vision. Mecuris has the goal of giving prosthetists & orthotists access to the advantages of digitalisation and of 3D printing. Thus also making life easier and enriching it for us, the prosthesis wearers. Using the Mecuris Solution Platform, today I can become my prosthetist and create together with him, a prosthesis that fits me exactly - not only in the fit, but also in the design. I am active in the external design process of my prostheses and have a say in how it looks. Meanwhile I even own several prosthesis covers in different designs - for example an elegant variation in white, which I especially like to wear on the red carpet. Also a bathing prosthesis in turquoise and black with a wavy pattern. Do I hide my prosthesis in the swimming pool or in everyday life? No longer an option for me, I’ve found out that I like them too much. This possibility of individualization is an incredible progress and provides amputees the chance to get used to the prosthesis much earlier and to quickly identify with them more. I think all people with an amputation should use these prostheses. If you get a prosthesis which you like and that fits you, you deal with your disability more openly and confidently. Together with Mecuris that's exactly what I'm doing.

A prosthesis that fits me and my personality

We are incredibly lucky to live in a time where amputation is no longer an impasse. Thanks to a good prosthetic fitting and the developments in the past years, I can conquer the world securely on both legs! I can easily travel, start a family and manage my everyday life. I feel infinite gratitude for this confidence. Who would've thought ten years ago that my racing prosthesis would be made by a 3D printer? I bet no one. Or that every day, at my whim, I can change the color and the pattern of my leg? Thanks to digitalization, 3D printing and innovative companies like Mecuris, which bring these developments to orthopaedic technology, we now can design our prosthesis the way we want it to be. How we want it to fit us and our personality. This applies to little 8 year old Larissa with a unicorn cover for her prosthesis, for 12 year old Jonas sporting a Superman motif and for me, Denise Schindler, 33 years old, sometimes wearing a white gala cover, other times a wave motif bathing prosthesis.

Change the future

The way we deal with our amputation and prosthesis in public today is the societal change of tomorrow. With our self-confidence and our authenticity in dealing with an amputation, we are beacons for the people who are currently looking in your eyes, then look down and realize that you have a leg or an arm is missing. Therefore, it is up to us to show the public our image and get out of our comfort zone Roll up your long pants and go through life with a new confidence! We want to have a say - in the prosthesis’ design and in its creation process. We should say, what we need and what we want. Digitalization opens the doors for us to do this. We are perfect just the way we are.



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