HORSEPLAY: Amputee Provides Inspiration, Help

The holidays are a happy and celebratory time for many, but if you’re dealing with new circumstances, such as limb loss, it can be daunting. Surround yourself with love and support – even via Zoom – and keep your spirits up. Here’s an inspiring story of an amputee who doesn’t let anything stop her.

Looking for some inspiration, positive energy, and respite from today’s pandemic-weary world?

Dana Lawson is a one-legged horse rider, who, despite living with a painful tumor under what she calls her “sit bone,” has a “can do” attitude and a contagious sense of humor. The latter two are what helped her endure a grueling 8-mile trip up the rocky, slippery and oftentimes steep trail to Olympic National Park’s Deer Lake and the bone-jarring journey back down.

Once completed, she cracked jokes about what it’s like to watch a one-legged person ride a horse over 8 miles of steep, rocky terrain with multiple river and bridge crossings.

Sense of humor

She jested that her beloved horse, Fivey, is really a mule — but don’t tell him that — and quipped about the joys of seeing her hop back in the saddle using nothing but the earth as her step-ladder after a lunch break.

After the ride, she felt a bit rummy, saying she “kinda felt like I did coming back from a long boat ride in rough seas; the kind where you just want to get off the boat and kiss the ground when you’ve finished.”

Along with that feeling comes a “great sense of accomplishment and pride … and that’s how I felt when it was over,” she said. “Done! Checked it off the bucket list and never need to do it again. Still, it was such an amazing experience.”

And she’s filled with gratitude for the friends who helped her get there: business partner Lindsay Leiendecker and especially Sherry and Larry Baysinger — and their “mule” Fivey — for giving her their time, energy and horses to help her.

Sherry was drawn to get to know Dana better more than a year ago when she and Larry packed in food and supplies for a Washington Trails Association work party on the Bogachiel River Trail.

Trail volunteer

“There she was, this one-legged volunteer who was walking down the steepest part of the trail with her walking sticks, soaking wet. And when (she) came up against a big log, she just crawled right across it,” Sherry said.

When Sherry asked what happened to her leg, Dana told her that she’d had it amputated 16 years ago.

“So then I asked her why doesn’t she wear a prosthesis, and she said it’s because she has a tumor in her pelvic region in the bone. And when she tried a prosthesis, it caused her so much pain she couldn’t tolerate it. But she does just fine using her special walking sticks. She’s amazing how well she can walk with them.”

Sherry offered to take her horseriding on a trail, so “she could just sit and relax while enjoying a trail,” and Dana jumped at the chance.

By the time they rode to Deer Lake, Dana said she had her sea legs, so to speak.

“I used to have a captain’s license and drive boats,” Dana said. “And it reminded me of driving big boats in the water in rough sea conditions when you just got to be one with the boat and just kinda roll with it and use your core to guide you. So I used that to figure out how to ride more comfortably.

“I do a lot of Pilates, which has helped me build up my core strength and definitely helped me learn to ride.”


Dana said she’s grateful to be around strong, caring women like Sherry. Her mom passed away from pancreatic cancer when she when 59, and her dad died in his early 70s from multiple myeloma.

“So I’ve been on my own, as far as parents go, for quite some time,” she said. “Which is why I appreciate being around such kind and down-to-earth people like Sherry and Larry.”

Cancer diagnosis

She was diagnosed with her own cancer in 1999 when she was 26. Now 47, she said living with cancer has come with its challenges, but along with that has come wisdom and gratitude for the gift of life.

When she faced having her leg amputated in 2007, she started looking for ways to keep doing what she loved without having to work for a corporation.

She’s a marine biologist who was living in Florida when she was diagnosed. There, she once owned a scuba shop and held a 50-ton captain’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I did all sorts of business to try to earn a living as a marine biologist,” she said. “I just knew that my medical journey was going to be hard, and it was going to be difficult to work a 9-to-5 job, Monday through Friday, so I got this crazy idea to start a nonprofit.”

The nonprofit would host day and overnight trips mostly at the beach as well as water-related activities designed to get students out of the classroom and teach science outdoors.

“We always did community service where we collected trash on the beach and did coastal cleanups and taught the kids how to be good humans and land stewards,” she said.

Her business was put on hold with the pandemic, and now she and Lindsay are transitioning to Washington state, where they plan to offer educational programs.

“As part of our change, we’re looking at developing trauma recovery programs, specifically with domestic abuse victims,” she said. “With COVID, there’s been a huge spike in domestic violence. Social services are overwhelmed. What we did with Nature’s Academy was to work as a complement or a supplement to existing social services, so that’s what we see ourselves doing here.”

For example, Healthy Families of Clallam County and other organizations are the first step for domestic abuse victims, helping them out of their situation and into shelters and getting them the support they need to break free.

“We would like to come next to begin the therapeutic portion,” Dana said.

She wants her program, called Unbounded Horizons, to help them unlearn the feeling of helplessness and aide them in regaining their self-empowerment.

“That’s always been what nature has been for me,” she said.

Whatever the case may be — veterans, domestic abuse, loss of a child or COVID-19 — trauma is something that’s quite ambiguous, and there isn’t a great nature or wilderness recovery program out there, Dana said.

“So that’s a niche we’re trying to fill,” she said.

“Dana so inspirational to me, and she just does not let all the trauma she’s dealt with — her cancer, living with that tumor and having her leg amputated — stop her from living her life,” Sherry said.

When Dana posted on Facebook in October that she’d just completed her 60th round of chemotherapy, Sherry suggested they celebrate with another trail ride, which Dana readily accepted.

She applauds — as do I — Dana and Lindsey putting together therapeutic wilderness and nature programs for trauma survivors.

“I’m convinced Larry’s work with horses and mules is the one thing that’s helped him keep his sanity after coming back from Vietnam,” Sherry said. “He feels like he has a mission in life, and that’s what Dana recognizes, too — that she needs to have a mission in life, that her life has meaning and purpose, that her identity in life is not going to be that she is an amputee.”

I think we all thrive when we feel our lives have a purpose, a meaning, and, above all, hope. Three important qualities that can be snatched away through ongoing domestic violence, trauma, and abuse.

Reference: {}

South Beach Prosthetics provides exceptional care and service. We’re here for you. Remember, we have a peer mentoring program so if you need some support or someone to talk to that’s been where you are, just reach out and let us know. Call us at 855.958.1777 to learn more. 

What You Should Know Before Getting a Prosthetic Leg

Prosthetic legs, or prostheses, can help people with leg amputations get around more easily. They mimic the function and, sometimes, even the appearance of a real leg. Some people still need a cane, walker or crutches to walk with a prosthetic leg, while others can walk freely.

If you have a lower limb amputation, or you will soon, a prosthetic leg is probably an option you’re thinking about. Amputee rehabilitation specialist Mary Keszler, M.D., shares a few considerations you should take into account first.

Not Everyone Benefits from a Prosthetic Leg

While many people with limb loss do well with their prosthetic legs, not everyone is a good candidate for a leg prosthesis. A few questions you may want to discuss with your doctor before opting for a prosthetic leg include:

  • Is there enough soft tissue to cushion the remaining bone?
  • How much pain are you in?
  • What is the condition of the skin on the limb?
  • How much range of motion does the residual limb have?
  • Is the other leg healthy?
  • What was your activity level before the amputation?
  • What are your mobility goals?

The type of amputation (above or below the knee) can also affect your decision. It’s generally easier to use a below-the-knee prosthetic leg than an above-the-knee prosthesis. “If the knee joint is intact, the prosthetic leg takes much less effort to move and allows for more mobility,” explains Keszler.

The reason behind the amputation is also a factor, as it may impact the health of the residual limb. Your physical health and lifestyle are also important to consider. If you were not very active and lost your leg due to peripheral vascular disease or diabetes, for example, you will struggle more with a prosthesis than someone who was extremely active but lost a limb in a car accident.

Prosthetic Leg

When it comes to amputation, each person is unique. The decision to move forward with a prosthesis should be a collaborative one between you and your doctor.

“To get the right type and fit, it’s important to work closely with your prosthetist — a relationship you might have for life.”

Mary Keszler, M.D.

Prosthetic Legs Are Not One Size Fits All

If your doctor prescribes a prosthetic leg, you might not know where to begin. It helps to understand how different parts of a prosthesis work together:

  • The prosthetic leg itself is made of lightweight yet durable materials. Depending on the location of the amputation, the leg may or may not feature functional knee and ankle joints.
  • The socket is a precise mold of your residual limb that fits snugly over the limb. It helps attach the prosthetic leg to your body.
  • The suspension system is how the prosthesis stays attached, whether through sleeve suction, vacuum suspension/suction or distal locking through pin or lanyard.

There are numerous options for each of the above components, each with their own pros and cons. “To get the right type and fit, it’s important to work closely with your prosthetist — a relationship you might have for life,” recommends Keszler.

A prosthetist is a health care professional who specializes in prosthetic limbs and can help you select the right components. You’ll have frequent appointments, especially in the beginning, so it’s important to feel comfortable with the prosthetist you choose.

Rehabilitation Is an Ongoing, Collaborative Process

Once you’ve selected your prosthetic leg components, you will need rehabilitation to strengthen your legs, arms and cardiovascular system, as you learn to walk with your new limb. You’ll work closely with rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists to develop a rehabilitation plan based on your mobility goals. A big part of this plan is to keep your healthy leg in good shape. “Your healthy leg is worth its weight in gold,” emphasizes Keszler. “While prosthetic technology is always advancing, nothing can replicate a healthy leg.”

Getting Used to a Prosthetic Leg Isn’t Easy

Learning to get around with a prosthetic leg can be a challenge. Even after initial rehabilitation is over, you might experience some issues that your prosthetist and rehabilitation team can help you manage. Common obstacles include:

  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), which can affect the fit of the prosthesis and lead to skin issues.
  • Changing residual limb shape. This usually occurs in the first year after an amputation as the tissue settles into its more permanent shape, and may affect the fit of the socket.
  • Weakness in the residual limb, which may make it difficult to use the prosthesis for long periods of time.
  • Phantom limb pain could be intense enough to impact your ability to use the prosthesis.

A Note on Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom limb pain, or pain that seems to come from the amputated limb, is a very real problem that you may face after an amputation. “About 80% of people with amputations experience phantom limb pain that has no clear cause, although pain in the limb before amputation may be a risk factor,” says Keszler.

Prosthetic Leg

Mirror therapy, where you perform exercises with a mirror, may help with certain types of phantom limb pain. “Looking at yourself in the mirror simulates the presence of the amputated leg, tricking the brain into thinking it’s still there, stopping the pain,” explains Keszler.

In other cases, phantom limb pain might stem from another condition affecting the residual limb, such as sciatica or neuroma. Addressing these root causes can help eliminate the phantom pain.

Your Leg Prosthesis Needs May Change

At some point, you may notice that you aren’t as functional as you’d like to be with your current leg prosthesis. Maybe your residual limb has stabilized and you’re ready to transition from a temporary prosthesis that lasts a few months to one that can last three to five years. Or maybe you’ve “outwalked” your prosthesis by moving more or differently than the prosthesis is designed for. New pain, discomfort and lack of stability are some of the signs that it may be time to check in with your prosthetist to reevaluate your needs.

Your prosthetist might recommend adjusting your current equipment or replacing one of the components. Or you might get a prescription for a new prosthetic leg, which happens on average every three to five years. If you receive new components, it’s important to take the time to understand how they work. Physical therapy can help adjust to the new components or your new prosthetic leg.

Prosthetic Leg Technology Is Always Evolving

There are always new developments in prosthetic limb technology, such as microprocessor-driven and activity-specific components.

  • Microprocessor joints feature computer chips and sensors to provide a more natural gait. They may even have different modes for walking on flat surfaces or up and down the stairs.
  • There are also specialized prosthetic legs for different activities, such as running, showering or swimming, which you can switch to as needed. In some cases, your everyday prosthetic leg can be modified by your prosthetist to serve different purposes.
  • Osseointegration surgery is another option. This procedure involves the insertion of a metal implant directly into the bone, so there is no need for a socket. The prosthetic leg then attaches directly to that implant. While this procedure is not right for everyone and is still under study, it can provide improved range of motion and sensory perception.

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in navigating the many different prosthetic leg options. Your care team will help you weigh the pros and cons of each and decide on the ideal prosthetic leg that matches your lifestyle.

When you come to South Beach Prosthetics, you’re not alone in navigating the many different prosthetic leg options. Your team here will help you weigh the pros and cons of each and decide on the ideal prosthetic leg that matches your lifestyle. There are a LOT of questions you must have — so please connect with us and let’s get them answered! We will work with you to get you back on track and living your best life. We even offer our patients free transportation to see us – and your doctors and rehab appointments.    

Reference: {}

A new prosthetic leg that senses touch reduces phantom pain

A prosthetic leg that can feel helped two men walk faster, more smoothly and with greater confidence. The artificial leg, outfitted with sensors that detect pressure and motion, also curbed phantom pain that came from the men’s missing legs, researchers report online September 9 in Nature Medicine.

Restoring these missing signals may greatly improve the lives of people who rely on prosthetic limbs (SN: 1/28/11).

Neuroengineer Stanisa Raspopovic of ETH Zurich and colleagues tested the device in two men, both of whom had a leg amputated above the knee. Their new prosthetic legs were outfitted with seven sensors that detect foot pressure on the ground and one sensor that decodes the angles of the knee joint. Electrodes implanted on the sciatic nerve, just above the amputation site, then stimulated the nerve with signals from the sensors on the prosthesis.

“If you close your eyes, you will think that you have your own leg,” volunteer Savo Panic said in Serbian in a translated video released by the researchers.

When those sensory signals were present, the two men walked faster and more confidently, even over difficult sandy terrain. What’s more, unpleasant feelings of pain from their missing leg lessened. After about a month of use, one of the men reported no pain at all, and the other man said his pain was sporadic.

As part of the study, the electrodes were removed after about three months. Longer trials with more people will let researchers fine-tune the device.


Let’s book you an

We looking forward to meeting you.

To schedule an appointment, please call our office at (888) 819-4721, or fill out the form below with your preferred appointment time, and our staff will get back to you to schedule your appointment!

Contact Info