Prosthetic, fin have given her new lease on life
People ask Juanita Partain if she gets depressed after the amputation of her right leg two years ago, but the 57-year-old U.S. Army veteran and Des Allemands woman is anything but.
“No, I’m not depressed—I’m ecstatic,” she said. “Amputation, for me, was a good thing.”
It came down to what she called a simple decision for her to no longer live with constant pain. A mass grew on Partain’s foot in her 20s and despite multiple surgeries and procedures to have it eliminated, it grew back time and time again.
Partain, who served in Germany for four years, has received treatment from the Veterans Health Administration Medical Center for years, but ultimately couldn’t stand the limitations her foot caused her.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t stand the wind blowing on it,” Partain said. “I couldn’t step on it. I was on crutches for eight years.”
Several times over those eight years, she brought up the possibility of having the foot amputated, but those treating her wanted to save her foot and get her back to 100 percent.
“They told me ‘we can save it, we can save it …’ you aren’t saving it,’” Partain said. “Two weeks after I got my paperwork, I got my leg amputated. It’s honestly the greatest thing I could have done.”
Now able to walk with a prosthetic leg, it’s allowed her a new lease on life – she notes she can now walk, go shopping and spend time with her children without the limitations she had before. She can go for a walk with her dog—well, one of them anyway.
“I have a mastiff and we can go out for a walk … my pug, she’ll trip me up,” Partain said with a laugh. “Pugs are crazy. That’s a tougher deal.”
But one big sacrifice on Partain’s part — at least, until recently — was her love of swimming. As someone who grew up in Des Allemands, water activities were less a lark or hobby and more just the way life is.
“I would get in the pool with my kids, but it wasn’t the same. I’d go out on the boat with friends, but I’d just stay out of the water,” Partain said. “It was an adjustment because my children love to swim. My mother loves to swim. I was brought up swimming in the bayou and you know how it is here. Even in Germany, I’d go find swim spots … but a prosthetic leg, you can’t really wear it in water.”
But recently the VA doctor who made and fit Partain for her prosthetic approached her problem with a potential solution — he offered to fit her for an AMP Fin, which would allow her to enjoy the water once again.
“I said, ‘why not?’” Partain said.
She tried it out and has no regrets. She said the fin can be easily put on, and while you can’t walk on it and it can only be worn so long before the leg must be allowed to breathe, it’s made all the difference in the world.
“Once you put it on, you just get in the water and go,” she said. “We play volleyball in the water and it’s just fun exercise. It’s comfortable to wear. You can really only have it on 20 minutes at a time, but 20 minutes in the water is better than no time in the water.”
She said it’s also allowed her to participate in aqua therapy, which she said is a great change up.
Some want to call her “a mermaid” when she puts it on, but she humorously said the moniker makes her bristle.
“Nah, you can’t call me that,” she laughed. “I’m an older soldier … not so much a mermaid.”
- The AMP Fin was created to provide above and below the knee amputees a prosthetic customized to allow them to swim and dive.
- It gives amputees the ability to reverse the effects of limb loss by building muscle, decreasing atrophy, increasing range of motion and improving gait.
- Juanita Partain grew up in Des Allemands and is a U.S. Army veteran who served her country in Germany for four years.