UPDATE June 2017
I thought it was time for an update! Firstly I want to thank everyone who has donated, the response has been unbelievable and we cannot believe how amazing the support has been, Genelle is so blessed to have such incredible support behind her. Genelle has spent a lot of the past 18 months persisting with her prosthesis, however unfortunately it has not worked. The problem is the socket and sustaining the weight of the leg. It's an issue that occurs with having an amputation that is so high. Genelle's only chance of walking unaided is to have osseointegration surgery along with the specialised prosthesis.
Osseointegration is the integration of bone with a titanium rod to enable the prosthesis to be connected externally. In Genelle's case, as she has no bone it will require two separate surgeries, the first part involves a hip replacement, reconstruction of the stump and a titanium implant, the second part involves having an implant inserted through the stump and will enable the prosthesis to attach externally to the body. These surgeries are conducted in Sydney with a cost of approx $40,000 plus flights and accomodation etc. Therefore, the original target of $80,000 that was set to fund for the prosthesis has now been revised to $120,000 to now include the cost of the surgeries. The first surgery is booked for mid July 2017, the second surgery will be dependent on recovery and rehabilitation after the first surgery but is likely to be scheduled by October. I know Gen is very nervous and anxious about the surgery but I also know that she is incredibly strong and resilient. I know she will do absolutely everything she can, I have seen her fight incredible battles before and I know she can do this!
I have the greatest admiration for my sister Genelle. Gen is 29 years old, a mum to a vibrant four year old boy, has a full time job, has a passion for cake decorating, works her butt off at the gym, makes a mean curry and enjoys spending time browsing the local markets. Oh, and she is an amputee. Gen has never let her amputation define her as a person, she has always set goals, big ones, and reached them. What Gen has already achieved in her life puts many people with two legs to shame. She has never received any form of disability pension. She has never felt sorry for her self or expected others to. She lives her life. In fact many of her friends, colleagues and acquaintances don't even know how she became an amputee, so let me tell you...
Christmas Eve of 1994 everything changed for our family with a biopsy confirming that Gen had cancer- osteogenic sarcoma a very aggressive bone cancer. At nine years of age Gen endured nine months of chemotherapy. She underwent surgeries to try and salvage her leg- first to remove the diseased bone and replace it with a donor bone, and then when that failed they attempted to replace it with a steel rod. That also failed, infection set in and there was no choice but to amputate her right leg. Gen endured so much pain, she was in hospital for months at a time coming home for a day or two only if she was well enough. I cannot tell you how soul destroying it is to watch someone go through so much pain and to watch them literally fight for their life. At times it did not seem possible to survive through what she endured.
18 months later at 11 years of age Gen relapsed with tumours in both lungs, she had a further six months of chemotherapy and further surgery. Two years later tumours were again found in her lungs, and she again had surgery to remove them. In total my strong sister has had 22 operations and spent years in a hospital bed, yet, she will tell you that she is lucky- she is still here.
So why am I telling you her story? Gen needs our help to enable her to live her life to her absolute full potential. Currently Gen gets around on elbow crutches. Her back, shoulders, hands and wrists are suffering. The demands of using crutches are slowly taking its toll on her body. Gen's amputation is very high, this makes fitting and using a prosthetic leg extremely difficult.
A few months ago Gen met with Brendan Cahill from Orthotic Prosthetic Solutions and had a prosthesis developed. She is currently trialling a base model prosthesis that is funded by WALSA (Western Australian Limb Service for Amputees). Learning to use a prosthesis is a long process requiring patience, dedication and hard work. At the moment Gen is wearing her prosthesis for 20 minutes a day, she fatigues quickly. Time and practice is needed to allow her body time to get stronger and to adapt to walking on two legs again. Gen has attempted to use a prosthesis many times over the years but this time is different. Prosthetic technology has improved and both Brendan and Gen are determined to make it work! The knee unit most suited to Gen is the ottobock 'Genium' microprocessor knee joint. This knee joint uses computer, sensor and control technology to recreate natural movement patterns. This comes at a cost of $80,000.
An effective prosthesis would mean that Gen would avoid degenerative hand, wrist and back conditions from permanently using crutches, it would mean she could bake using two hands, carry a shopping bag, hang out the washing, carry a cup of tea. It would mean she could walk hand in hand with her son.
Gen is an incredibly independent and brave person and she deserves to have the opportunity to stand on her own two feet. So, if you would like to help me help Gen we would be incredibly grateful.
More information on the ottobock Genium microprocessor knee joint can be found here www.ottobock.com.au
More information about Orthotic Prosthetic Solutions can be found here www.orthoticprostheticperth.com.au