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New prosthetics help Louise return to the beach

May 18 2020

When Louise McNeil was 22, a traumatic accident abroad led to the elective amputation of her leg.

“When I was a younger person, I was travelling with friends in Italy,” said Louise.

“It was a tragic accident where my friend died. I was brought back to life and my parents came to Verona, the city where it happened because they didn’t know if I was going to survive or not,” she said.

With multiple traumatic injuries and after eight weeks in an Italian hospital, Louise had a medical evacuation to Brisbane.

“After six years of lower limb reconstruction and other things to other parts of my body, we ended up needing to have an elective amputation because my leg just wasn’t viable,” she said.

“In 2002, I became an amputee and I experienced the normal rehab that amputees go through.”

Louise was then fitted for a basic prosthetic leg, allowing her to get back to life and her work as a radiographer.

Now, with the arrival of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Louise has been fitted and approved for a range of prosthetic components, including a prosthetic leg with the ability to get wet.

“The new funding has given me more activities I can do in my life,” said Louise.

“I have always wanted to go in the water; I love getting in the sea and the saltwater.”

Prior to the arrival of her new wet leg, a trip to the beach was quite a complicated process.

“In the past, I have not had a dedicated water leg. I was just using something old that has been decommissioned from everyday use, something heavy and cumbersome and not comfortable to wear for that purpose.”

“A lot of the time I would go into the water on my bottom, without wearing a leg, and someone would have to help me because the leg would fall off,” she said.

In the past weeks, Louise made her first trips to the beach with her newly created, fit for purpose, wet leg and is excited for the summer ahead.

“It put a massive smile on my face that weekend because I could go into the water unassisted and it was an absolute pleasure to wear.”

“This is the first summer I have looked forward to in a very long time.”

“It allowed me to go into a little bit of surf at Coolangatta. I wasn’t fighting so much to stand or move through the water,” said Louise.

Louise has also been fitted for additional components that will make exercising and making fashion decisions a little easier.

“I got approved for two legs, and one is the carbon fibre wet leg which has a springy foot that allows me to move faster and walk quicker for exercise. I will be able to do a bit more cardiovascular exercise.”

“The everyday leg has a foot that you can press a button at the ankle, and it becomes adjustable with whatever shoes you are wearing.”

“So if there is a different heel height in different shoes you are wearing, it is more flexible for me in what I can wear. I don’t just have to wear the same pair of shoes all summer like a uniform, which makes me really happy,” she said.

Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started using your NDIS plan.

If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland staff can also help you identify and link to options for support in your local community.

Contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, or at cq.enquiries@ndis.gov.au