Heading back from the beach last week after our Gulf Coast Bloggers meeting at Jenna’s, I went to the Orange Beach Public Library. I was on a mission to find a print copy of a journal for library school homework. I thought, for some reason, if anyone had a copy it would be Louise, who graduated from Alabama three years ago. She’s a dedicated, energetic, and innovative librarian so I stopped in to say hello.
She was talking with a guy when I walked over to her desk.
After becoming reacquainted, I handed over a copy of my assignment and said, “I’m looking for a copy of this,” pointing to the title.
“Oh JASIST. I know exactly what journal you mean,” Louise said, the familiarity of the assignment now as fresh in her mind as it was five years ago.
I was in my shorts, having just come from a swim in the Gulf. The entire time Louise and I were talking the guy was staring at my prosthesis, a typical occurrence with children, but odd behavior for an adult.
“I’m Rick,” he interrupted us barely lifting his eyes up to meet mine.
“Alan,” I said, and we shook hands.
He wasn’t bashful, that’s for sure, as he blurted out a question about how my prosthesis is attached.
“Is your prosthesis connected to bone?”
“No,” I said, that’s someone who gone through osseointegration, a surgery that is still unapproved in the United States.”
Osseointegration is a surgery that leaves a metal rod sticking out of your stump where a prosthesis can be attached. (Residual limb is the politically correct term for stump, but Residual Limb the Librarian will never catch on so I’ll be sticking to what I know, hoping that the style does not offend.)
Anyway, this guy Rick seemed a bit obsessed, so much so that he was distracting me from my conversation with Louise. I wondered how well Louise knew this patron. She probably wondered why he was so fixated on my prosthesis. I’m used to talking about my leg, but others amputees prefer not to discuss it. There are all kinds of odd behavior in the able-bodied and amputee world. Acrotomophilia is when an individual expresses strong sexual interest in amputees and are called amputee devotees. Other people suffer from apotemnophilia, a sexual desire to have a perfectly healthy limb amputated.
“I met a guy who had a prosthesis attached to his bone,” he said.
“Really,” I said, not sure if I should believe him.
“The guy was in the service,” Rick said.
“I just threw out a copy at home,” Louise said.
Then she went to the stacks behind her desk, “I weeded that one too.”
I suggested she check her boss’s office, not realizing he was not in today.
“He keeps it locked, and he wouldn’t have a copy anyway,” she said, and headed off to check somewhere else in the library.
“Are you gonna have the surgery?”
“No, I think it’s for younger people.” I didn’t tell him I was a better candidate for osteoporosis than osseointegration.
“The veteran told me it gets infected a lot and he takes medications to control the infection. Hey, is that titanium?” Rick asked, pointing below the socket.
No, that’s an alloy, but my old leg has titanium hardware,” I explained.
When I got home, I looked at the literature I had on file for osseointegration. Rick, it turns out was more credible than I gave him credit for. As I dug through my files I found the information for a clinical study (Rosenbaum-Chou,, 2013) and an article on Miranda Cashin, (Hochnadel, 2014) an Aussie who underwent the procedure and blogged about it from 2012 to 2014. Cashin initially thought of the procedure as “science fiction-I would essentially become a Cyborg.”
There were osseointegration clinical trials in 2013, according to an article in The Academy Today. Ten former US veterans and military personnel underwent the procedure. The clinical studies are supposed to last two years so the findings should be reported later this year.
Libraries have many odd and eccentric patrons, but Rick wasn’t one of them. Talking to Rick served as a catalyst for me to write about osseointegration, a subject I had wanted to write about but could never find an angle on how to approach it.
Louise was not able to help me on this visit, but as we parted ways we shook hands. and at the time I thought of us as superhero librarians with a lasting Super Friends connection. “Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”
As for Rick, well, who would have guessed two patrons in a public library could share such an obscure interest. It’s more than a coincidence, it’s serendipitous! You never know where the next story is going to come from or who you are going to meet in a public library.
Hochnadel, L. F. (2014, May). Miranda Cashin: Tall tales to sci-fi. The O & P Edge, pp. 70-71.
Rosenbaum-Chou, T. (2013, Spring) Update on osseointegration for prosthetic attachment. The Academy Today: A Supplement of The O and P Edge, pp. A9-A10.