Roseann Sdoia sits in the lobby of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, her $100,000 right leg stretched straight out from her right hip. The 45-year-old property manager from the North End holds the socket that covers her thigh in both hands, rocking it ever so slightly, back and forth. Sdoia’s leg hurts. She had a hard time earlier sliding what remains of her thigh into the pinkish, carbon-fiber cup.
“It’s a little of a nuisance this morning,” Sdoia says. “I had some chips last night and some olives and feta cheese.”
Salty snacks? Is that why her leg is swollen? Some days, Sdoia, who stands 5-foot-1, has the opposite problem: her leg is too small for the socket.
She recalls looking down one day to see the artificial limb slowly “turning in.”
“And I’m like, eventually my foot is going to be facing backwards if it keeps twisting like that,” she says. “Every so often I would have to put a sock on to keep me suspended.”
Sdoia carries around prosthetic socks to add or subtract layers, although she hopes she won’t need them as much with her new state-of-the-art prosthetic limb. The knee has a gyroscope for surface changes and six sensors that adjust for weight, direction and balance, as well as a microprocessor. Below the knee, rods of high-impact plastic end in an adjustable ankle and a carbon fiber foot. Once Sdoia gets her thigh into the socket, suction holds it tight so she won’t put any weight on the amputated end of her thigh.
“You want it to create suction, that’s how it stays on,” Sdoia explains. “My limb is kind of suspended in the socket. It feels like when you put your ski boot on. I feel like my leg is in a ski boot of sorts.”
Wiring malfunctioned in Sdoia’s first $100,000 leg and she had to send it back. She just got the replacement. So far her insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is covering all the expenses. Eventually she hopes to have a running leg so she can get back to regular jogs, and a dress leg with a 2-inch heel foam molded to look like her natural calf and a silicon sleeve designed to match the freckles and even veins of her skin. Whatever the limb looks like, Sdoia is thrilled to have it.
“When I first put on the leg and looked down and saw two feet below me, it was an unbelievable feeling, even if it wasn’t my real foot.”
Now Sdoia has to make the foot and leg work. Just going up and down the 18 stairs to her North End apartment takes a lot out of her. She’s fallen at home and is anxious to make sure that doesn’t happen when she returns to construction sites for her job as a property manager. The prospect of an icy winter is scary.
“I think if I fall in public it will be more dramatic because I think it will be more of an ego getting bruised than anything else.” Sdoia says, laughing at this admission. But she’s serious. “I don’t want anyone to look at me and say, ‘Oh, that poor girl with one leg just fell.’ ”