Hope M. Harrison was born with a rare vascular condition called Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome (KTWS). In short, a condition that causes excessive blood flow to an extremity, which in turn causes pressure on the limbs’ blood vessels and ultimately the heart. As Hope neared her Sweet 16th birthday, her left leg was amputated above-knee due to complications of KTWS.
A Refreshing Change
Being fit for a prosthesis proved challenging. Because of KTWS, a lot of soft tissue was formed at the residual limb. "It was very hard to contain the soft tissue for a correct fit," says Hope. "I went through several prostheses that were uncomfortable. Then in 2001, I found Hanger Clinic and their prosthetist, Kevin Carroll, was able to fit me perfectly. Kevin really gave me an in-depth diagnosis; a refreshing change from the other prosthetists with whom I had worked. Over the course of one year, he figured out how to contain the soft tissue and built a socket for me that was comfortable. This improved my walking enabling me to get a C-Leg microprocessor knee."
"I believe that’s the key … open communication between the amputee and the prosthetist; it’s absolutely essential, listening on both sides. The patient has to stick up for him or herself. Be open with your prosthetist and speak up. Tell them what’s working and what isn’t. They can’t see everything and they certainly can’t feel it the way you can."
"I hope that prosthetists understand how incredibly important their work is. We, the amputees, depend on them to do it right."
Don’t Assume You Can’t Do Something After Your Amputation
Hope has a very busy and active life. She lives in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area and is a professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University. She’s worked at the White House for presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush. “I don’t hold back. I travel nationally and internationally for my job. I also love to play tennis and swim."
"I swim about 1 ½ miles every other day. I’ve noticed that some amputees don’t want to go swimming, with or without their prosthesis. They’re self-conscious. They don’t want other people to see them. You just have to be strong-willed and realize that it is more important to get in that water and exercise than to be self-conscious and not get in. Besides, it feels sooo good."
"Before my amputation I played a lot of tennis. Then, afterwards I assumed I couldn’t play anymore. I lost a few years of tennis thinking that way before realizing that I could still play. Don’t assume you can’t do something after your amputation. So many things are possible if you have the will and a good fitting prosthesis."