Move over Six Million Dollar Man
Michael Murphy dismisses comparisons with television’s Six Million Dollar Man but he certainly has a spring in his step after being fitted with the very latest in prosthetic leg technology.
As someone who has worked on his feet for two decades as an amputee and loves his water sports, Michael knew exactly what he wanted when he applied to join the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – the Ottobock Genium X3.
This German-made full prosthetic limb includes a specially-fitted knee joint and incorporates intuitive electronic sensors, allowing the limb to adjust automatically to changes in direction and speed. There is no issue with climbing stairs or walking rocky trails and the limb is waterproof and corrosion-resistant.
The 47-year-old says the day he found out his prosthetic limb had been approved was: “just about the best day of my life”.
Among many other benefits it gave him the confidence to change jobs after working both dayshift and nightshift at a Brisbane meatworks for the past 22 years.
He recently moved to Coffs Harbour to work on a berry farm, still a physically demanding role but with the Ottobock prosthesis it has given him the opportunity to tackle a more diverse array of tasks.
“I’m doing things at work that would have been way outside my comfort zone, let alone my ability, with the old leg,” Michael said.
“Due to those limitations, people like me who rely on artificial limbs are always reluctant to take risks with work. We all have to earn an income and you worry that if you leave your job, who else will employ you?”
An accident in 2002 meant his right leg had to be amputated above the knee and since then he has been reliant on low-tech prosthetic limbs provided by the health system.
“Those limbs had to be taken off every time I went in the water and switched for an old one I kept just for water sports, which got pretty annoying,” Michael says.
“The old limbs also didn’t have stability control so I was always in danger of falling over or tripping.
“That made me much more reliant on my left leg and put extra pressure on my left hip, knee and ankle, with obvious implications for early-onset arthritis and other health issues.”
The new limb has a six-year warranty and Michael’s NDIS plan includes funding for regular servicing and maintenance.
Always a fit and active person, Michael was into martial arts when he was younger and now he is focused on water sports.
“I love paddle boarding and with my new limb I’m keen to get surfing again.
“I’ll be able to go running for the first time since 2002 and already one of my mates who runs adventure tours has promised to take me for a hike.”
Michael says his managers and workmates at the meatworks were very supportive of him during his recovery from the accident that cost him his leg.
“I’ve been pretty lucky in the way of work and my wife Tam has also been super encouraging.
“She’s looking forward to spending more time with me on the water but she’s not much of a hiker, so that’s where we’ll part ways.”
Michael recently bought himself a new paddleboard from a Coffs Harbour store, which led to an introduction to a Coffs-based prosthetist.
“I’ve got good prosthetic supports back in Brissy but it’s great to find a local go-to person. One of the many benefits of the NDIS is that I get to choose whoever I need to provide me with the best care and service.”
Looking to the future, Michael says he will aim to get some personal support funding built into his next NDIS plan so he can have somebody accompany him as he gets more adventurous.
“I’m self-managing so that should be pretty straightforward to organise,” he says.
“When it comes down to it, having a good team behind me it’s what’s going to keep me walking the walk.”
The NDIS provides Australians under the age of 65 who have a permanent and significant disability with the supports they need to live more independently and to increase their social and economic participation.
The NDIS has provided support to more than 113,000 people across New South Wales. There are almost 340,000 people who have benefited from the NDIS nationally, including more than 134,000 people who have received support for the first time.