Oscar Pistorius has been granted to the right to compete in the Summer Olympics this year. For many, this is seen as victory for people that are missing body parts.  As someone who fits that description, I beg to differ. Before I get to my main point, I feel I should describe what my feelings are about prosthetics and what my background is with them.

Me with the mitt before I started working out
Me with the “mitt” before I started working out

I started wearing my first prosthetic before the age of one.  If you are doing the math at home, that’s about 47 years ago.  The first device I wore was a basic rubber hand (or mitt) with no moving parts. It was only intended to get a little guy like me used to having something cover one of his appendages. (Think about it – it would be just like having a six month old with two hands constantly have a sock on one of their hands.) But the reasoning was solid because it took me to the next step, which was wearing an actual hook. At that time, I was the youngest person ever to wear a hook and make it function. I actually made the newspapers in New Jersey because of it. My hooks were furnished by the famous Kessler Institute in West Orange, New Jersey and on a few occasions I was able to be seen by Dr. Kessler himself. For the most part, I used a hook until 1978. That was the year my Mom and Dad finally decided that fixing hooks was costing them a lot of money (hey, they make great hammers!) and asked if I really wanted another one. They would have ponied up the money if my answer was yes, but it was an easy no.

Let me make this clear – I am in no way against prosthetics. I think they serve many people well. I have family members in the business of making prosthetics, which I feel is a pretty noble profession. However, in relation to my body and how I want to be perceived, I want nothing to do with them. Would I wear a prosthetic if I lost my foot?  You bet. I am only relating my feelings about prosthetics to my current situation. And in my current situation I wouldn’t want to be seen in public with a hook. Plus I feel like I am too able-bodied to even consider an artificial hand. At the end of the day, I know how many hands I have and it doesn’t bother me. Basically, I feel no desire to hide the amount of hands I have. With that said, I may be nudged into wearing a hook one more time…

Here is what I am proposing.  I will race Mr. Oscar Pistorius any distance anytime if he in turn accepts to step into the Octagon with me. He can choose whether we wear prosthetics or not. If we do wear them, I have no illusion of beating Mr. Pistorius and his prosthetics in a race. On the flip side, I like my chances in the Octagon against him wearing my hook. Actually, let’s call it like it is and say there is no chance he would beat me with my hook on.  Not a chance in hell.

To me, that’s the issue here – allowing someone to compete with something that is not natural to their body.  It could be legs or hands, or it could be steroids.  It doesn’t matter to me. It’s not natural. And if you don’t think it gives people advantages, try taking a right hook from me. Or racing someone who can’t sprain their ankle.                                    

Not everyone will agree with my views, but hopefully my rant makes you think a little deeper into the subject. For a person with 47 years experience missing a part of their body, this isn’t seen as moving forward.  It’s seen as moving backwards.

Here's me with a hook, looking for the Octagon
Here’s me with a hook, looking for the Octagon
Me in a Kessler Institute pamphlet, circa 1969