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A Special Leg (Grade 6)

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A Special Leg
by Arianna Turchetti

THUNK! Jordan ran straight into Mr. M’s legs and fell back.

“Now that’s why you don’t run in the halls! Are you okay?” Mr. M inquired as he helped Jordan up off the floor.

“Yes thank you, it’s just a bruise I think. Sorry about that. I’ll be more careful next time,” Jordan replied.

“Ah well, I may have contributed to that bruise...” Mr. M lifted up his pant leg slightly, revealing metal and plastic for a limb.

“W-what is that?” Jordan asked as he thought about all the robots he had seen in his favorite movies: Wall-E, R2-D2, the Iron Giant.

“It’s a prosthesis.”

“What’s a prosthesis, Mr. M?”

“A prosthesis,” Mr. M began, “is a device made by humans that can replace a missing body part: a hand, a finger, an arm, or a leg like me.”

“If you don’t mind, why did you need one?” Jordan shyly wondered.

“I don’t mind at all,” Mr. M reassured the kid before he explained “A few years ago, I had a tumor in my leg that extended to my nerves so it needed to be removed or it could have spread to more of my body.”

“A tumor? I learned about that in science last week. Isn’t that when abnormal cells grow really fast?”

“Exactly, Jordan! Normally your cells go through a cycle where they grow, die, and are replaced, but in my leg that replacement wasn’t happening.”

“And what did you say about the nerves?” Jordan questioned.

“Well, the tumor was going to cause peripheral neuropathy. Do you know what that is?”

“Well I know that a neurologist is a doctor for the nervous system and neuropathy has the same something with that?” offered Jordan.

“You’re on the right track!” exclaimed Mr. M, “Peripheral neuropathy is damage to nerves, which make up the nervous system. That’s a problem because nerves help the brain and body communicate, so numbness or difficulty moving can result.”

Jordan glanced back to the shiny device attached to the teacher’s leg inquisitively. Mr. M, seeing the boy was still a bit perplexed, added “Would you like to come into my classroom for more information on my prosthesis?”

The boy lit up, “Yes, please!” The pair walked to an open class down the hall and sat in two of the empty desks, face to face. “So does the prosthesis hurt?” ventured Jordan.

“Maybe a bit uncomfortable and painful at first,” recalled Mr. M, “but it was mostly just getting used to it. Before I got it, the doctors had to take a mold of the bottom of my leg so that the prosthetic leg would fit my body. Then came weeks of physical therapy, where I was taught how to move and walk around with the prosthesis and they also showed me how to take it off, put it on, and take care of the stump of my leg. Finally, adjustments had to be made to my prosthetic leg since during the therapy, most people’s legs shrink a little.”

“Wow, that’s a lot,” sputtered Jordan.

“And what’s it made of?”

“Mostly carbon fiber, which is a very strong material,” stated Mr. M, “but there’s also some plastic, foam to make it more comfortable, and cables. Mine is simple, gravity does most of the work.”

“So you can’t just think and move it like a normal leg?” asked Jordan, absorbed in all of the information.

“Nope, but some of the fancier ones actually have electric motors for movement. Plus, scientists are working towards even more technology that will make prosthetics more like natural limbs: controlling the movement of the prosthesis with the brain like you said, a better attachment, feeling, and so on.”

At this point, Jordan sat silently, wondering about all of the possibilities for prosthetics.

“Well, Jordan, I think that’s about all the information I have on prosthetics. You soaked it all up!” laughed Mr. M.

“Thank you so much for explaining all this to me, Mr. M! I learned a lot!” Jordan chirped back.

“Of course, after all ‘curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back!’”
What was unique about Mr. M's leg?
  1. It was very soft.
  2. It was wrapped in a cast.
  3. It was a prosthesis.
  4. It was shorter than the other.
What did the doctor's find in Mr. M's leg?
  1. a tumor
  2. a virus
  3. a metal bar
  4. a bad nerve
How did Mr. M say the prosthesis felt at first?
  1. a bit uncomfortable
  2. like his old leg
  3. soft and light
  4. fine
What is the main idea of this story?
  1. A prosthesis is a unique device to held someone who has lost a body part.
  2. A kid wanted to ask his teacher a lot of questions.
  3. It is important not to run in the halls.
  4. Legs made of carbon fiber are hard.
Based on this story, what should you do if you see something new or different?
  1. Ask questions
  2. Be afraid
  3. Get excited
  4. Walk away
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