On top of the loss of her lower leg to an amputation, a Regina woman is facing the additional struggle of being unable to get a prosthesis that matches her skin tone.
Rahab Wanjau, 30, had surgery last June to have the part of her leg below her knee removed.
‘None of the colours are my complexion and I was actually very surprised.’
– Rahab Wanjau
Wanjau said she did research on the upcoming amputation, but had no idea she would feel so excluded when she went to pick out a prosthetic leg and foot at Regina’s Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.
The woman, who is originally from Kenya, was given only two colour options to pick from: “one very light and one very dark,” she said.
The experience has been a step back in terms of making her feeling included in Regina, she said.
“None of the colours are my complexion and I was actually very surprised.”
Wanjau upset by lack of diversity
Wanjau was born with a deformity of the lower tibia of her left leg. She said she had five surgeries and doctors tried everything, but eventually she was told a leg amputation would be her best option.
According to Wanjau, lower leg amputees like her start with an initial prosthetic leg, which helps them learn to walk again. Once they gain motion and mobility, they get a second leg.
These prostheses are meant to be replaced frequently and new foot shells are needed after every six months to a year.
Wanjau said she asked her prosthetist for a foot shell in her complexion, or at least close to it, but was told she would have to pay out of pocket to get it, as custom protheses are not covered under the Saskatchewan health plan.
“We are in 2017 … every year we are getting new iPhones, new makes and models of cars — so why not something like a prosthetic leg, which is not a luxury at all? We need them. We don’t choose to be amputees,” Wanjua said.
“I’m not looking for a fancy foot shell; I just want a foot shell of my complexion.”
Wanjau had to take home a foot shell in a colour far from her own skin tone.
In an attempt to make it blend in more, she bought paint and dye. Unfortunately, she said it turned a colour that didn’t resemble her skin at all and it isn’t waterproof, so it marks up easily.
Recently, she went to get a new prosthesis and was met…