For outdoor enthusiast Jørgen, it was a great desire to be able to continue using nature - even after he became a prosthetic user. Thanks to a specially adapted prosthesis, he can now race both up and down the mountain sides on randonee skis.
Text: Bjørnhild Fjeld - Photo: Tore Fjeld
- August 2020, Jørgen Teien Blystad (35) went on a top hike in Hurrungane in Jotunheimen with a friend. They were almost done with the trip, when things suddenly went wrong.
- The stone block I was holding came loose, and I fell with it 15 meters straight into a pile of stones. The boulder continued another 1,000 meters down into the valley, so I'm glad I didn't fall further, says Jørgen.
The result of the fall was several broken ribs, seven broken vertebrae, a punctured lung, a severe concussion, a dislocated collarbone - and a broken foot.
Had luck in the bad luck
The other injuries could be repaired, but the right foot could not be saved - amputation was the only way out.
- The accident was bad luck, and I was incredibly lucky to survive. That boulder could have come loose at any time, but by chance I was right there, right then, comments Jørgen.
Outdoor life has always been important to him, and at first he pondered a lot about what life would be like after the accident.
- Would I be able to go skiing? Or did I have to walk around in snowshoes? I didn't know anyone who used a prosthesis, and knew little about what was possible to achieve, he says.
However, he was adamant that he wanted to be part of the same environment with outdoor people, and if possible do the same as before. The beautiful nature experiences together with others have been a very important part of his life for many years - he would not want to be without them.
- I'm not someone who chases adrenaline, or enormous speed and excitement. That's not what drives me. It's being out in nature, hearing only natural sounds, feeling mastery and community - I appreciate all that, says Jørgen.
Special prosthesis for randonee
In the very first winter after the accident, he went skiing, and on the eve of the 2021 season he got to try a prototype of a prosthetic foot intended for use on randonee skis.
- When I cross-country ski, I can use my usual prosthetic foot, but to drive down the slopes I need a prosthesis that can withstand the rotational forces, he explains.
He came into contact with orthopedic engineer Mads Truelsen at OCH Orthopedics, who recommended applying for a sports prosthesis as an activity aid. This is an arrangement that will enable disabled people to be active in the same way as able-bodied people, by providing them with the aid they need for the activity covered by NAV. Anyone who will use the aid pays a deductible of NOK 5,000.
- It is a goal that a person who has a functional impairment should return to their normal everyday life. Jørgen has been skiing for many years, and with a specially adapted prosthesis he can continue to do this – it's largely about participation in society, says Mads.
The orthopedic engineer himself skis, and has several times accompanied Jørgen up the slalom slope to test the equipment.
- There is an important interaction between the person who will use the prosthesis and me as an orthopedic engineer. I can only observe and analyse, it is Jørgen who feels how the prosthesis actually works, says Mads.
Must take into account the prosthesis
Jørgen returned to full-time work after a year on sick leave and paternity leave, and has a family with two small children aged one and four. He says that family life puts a greater limitation on outdoor life than the fact that he wears a prosthesis, but that probably changes as the children grow older.
- I obviously have to take into account the fact that I use a prosthesis, otherwise small problems can become big. For example, if there is chafing between the sleeve and the stump - it is not just to be ignored, because then you will soon have to be without a foot for a few weeks. But if I take sensible considerations and look carefully, I can mostly do what I want, he says.
He says that fortunately he has not experienced phantom pain, which is common among many amputees. But he has experienced getting an infection in the stump, and a few other minor ailments. Fortunately, much can be solved by adjusting the sleeve.
- Through the organization Momentum, I have come into contact with the same person, and was able to exchange some experiences with other prosthetic users. I think that has been useful, says Jørgen.
What is randonee?
Randonee is to use alpine ski equipment intended for skiing in the high mountains, especially ski climbing of peaks with subsequent free skiing back down. Randonee equipment allows you to go up steep terrain on the same skis, which give you good skiing and control back down the same terrain.
Prosthesis for randonee
The prosthetic foot was a particular challenge for the randonee prosthesis that was made for Jørgen Teien Blystad. It should be light, soft and bouncy in the uphill terrain, but stiff as a slalom boot downhill.
- The solution was a prototype developed by OCH Ortopedia. The large forces that occur in the prosthesis when riding downhill make it necessary to supplement the sleeve with a so-called thigh corset. On Jørgen's ski prosthesis, the thigh corset can be easily dismantled if he has to walk far uphill, explains orthopedic engineer Mads Truelsen.