My name is Raul. I was born in 1968 in the densely populated textile region North of Barcelona, now a decadent post-industrial site. I am the eldest of three children within a hard working middle class family, whose ancestry came recently from the Pyrenees. Nothing special, possibly similar to a background of a Welsh family moving to Manchester motivated by better prospects in life; a growing industry, more resources and above all, more opportunities for the next generation.
What challenged my life at the age of 12 was an osteosarcoma, a bone cancer with a survival rate of less than 5%! In a similar manner to the way the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, my cancer diagnosis dealt a swift and heavy blow to life as I knew it. The diagnosis was followed by a period of immediate chemotherapy, capsule isolation and a transfemoral amputation that left me with a very short stump.
It wasn’t easy to get back to walking and living again: hard materials used in prosthetics produced recurrent blisters in my stump and hands. Whilst still a teenager, socialising also proved to be difficult in a strict Catholic school that was highly selective for learning standards, but maybe, not so ready for the “different one”. However, I survived that period and at age 17, I could manage to walk with effort, but without need of crutches!
Despite the physical and social challenges during my adolescence, I must say, all this trauma has not stopped me from an active physical life; a paralympic swim, travel around the world, water sports and an academic and working life: MSc and MBA, 5 languages and progressing into a successful career as an Air Traffic Controller since 1995.
Having my daughter in 1999 was also a great challenge in my life. She is now in her third year in Medical School.
My activities have been supported by an amazingly innovative prosthetic knee, called the VGK-S. This knee allows an amputee with a condition like mine, a short transfemoral stump length, to forget about it and continue to live a great life. Lightweight is an essential for an amputee with a short stump, especially so, to reduce excessive pendulum effects on gait. It must be said that heavyweight and unbalanced prosthetic devices produce fatigue and a negative impact on the social life of an amputee. We have a genuine right to work and study, just as well as to get back home relaxed with enough energy left to involve in sports, games and social activity afterwards.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought isolation and uncertainty into all of our lives. It reminds me of my fight against cancer and the importance of being able to lead a healthy, active, and independent life. To achieve the latter, I have discovered that with a prosthetic knee like the VGK-S, there is no need to compromise on functionality!