When you first meet someone without a limb, there is this awkward cautiousness. You don’t want to be rude by staring or asking an inappropriate question, but typically your curiosity is killing you. Some people go pretend not to notice. Others might work up the courage to ask, but do so walking on eggshells. Either way, it’s an uncomfortable situation.
By his own definition, Dave Covino is one year away from “middle age”. For him, life with two sound limbs is a distant memory. Being an amputee is his norm, but for everyone he meets, it’s a glaring discrepancy that begs attention. Yet, many feel that asking equates intruding. For Dave though, it’s ok to ask and he’d rather you go ahead.
“I don’t care if people ask me questions but people are so sensitive about it and don’t want to hurt my feelings,” Dave told me over the phone when we spoke recently about his new UNYQ prosthetic cover. Now that I’m wearing my cover, the conversations have changed. “It’s a statement. Yes, you can ask me about my leg. It’s not a big deal.”
Dave lost his leg as the result of a ski accident in 1992. Complications with a badly broken leg kept him in the hospital for two months at a time when most people his age were enjoying high school. After 20 surgeries, he had a significant choice to make: keep a leg that no longer functioned and caused incredible pain; or undergo amputation and regain mobility with a prosthetic leg.
Dave says that by that point the decision wasn’t tough. Within a few months, he was back on his feet and hasn’t experienced any major hassles since.
Flash forward 22 years. Now Dave is helping others who are new to life without a limb. As a Board Member of the New England Amputee Association, Dave meets with people who are facing amputation to answer their questions and help them navigate the transition.
Typically, Dave meets with one or two people per month. When he visits them in the hospital he always wears shorts to break the ice. Now with his Carena Red Grey cover, folks think his prosthetic leg stands out in a cool way — taking away some of the awkwardness of missing a limb.
But Dave doesn’t just wear his UNYQ cover to please the crowds and make it easier to ask him questions. From a functional perspective, his new cover has eliminated his two biggest annoyances over the last 20 years: foam covers and pants that don’t quite fit right.
The foam cover wasn’t for him. No matter what, the foam always breaks down and doesn’t look good. Not to mention he would have to cut it away anytime he needed to make an adjustment to his prosthesis.
But without a cover, wearing pants became a pain because the pant leg flops around, sometimes even hanging all the way over his shoe. Dave admits that most people probably didn’t notice the flimsy pant leg, but he sure did. “Having my pant leg where it’s supposed to be is “worth the money in gold,” he tells me with a chuckle.
The reason Dave’s pant leg is back to looking normal is that UNYQ prosthetic covers are 3D printed, which means they are custom built for each person. When you order a cover, we ask you to send us photos and measurements so we can create a 3D model of your leg, taking into consideration your components, as well as, the shape of your sound leg.
As a software engineer for IBM, Dave was really fascinated by the 3D element. Along with assistance from his wife, he took the pictures himself. I asked him about his experience with the process and he told me you definitely need to set aside some time to take the photos, but it’s “easy to do.”
Since Dave received his UNYQ fairing a couple of weeks ago, he hasn’t taken it off. As we wrapped up our conversation, he thought back to his pre-middle age days.
“There is something to be said about the mental impact of the cover. When I was in high school everybody knew what happened, but going to college, I had to explain things over and over. Having a cover like this to take off the awkwardness would have been helpful. There is a case to be made for someone losing their limb but gaining some of their uniqueness back.”
If you see Dave on the street with his Carena, go ahead and ask him about his leg. It’s ok!