“The doctors were helpless and amputated my leg”

Victoria Zmitrovich calls herself a quarter cyberwoman: her left leg has been replaced by a prosthetic since the age of 12.

Victoria Zmitrovich

She likes the sound of this metaphorical definition. Today, she likes everything about herself, but before this inner victory happened, she had to go through 8 years of psychotherapy and a series of physical tests.

— I’m from Gomel, I moved to Minsk 6 years ago. When my mother was pregnant with me, after one of the ultrasounds, the doctors said that the fetus was positioned incorrectly and offered to have an abortion. But my mother refused. I was born with a whole “bouquet” of pathologies of the left leg. At one time, the arrest of the development of the leg bone was explained by the fact that it was wrapped around the umbilical cord. Other experts have said that the cause is genetic changes.

As a result, although I had two legs, my left one was missing a tibia. When I was six months old, the center for traumatology and orthopedics performed the first operation to somehow save the situation. Then we put Ilizarov’s apparatus on again, stretching out the leg as far as we could, putting needles in it, putting plaster on it, and making a hood.

My mother had to leave her job to take me to the hospitals when I was little. My father stayed at home at this time to look after my older brother. There were some financial and emotional difficulties in my family, but my parents always supported me. My father used to bring gifts to the hospital, for example. For all this, I am very grateful to him and my mother.

For a while, I went to school with a splint-this is a boot, part of which filled my foot, and the empty space — another material. My leg was sweating profusely in it, and my knee wouldn’t bend. The only advantage was that she could somehow run and stand on skis.

In 1997 I was fitted with the first prosthetic

When I was 12, doctors admitted their helplessness: further stretching of the leg could lead to the rupture of ligaments and tendons. It was decided to amputate it, and in 1997 I was fitted with the first prosthetic, as I remember now, manufactured by the Moscow plant “Energia”.

Sometimes, you ride in a transport with a prosthetic leg, and someone will step on your foot. I didn't feel any pain, of course, but my leg might have suddenly popped out of the prosthesis.

Sometimes, you ride in a transport with a prosthetic leg, and someone will step on your foot. I didn’t feel any pain, of course, but my leg might have suddenly popped out of the prosthesis.

By the time I was in sixth grade, I knew what I was going to be when I grew up: a psychologist. My specialty seems to have chosen me. I remember when I was in the hospital, I specifically complained to the staff that I was not sleeping well, so that they would refer me to psychologists. And when I already came to them, I absorbed the nuances of their work, asked about the subtleties of the profession. As a result, I graduated from Gomel state University with a degree in psychology, and later received the qualification of a medical psychologist. She worked first in the Gomel center for radiation medicine and ecology in the Department of pediatric Hematology, then in a rehabilitation center in the Department of Psychoneurology, also with children.

My parents didn’t seem to believe that I will be able to have a happy family. It was even a little insulting when they said: “you, the main thing, somehow give us a grandson, give him to us, and then you can continue working there.” I got married at 28 years old and when I gave birth, for midwives, I was already old-born.

I met my future husband in a psychotherapy camp in Vitebsk region.

I met my future husband in a psychotherapy camp in Vitebsk region. He made the fire, and I made the porridge. Live in tents. However, we started Dating only four years after I moved to Minsk.

When we were still not signed, I almost pinned him to the wall and asked very seriously: “What do you think of a woman without a leg? If you want to feel sorry for me, it’s not an option.” Then he said a phrase that still supports me today. He said: “You’re just a woman with an extra function to take care of. There are many women who have no brains, they are physically equipped, but it is impossible to live with them. Let me have a favorite that I will carry in my arms and at the same time keep in mind that she needs additional care, than the one with whom we will not find a common language.”

Today we have two wonderful children. I was not allowed to give birth myself — I had a caesarean, but there were no other contraindications from the doctors. However, the prosthesis I wore during pregnancy was not safe. The fact is that the prostheses that the government can help me buy cost about three thousand dollars and they are imperfect. So I went with the old, 10-year-old, but expensive and German, until it completely began to crack “at the seams”. My knee wouldn’t bend, it could break at any moment, but I’d carried both my children on it once. Subsequently, with the help of human resources, “MaeSens” managed to raise 14 thousand dollars for a new prosthesis.

Victoria and daughter

I have a third disability group. I receive 180 rubles of pension every month. Among the additional benefits — the state compensated us for 40% of the amount when the apartment was privatized. I take off my prosthesis when I go to wash and sleep. It is difficult to put it on my bare leg, so at such times my husband carries me to the bed or I move myself with the help of canes.

To accept myself completely, I went to psychotherapists for 8 years. I thought that I was doing well, but I hid my problems under a layer of false optimism: I was afraid to go to the pool, go to the sea, for example. I thought everyone was looking at me because I didn’t have a leg, not because I was a beautiful woman with an equally beautiful man and children.

The last time I visited the pool, I realized that people are not laughing at me, they are just curious, they are studying me — and this is normal. Although in the same Poland, passersby with otherness pay less attention. I think this is because more people with disabilities are seen on the streets there every day. And children from an early age grow up with the understanding that there are different uncles and aunts.

My daughter, for example, has a doll whose left leg is broken. I tell her, ” Marguerite, let’s throw out the broken doll.” And she answers: “This is my mother, how can I throw it away?” For her, even a broken doll is completely normal, and when my children see people in wheelchairs, they also react calmly.

People with special needs are most often afraid of their body, think that it is necessary to be like everyone else, disguise their otherness under clothing, hide it in all possible ways. But I think that in order to feel harmonious, you need to find yourself in it, take it all as your highlight. I want to consult clients with otherness, but even here they are afraid to open up. I remember a girl came to me for a consultation who had one leg shorter than the other, and she had the same experiences as me.

Today I am not ashamed to walk around the city in a short skirt. However, there is one “but”. The tube of today’s prosthesis does not suit me esthetically.

Therefore, I plan to raise money for a special overlay, which is printed on a 3D printer: it follows the shape of the foot and can be any color, even with a pattern. This adorns the prosthesis, and it looks like something from the future, very cool.

I like to swim: I take off my prosthesis and move around in the water.

I like to swim: I take off my prosthesis and move around in the water. I attend a gym. In September, I plan to participate in a half-marathon, covering 5.5 km in a group of people with disabilities. I have already experimented near my house and realized that I can even faster than there is required. However, in the future I would like to do this not on foot, but as everyone else — for this you need to purchase a special running prosthesis, but it is a matter of time. It would also be nice to learn how to ride a Bicycle — this is the area of closest development for me.

Interviewed Katerina Karpitskaya, photo of Pavel Axenovich

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