Paralympian Ralph Green Taking New Steps as 2008-2009 Ski Season Begins
PARK CITY, Utah - Without a chance meeting and an offer to be in a movie, it's probable to think that U.S. Ski Team member Ralph Green's (Vail, Colo.) prosthetic leg would have sat in the back of a closet at his mother's house for much longer than it did.
After losing his entire leg to a gunshot wound - the result of a random shooting - Green initially wore a prosthesis, but put it away for years after realizing that he was wearing it for other people as opposed to himself.
"I did wear one my first couple of years when I was at Long Island University, but it was more to fit in with society," Green said. "I didn't really know who I was and what I wanted out of life, so I wore a prosthetic leg to blend in."
For years, even as he began his athletic pursuits with the Team, the leg was not a part of Green's life until, during the Team's annual SkiTam fundraiser, he met an actor on the street in Vail, Colo. who not only offered Green acting lessons, but a role in a hit film.
"The reason I got a new leg is that last summer I shot a movie called Gospel Hill and my part called for someone with a prosthetic leg. So I used my old leg that was sitting in the closet at my mother's house," Green said. "I just felt like it was time, like I actually wanted a new prosthetic leg as opposed to me having one just to blend in. So the movie inspired me to buy a new prosthetic leg."
Green, who has his leg amputated at his hip, was soon after fitted for his limb, which now follows him everywhere, whether he's wearing it or not.
"There are different components that make up a prosthetic leg. There's a socket, which people usually get fitted for whether they have an above the knee, below the knee, or in my case a hip disarticulation. I don't have a stump, my leg was amputated up to my hip so I have a different type of socket that I use," Green explained. "Then for me, I have a durable piece of carbon fiber that acts as a thigh, then you have the knee, then there's the foot.
"I use it when I'm just chillin'. When I go to the supermarket and when I travel, I use it for everyday life."
However, Green's leg isn't as simple as it sounds. In fact, it's a highly sophisticated piece of equipment that adapts to its user.
"I have a c-leg, which is a microprocessor in the knee that memorizes your gait and makes you walk better. You take a million steps and it will average out each step to make you have the perfect gait," Green said. "You can also get different modes put on it. Although I ride my bike without my prosthetic leg, if I wanted to use it, I can get a certain mode put on it for that."
Now, Green uses his leg when it's convenient for him, and gets it serviced to operate at 100 percent twice a year.
"I did the San Diego triathlon. The team I am on is called A Step Ahead, and it's a bunch of people with disabilities, and A Step Ahead is the company that does my prosthetic," Green said. "I did the biking portion, which was 56 miles. But while I was there Erik Schaffer, a prosthetist, got a chance to look at my leg and offered for me to come in. So we just took care of some minor things."
Having his leg in great shape aside, Green now awaits the beginning of the season with the Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colo. Dec. 9-12.