Retiree Seeks Opportunities to Share Knowledge
“The carbon fiber socket is a conductor. Even with the nylon insert, perspiration inside the sleeve and liner can cause an amputee to get a shock if the metal part of the leg is touching ground and contact is made with a hand.”
After a post-surgery ankle infection led to the amputation of his right leg below the knee at age 67, John Huseman decided to retire. The now 70-year-old was a master electrician who studied electrical engineering technology at Purdue University and worked at an electric utility company and several manufacturing plants in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he lives. Still passionate about electricity and electric safety, he now makes time to share his knowledge to help others.
Like many prosthetic legs, Huseman’s has a carbon fiber socket—which is a conductor of electricity. To educate others in his amputee support group, Huseman took two volt-ohm-milliammeters (VOMs), which are voltage testers, to a meeting so the attendees could measure the resistance in their legs. Then he showed how perspiration in a carbon fiber leg and electrical work don’t mix.
“I got out my VOM meter. The carbon fiber socket has a very low resistance to it. There is the nylon insert, which has very high resistance or high insulating properties, which is good. However, when the sleeve and liner are wet with perspiration, the leg can conduct electricity, and that’s not good.”
He adds that amputees with prostheses who work around energized circuits should pay particular attention to shock risk. Taking off the prosthetic limb and using a towel to dry perspiration cuts the danger.
“In my 40 years working in the industry, I was always placed on safety committees, and I made presentations on electrical safety,” says Huseman, who also taught basic electrical and electronic technology courses through adult education at Southeast Community College in Lincoln from 1977 to 1985.
Educating people about electricity is important, he explains. “Most people do not have adequate knowledge of electricity. Most think that 120 VAC (which is what all appliances in North America use) is not dangerous. However, this is the voltage level where most injuries take place.”
Here is some information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that Huseman wants everyone to know:
• Always use caution when working near electricity.
• Assume all overhead wires are energized at lethal voltages. Never assume that a wire is safe to touch even if it is down or appears to be insulated.
• Never touch a fallen overhead power line.
• Never operate electrical equipment while you are standing in water.
• Never repair electrical cords or equipment unless qualified and authorized.
(OSHA QuickCard Electrical Safety www.osha.gov/Publications/electrical_safety.html. U.S. Department of Labor.)
Huseman became a ham radio operator after high school, and he is now an advanced class amateur radio operator and a member of the Lincoln Amateur Radio Club.
Combining two of his passions, Huseman recently gave an electric safety presentation to his club and took along the July/August 2018 issue of Amplitude magazine as a prop.
He specifically wanted the group to read about Eduardo Garcia. Garcia lost his hand after he was electrocuted in a freak accident when a knife he was holding made contact with a buried wire. Though Huseman says it’s unlikely Garcia’s accident could have been prevented, he does question why the power company or generating station control center had no knowledge of the faulty cable.
In addition to his electric safety presentations, Huseman also shares his knowledge about limb loss with other amputees.
“I have composed three typed pages of amputee leg notes in an effort to help recent amputees,” says Huseman. “I had no one to talk to during my own healing process. With the notes, my intention is to give new amputees a directive to learn as much as they can about being an amputee during the healing process.”
Huseman says he has handed out more than 50 copies of his notes to friends and relatives who know someone who had a leg amputated and to recent amputees at a local rehabilitation hospital.
Helpful tips in the notes include:
• You have to keep skin and liners and sleeves clean. Wash the gel side of the liner every night using Dawn anti-bacterial soap. Blot it dry using a microfiber towel. Hang it on a drying rack to dry overnight.
• You will need a small mirror to inspect your skin each night. A flashlight helps with this too.
• Get as much physical therapy as possible.
• Throw rugs and electrical cords can be a trip hazard. You cannot feel a vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around your foot or a bunched-up throw rug on your foot.
• When walking, always watch the sidewalk or pavement for dips and cracks.
• Practice getting up and down from the floor.
• It has been very helpful to keep a daily log of activities, pain, skin problems, and other issues with the leg and foot. I print it out and take it with me when I go to see the “leg guy.”
Growing up in northwest Indiana, Huseman developed an early interest in electricity and electronics.
“Our Boy Scouts scout master was an electrician. I was always fascinated by stories of his work. When our pup tents needed new poles, he made new ones out of thin wall conduit. I was so impressed…that I still remember this,” shares Huseman.
Similar to the way his scout leader influenced him, the people Huseman encounters and educates will likely remember him for many years to come.
— WORDS Amy Di Leo, MS
Passionate about prevention?
Depending on your personal experience, consider volunteering with an organization that provides education on motorcycle safety, meningitis-related amputation prevention, fall safety, lawn mower safety, drug safety, suicide prevention, or the prevention of limb loss related to diabetes and peripheral artery disease. Your knowledge could help save a limb or a life.