"My sports prosthesis has given me more self-confidence."
"Wheelchair tennis I did try, but why would I do that?" wonders Bussum native Marlene Out (13). After all, she can play tennis while walking with her prosthesis. Although ... Only recently did she start playing tennis properly. After a long search she ended up with prosthesis maker Frank Jol, the Mentelity Foundation and the Re-abled Project.
With her old leg - the "regular everyday prosthesis" - Marlene could also play tennis, although it was not suitable for that. Lately, then, her foot regularly broke off during her favorite sport, and so she started looking for something else. Among the top paralympic athletes she sees sports prostheses, blades, and surely there must be something like that for her, too? "With my old prosthetist, it was all difficult. I had a daily prosthesis and that was it," she says. "I actually walked on a kind of doll's leg for years. I could walk on it, but that was all. It was much less dynamic than what I have now."
Through a snowboarding clinic, Marlene ended up with the Mentelity Foundation and prosthetist Frank Jol. "They asked if I didn't want to continue snowboarding, but tennis is really my sport anyway," she laughs. "Last year during the summer vacations I spent a week at the Friendship Sports Centre in Amsterdam. After that I had a blade that I could do everything with again. As soon as I put it on, I ran smoothly on it. Frank said to me: let's see what you can do, kick the ball and it worked. Anyway, it was a completely different experience. I was used to the fact that when I got a new prosthesis, I was allowed to run a little lap and then it was finished. At Team Frank Jol, there is plenty of time to test and practice. Only when it's one hundred percent right, you get to take it home."
"Everyone who has a prosthesis needs three different legs"
In addition to her sports prosthesis, Marlene now has a new daily prosthesis. "Preferably I still want it in skin color, because I find it more comfortable," she acknowledges. "At first I already didn't want to wear my sports prosthesis because it's not as finished, but I've gained more confidence in that. Mentally, I'm a lot stronger. My tennis coach says so too: my level has grown tremendously in the past year. I train four times a week and also play matches. Usually opponents find it surprising that I play with a prosthesis, but I don't know any better. And sometimes it is funny: I recently won from someone who was three heads taller than me. Afterwards he used my prosthesis as an excuse: "yes, that leg of hers springs much better"."
"What I would really like now is a swimming prosthesis, for when we go on vacation, or to the pool or the beach," Marlene explains. "My father and brother love slides, so do I, but without a swimming prosthesis I can only hop up the stairs with them once at most. After that, my leg is tired. And it's very annoying to always be the one who says: I can't go. I want to, but I can't because of my leg. It shouldn't be. Everyone with a prosthesis should have three "legs": for everyday, for sports and for swimming. The big drawback is that funding for assistive devices is just not well regulated. One municipality or insurance will pay for multiple prosthetics, the other will not, simply because they apply the rules just differently. It is more exception that you do get reimbursed, than not."
She makes the comparison with someone with two legs to show that this is unfair: "Surely someone with two legs puts on a different shoe to play sports? And doesn't play tennis in stiletto heels? They put on different shoes and can do what they want. So if you reimburse the cost of my prosthesis, you have to do it in such a way that I can do whatever I want."
Text: Robin Wubben