I had a ‘cool mum’ growing up. You know—the one with the big earrings, the…
Priscilla Sutton, 37, takes her right leg off to show me. She presses a button and she – yes, the leg is a girl – comes off with a loud, mechanistic “click”. This below-knee prosthetic can only be described as beautiful. The calf area is covered with delicate flowers and birds in hues of grey, black, cream and crimson.
“When you’re getting a leg made, you can provide fabric to the prosthetic clinic and they apply it for you. They put resin over it so when you tap it it’s actually hard so it’s waterproof,” Priscilla explains.
“This particular material was actually just a piece of fabric that I bought in Japan when I was there many years ago,” she continues.
A growing number of amputees adorn their prosthetics, Priscilla says, in order to “have something bright and beautiful that expresses your personality, like a tattoo that you can change every few years.
“It’s a nice growing trend actually, especially for women, to have brighter legs.”
In person Priscilla is petite with pale skin, green eyes, short jet-black hair and bright red lipstick. Having returned to full-time study in July 2015, she’s describes herself as a university student, as well as being a curator and storyteller.
She’s also a force to be reckoned with. In her compelling TEDx talk, given in Brisbane three years ago, Priscilla hilariously tells a wrapt audience about the somewhat novel decision she made to get her amputated leg cremated at a funeral home.
“I like being loud and proud,” she says, “I enjoy talking about my leg and being an amputee. I think being open about it breaks down taboos and opens up positive conversation.”
The “curator” part of Priscilla’s story just another way in which she opens up this conversation.
“I curate exhibitions from time to time, where I collect prosthetic limbs from amputees and families of amputees, and give them to a diverse range of artists to use as their canvas.
“It’s called Spare Parts, and I have had exhibitions in Australia and the UK,” she says.
During our conversation, we skip easily from topic to topic. It’s striking how Priscilla manages to laugh warmly about topics that might startle others.
Joking about her single status Priscilla says if she was writing a dating profile: “It will help if you are rich, French, and vegetarian.”
“In the list of words I would use to describe me and who I am…amputee is pretty low down on the list, simply because my worst nightmare is falling in love and then finding out they are into amputee fetish porn,” Priscilla continues.
For Priscilla, it’s important to mark this occasion.
“Every year I remember my leg. We call it ‘ampuversary.’ It’s a pretty common word the amputee community throws around because a lot of us celebrate it.
“We celebrate it for different reasons. For me, I celebrate to remember my leg and to cherish her memory and all that we got through together,” she says.
Reflecting on why she asked her surgeon to remove the leg, she says: “It was a decision that I made because I had a bone condition.
“I wanted to chop it off, start again, and try to find out what a pain free life would be like.
“For me, chopping my leg off was actually the most positive thing I’ve ever done in my life, which I know might sound crazy.
Help Priscilla mark her 10th “ampuversary” by listening to her explaining what led up to the moment she knew her painful leg had to go.
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Photograph of Priscilla by Martine Cotton.