Chris' carefree character

THEN AND NOW: Twenty-two-year-old Chris McMahon said although being born with Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD) and requiring the use of a prosthetic leg, he has never let it weigh him down in life. Whyalla News covered a story on Chris when he was 14 years old, before he had his short leg amputated. Chris was always smiling despite his disability.

THEN AND NOW: Twenty-two-year-old Chris McMahon said although being born with Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD) and requiring the use of a prosthetic leg, he has never let it weigh him down in life. Whyalla News covered a story on Chris when he was 14 years old, before he had his short leg amputated. Chris was always smiling despite his disability.

Living with a disability for his entire life, Chris McMahon has had to overcome more than the average 22-year-old.

Those who meet Chris for the first time might not get past his happy-go-lucky smile and carefree attitude to realise that he has a prosthetic leg.

"So many times people have said to me 'wow I had no idea' - it's probably because I don't let it hold me back," he said.

Diagnosed as Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD), a rare non-hereditary condition, Chris was born with his right leg significantly shorter than the left.

When he was born, his parents, Julia and Ian, were given two options; either to have the leg amputated or try the only treatment that was available at the time, bone lengthening therapy.

Julia and Ian wanted to give Chris the best start to life as possible, so at just two-years-old he had his first bone lengthening operation.

Using an external frame, called the Ilizarov frame, pins are secured through the skin and muscle into the bone while the bone is broken and the frame is gradually extended as the bone heals.

An incredibly painful procedure, Chris' parents received negative comments from those around them, labelling it as 'cruel'.

"It's easy to judge from the outside without being in the situation yourself," he said.

"I'm incredibly thankful of my parents, without them I really don't think I would be the guy I am today."

Chris was in and out of surgery growing up, from a second bone lengthening surgery, a full knee reconstruction, repairing a growth plate in his right leg and the removal of a pin from his hip, as well as breaking his leg twice after lengthening surgery. 

"I could walk, just not for long distance, so I got a prosthetic leg," he said.

The prosthetics helped Chris learn to walk more efficiently and to make sure he would not develop curvature of the spine.

Chris said having a prosthetic helped him become more active, however, the fact that his foot sat inches above the ground and his prosthetic, did get him down.

"I'd get that sixth sort of sense where I felt like someone was looking at me, could see people gawking," he said.

"I've always had friends and family and a lot of support behind me, just as much as I got picked on for it I got a lot more support about it too." 

Although it did have its downsides, Chris said it never held him back from life.

"I learnt how to skateboard, ride my bike, I jetty jumped and played hockey all through school," he said.

"In my teenage years, when I became more active I broke a few prosthetics, one time I went through three legs."

Amputation had always been an option for Chris, his parents welcomed any decision he wanted to make.

"Once I got old enough and could understand what was going on, I weighed up the good and bad sides of the operation," he said.

So two years ago, at 20-years-old, Chris decided it was time to have the leg removed. 

Before his surgery, Chris was required to lose weight to help with his recovery time.

He joined a gym, and lost more than 10 kilograms - since then has lost another 20 kilograms and is at the gym at least twice a week.

"Ever since I've had it it's just all been up hill, I haven't looked back, life has just been better ever since," he said.

With the new prosthetic Chris has more movement in his leg and has been able to access higher quality prosthetics - currently his everyday leg has synthetic skin to appear more realistic. 

"That's all thanks to the Whyalla orthotics department, they are really good at what they do," he said. 

Currently working at Bureau Veritas, Chris said he had difficulties initially getting a job in the mining industry, which he believes was due to his leg.

"It's probably one of the first things I would mention during interviews just to get it out of the way," he said.

"It keeps up with the rest of my body and hasn't been a problem at work whatsoever which to be honest is a surprise."

Chris' life with one leg is no different to that of anyone else his age; he loves to attend the occasional music festival and have a good time with friends. 

He enjoys having a swing at golf, have quality family time, and is looking forward to soon moving in with his girlfriend Claudia.

"Me and Claudia definitely want to see the world, so that's something I really want to achieve," he said.

Always the joker, Chris said he had a joking nature about his leg, often having a laugh about it.

"There's been a few times I've taken it off in public and placed it next to someone and see them freak out, just to make fun of it - not to take it too seriously," he said.

"If you can't make fun of it what's the point."

Chris said he admired others who had disabilities that overcame adversity.

"I reckon it's really cool when I see someone else with a disability doing it just as good, or even better than people without disabilities," he said.

"It's good to see it doesn't let anyone else down, or set them back, like it doesn't me."

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