Amputee Walks Across Germany for “Exercise Helps” Project

On March 21, 2011, Roland Zahn began a 620-mile hike across Germany. The route will take the 74-year-old from his birthplace in Leipzig to Tübingen, the city where his right leg was amputated in 2006. He plans to complete the route in 104 days, but stresses this is about more than simply going the distance. He calls his project “Exercise Helps”, something he knows from his own experience. After his amputation, he was reliant on a wheelchair for a year and believed he would never be able to go hiking again. It was his landlady who eventually persuaded him to give a prosthetic leg a go.

“Mr. Zahn, just take a stroll around the block.” she said to him.

“The strain of walking even a short distance was enormous,” Zahn, stated in a press release. “But even by the second attempt the next day it was much easier to go twice as far, and I built my strength up month by month.”

  Roland Zahn is walking across Germany to help educate other amputees.
  Roland Zahn is walking across Germany to help educate other amputees.
  Image: Otto Bock HealthCare

Now, he has come to the conclusion that many of the approximately 200,000 amputees in Germany have not received sufficient information regarding the possibilities that technological devices could offer them. Zahn himself has been using a C-Leg microprocessor knee since spring 2010.

“The Green Belt was a real discovery for me,” Zahn stated, speaking of the untouched nature area which, until 1989, formed the border between East and West Germany. “Hiking is prevention, therapy and pleasure all rolled into one, and I want to complete a personal challenge and reach Tübingen on July 6.”

Zahn hopes that his hard work will help educate and spare other amputees the ordeal of bottoming out after their operations like he did. He will be giving presentations at the end of each stage of the journey to encourage others to believe in their ability to regain their mobility and to develop a new sense of self-confidence in order to talk about their issues with others in the same situation. With this in mind, he hopes to encourage people along his cross country trek to found regional self-help groups, and is planning talks in selected medical supply stores to spread his message.

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