- MK Prosthetists Work in Haiti
- Device helps children with cerebral palsy take baby steps
- Limbs for Life is more than helping hand for amputees
- Amputee ready for Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon
MK Prosthetics & Orthotics is proud to be involved with Austin Medical Relief for Haiti at Prosthetics of Hope in the Port-au-Prince area. Prosthetics of Hope is located at Mission of Hope, an established mission in the Port au Prince area that serves the local community with a medical clinic, orphanage, school, and now, a full service P & O facility.
Mission of Hope has been serving the greater Port-au-Prince area since 1998. On January 12, 2010, when a major earthquake hit the area, thousands of people flocked to the mission for help. Many of these people suffered orthopedic trauma, which led to amputation. Several of the doctors serving at the mission saw the need for prosthetics service and reached out to Chase Brown, CPO, a resident of Austin and practitioner at MK Prosthetics & Orthotics in San Antonio.
With three days notice, Chase hopped on a plane and made a scouting trip to Mission of Hope to see the facilities, meet the Mission of Hope staff, and take part in government planning meetings for national prosthetics care. Prosthetics of Hope was started.
Once he arrived back in the States, Chase and MK owner, Mark Kirchner, CPO, set to work immediately on planning, organizing, and purchasing the needed materials, tools, and machinery to establish a fully functional P&O lab in Haiti. About six weeks later, over Easter weekend, Chase and Mark were on the ground in Haiti checking in pallets of materials and setting up the lab that would become Prosthetics of Hope.
MK Prosthetics & Orthotics continues to partner with Mission of Hope and Austin Medical Relief for Haiti to provide the very best possible care for Haitians in the Port-au-Prince area. The ultimate goal is to train local Haitian nationals in P&O care and the management of Prosthetics of Hope so that the clinic can be self-sustaining and provide not only P&O care, but also a future and a career to a number of locals.
Device helps children with cerebral palsy take baby steps
By Don Finley - Express-News
Like any mother encouraging a child to take his first steps, Buffie Guanajuato coaxes her son Jordan toward her with a baby bottle and loving words.
"Come on, let's go," she calls out. "Where's Mama's baby?"
Jordan's not a toddler - he's 6 years old. But cerebral palsy, a disorder that warps the signals between the brain and the muscles, has kept him from walking. Instead, his brain often encourages him to curl up in a ball.
Today, a mechanical aid is helping Jordan move on his own two feet. It's a variation of a traditional baby walker, but with much more sophisticated engineering. A harness and leg braces are attached in back to a kind of hoist that can lift Jordan from a bicycle-type seat to a near-standing position for walking. As he takes a few cautious steps, the contraption rolls along with him, turning gently with cables and pulleys.
"Everybody has put limitations on Jordan that he's never going to do this or that," said Guanajuato, who drove from Del Rio so Jordan could be fitted with the device, which was custom-built to his shape and size by Sky Medical, a Florida company. "This will help him do that and be independently mobile a little.
"I can't believe," she adds, tears welling, "he made it all the way down the hallway."
Children from six area families are being fitted with the devices this week at MK Prosthetic and Orthotic Services, which began offering the equipment. "A lot of these kids can't ambulate by themselves," Mark Kirchner, head of MK Prosthetic, said. "They're relying on parents, caregivers, therapists. The only type of ambulation they get is if someone is holding them.
"We use orthotics to help brace their joints and keep them in good positioning. They can be free-suspending in this all by themselves, and with the way it moves - by them flexing one muscle or another - it will propel them forward. They can be independent on their own without Mom and Dad."
This isn't the only device of its kind, but it's unusual in its features - it can grow with the child - and its portability. The whole thing folds up and squeezes into a car.
Kirchner said he was impressed by videos of families walking in shopping malls together, including children with cerebral palsy. And the device has no fancy electronics, just clever engineering, he added.
"Your body functions better when it's upright," Kirchner said. "We notice, too, that you get a different reaction out of a lot of these kids. When you can get them up at your level, their attitudes change from always being in a chair and people looking down on them."
"Most doctors, they kind of write off children like him: 'Oh, well, they're going to be a certain way forever,'" Jordan's mother said. "Him trying to walk is a big, big step."
Limbs for Life is more than helping hand for amputees
By Scott Huddleston - Express-News
Hortencia Casanova calls it a miracle.
After being in a wheelchair and dependent on her family for seven years, she now walks and can do her own shopping and housecleaning. Her prosthetic leg was given to her by the Limbs for Life Foundation.
"I was so happy to get it. It's a lifeline," said Casanova, one of about 30 patients the foundation has assisted in San Antonio.
Limbs for Life is one of many nonprofit groups the San Antonio Express-News is profiling in its annual Grace of Giving series, which runs daily until Christmas.
Casanova, 57, has known for 15 years that she had diabetes. But she was devastated when an infection that began as a sore on her foot became so severe that her right leg required a below-the-knee amputation nearly 10 years ago.
She thought she'd never be able to afford a prosthetic limb. Her disability had forced her to quit working at a local department store, and Medicaid and Medicare would cover only a small portion. She relied on her husband and teenage son to drive her to doctor appointments and kidney dialysis.
"You go through a lot of depression," she said. "You can only do so much on one limb."
About two years ago, she was contacted by Mona Patel, an amputee and clinical social worker with MK Prosthetic & Orthotic Services. The clinic, which has done charitable work for low-income amputees, had recently begun working with Oklahoma City-based Limbs for Life.
Craig Gavras, the foundation's executive director, had lost most of his right leg in 1994, from injuries in an assault when he was a Dallas police officer. He and his prosthetist, John Sabolich, formed Limbs for Life a year later to help amputees who can't afford prosthetic equipment.
The national foundation has since helped more than 12,000 amputees.
"We have 49 people being fitted today at 49 locations," Gavras said.
Even with insurance, many can't afford a 20 percent co-payment for a prosthetic limb, which can cost from about $7,000 to $65,000 or more, he said.
Local clinics, which donate their labor, determine whether a patient needs a simple prosthesis for basic mobility or something more sophisticated.
"We give them what the prosthetic clinics say they need," Gavras said.
The foundation also collects used limb socks, sockets, artificial feet and other prosthetic components to send to clinics in Turkey, Iraq, Peru, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and other nations where equipment is scarce.
Mark Kirchner, founder of MK Prosthetic, said about 80 percent of his clients lost limbs to diabetes. Most of the rest had congenital defects or were involved in some form of trauma.
When a limb loss occurs, the body usually begins to atrophy and gain weight, adding stress to the heart and other organs, Kirchner said.
"It also puts a larger burden on your family members, because they're having to help you and do the things you can't do anymore," he said.
Casanova can no longer drive, since her diabetes has affected her vision. But she can do just about everything she wants. She's getting ready to have her son home from college to celebrate Christmas.
"I was blessed to get this prosthesis," she said. "It makes all the difference in the world."
Click here to watch KSAT 12's story on Mona.
Amputee ready for Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon
By Jessica Belasco - Express-News
When it comes to telling amputees they can overcome their disabilities to follow their dreams, Mona Patel does more than walk the walk.
She runs the run.
Patel, who had her right leg amputated below the knee in 1997, will run the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio half-marathon on a running prosthesis. It will be her longest race yet.
"I run because I can," says Patel, 37, a clinical social worker who counsels other amputees.
Patel was a 17-year-old freshman at California Polytechnic State University in 1990 when she was hit twice by a drunk driver while she was walking on campus.
The car pinned her against a metal railing, mangling her right leg.
She lost part of her foot to gangrene, but her parents chose to salvage, not amputate, the leg.
In the next seven years, Patel underwent close to 20 surgeries. But she grew tired of surgery and was frustrated by her limited endurance.
She worried amputation would interfere with raising children, but she spoke with an amputee who had successfully raised kids after losing her leg.
That sealed it. In 1997, Patel decided on amputation - and discovered she could lead a full, active life, including raising her daughters, Anaya, 7, and Arianna, 4.
"I took a chance," Patel said. "Fortunately, it was a really good decision. I had to lose more of my body to get more of my life back."
For years, Patel walked on a prosthetic leg held on with a pin. Then she was fitted for a new prosthesis that uses what's called an elevated vacuum to improve comfort and function.
The prosthesis uses a mechanical pump so it's "sucked onto the leg," as Patel puts it.
"I've never walked so well," she said. "I had always had a wish to run again. I thought, if I'm this comfortable and I can walk this well, then I probably can run."
Her running prosthesis also uses an elevated vacuum but it's longer and curved, and compresses as she runs. It uses an electric pump, operated by remote control, instead of a mechanical one. As Patel runs, she checks the vacuum level every mile or so.
Running causes increased friction, leading to a loss of fluid in her limb, which affects the fit of the prosthesis. After six or seven miles, she must put a sock on her leg, then reattach the prosthesis.
Since Patel began running in early 2008, she's had her share of injuries. About a month before the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll half-marathon, two stress fractures in her left leg sidelined her. She showed up anyway to hand out water to the marathoners.
This year, she's training at a slower pace. She's also taking medication for low bone density - possibly connected to having the accident and subsequent surgeries at a young age, preventing her bones from reaching peak density - which she believes led to the stress fractures.
But running has caused other problems: bursitis in her right hip, a painful bursa on her right leg and a fraying hip labrum.
Luckily, Patel has dozens of colleagues and friends cheering her on.
She counsels patients for MK Prosthetics and she also leads an amputee support group.
"They need another peer to tell them it's going to be OK," she said.
Patel also helped lobby for a measure to require private health insurers to offer more coverage for prosthetics. The law went into effect Sept. 1.
Chuck Morton met with Patel before he decided to have his leg amputated in 2008 because of complications from a skiing accident.
"She's my angel. She's just so supportive, a very positive person," Morton said. "She's been my mentor all along the way as I went through the process."
Patel's husband, Nish, and her daughters are her biggest cheerleaders. They'll be waiting for her after the finish line.
I can't wait to get my medal and show my babies and then rest," Patel said.