Tiffany Ryan, LOT, CSCS, Advanced Arm Dynamics (AAD) Southwest Center of Excellence, Dallas, Texas, compares the learning curve on a new prosthetic arm to mastering a new musical instrument, saying they both require “practice, practice, practice.”
Shawn Findley can relate. He has a left hand amputation and admits that there are still some bugs that need ironing out on the myoelectric device he’s had for about a year. He has trouble using a knife to cut chicken, for example, sometimes enlisting the help of one of his kids.
Ryan is Findley’s occupational therapist. She views one of her professional responsibilities as assisting others to function in those activities that help to make them feel whole again. This meant enabling one patient to resume calf roping. “That’s what defined that man,” she explains. “We could get him to bathe, dress…and go back to work, but until he [could] calf rope again, he [wasn’t] going to feel complete.”
For Findley, this has meant helping him to play sports with his kids, and keep up with the demands of his job as the diversity and outreach coordinator for Lowe’s Distribution Center, Mt. Vernon, Texas, which, among other things, requires him to lift heavy boxes.
Every day he puts his arm through its paces. His custom silicone prosthetic glove is torn up fairly regularly, and he and his prosthetist Rob Dodson, CPO, LPO, AAD’s Southwest Center of Excellence clinical director, “have been working with the hand’s silicone manufacturer to strengthen the glove” in those areas that have historically registered tears, Dodson says. To make box lifting easier, Findley wears the Free-Flex terminal device by TRS, Boulder, Colorado.
Dodson and Ryan regularly consult with Findley on changes to his arm’s programming, and make suggestions such as what may be the best sleeve for managing sweat, since he can spend long hours unloading trailers in the Texas heat. Together Ryan and Findley problem-solved on how he might approach playing baseball, since it’s an activity he shares with his kids. Being able to provide for his family was a top priority in his recovery, and Ryan says that until he could work, and until he could coach baseball, “he wasn’t going to feel complete.”
She says the AAD team isn’t “finished until [patients] feel like they can do whatever it is they need to do.” She adds, “That’s what makes [my job] fun.”
To read more about Findley and others, look for the feature article, “Fueling a Life Lived Large” in the June 2011 issue of The O&P EDGE.