For those who might be interested, I invite you to walk with me through the tedious process of getting a new prosthetic arm. I’m journaling the steps and my experiences along the way. You can interact with me by sharing thoughts and comments, if you wish.
I facilitated a three-hour leadership seminar recently in Auburn, Alabama. Community leaders were seated behind tables arranged in a “U.” For a full hour and thirty minutes I spoke in the center, moving about and interacting with the 35 participants. Just before I dismissed the group for a 15-minute break, I told a personal story about being born with one arm to help illustrate a point. During the break, a woman approached me.
“Until you mentioned your prosthetic arm, I had not noticed it!” she said. “I had checked out your cute outfit and even your shoes. But I did not see your arm!”
This happens to me quite often. Half of the credit goes to the great prosthetics people who help me so much. The other half of the credit goes to the slick operator with 54 years of experience.
6/20/16- The lower arm was made when I arrived. It was very thin and had no outer lamination. Adan (Prosthetist), Caitlin (Prosthetic Resident), and Brad (Fabrication Manager) worked diligently with me for seven hours.
- We concentrated on positioning and mounting the elbow. Two separate pieces were involved—the locking unit on the inner side next to my body and the joint unit on the outer side. These connected the upper arm to the lower arm. Once again, I had to make sure the angle of the lower arm when bent was where I wanted it (left to right).
- We decided how much to cut out on the top side of the lower arm at the elbow to allow for flexion (how far up I can bend the arm).
- The gap between the upper arm socket and the inner elbow unit will be filled in with foam and laminated over. This will make the shape and size of the upper arm match my real right upper arm.
7/1/16- The inner and outer elbow units were laminated in when I arrived and the gap between the upper arm socket and the inner elbow unit had been filled in and laminated over. For eight hours, Adan, Caitlin, and I worked on suspension and line-of-pull. These are difficult to explain, but I am going to try.
- Suspension is how the prosthesis is held onto the body. Straps attach the prosthesis to a harness. The harness goes across my back and under my right arm. Line-of-pull involves attaching additional straps to cables that operate the elbow and hand.
- The straps, harness, and cables have to be positioned in exactly the right places and at exactly the right angles for me to be able to operate the prosthesis smoothly. A slight change in a position or angle can make a huge difference in the ease or difficulty of operation. I’d put on the arm, I’d attempt to operate the arm, they’d evaluate, I’d take it off, they’d make a slight adjustment, I’d put on the arm, and repeat the cycle—all day.
- We made progress, but we didn’t yet find that sweet spot. When we do, I will be able to use shoulder and upper left arm movements to raise and lower the forearm, lock and unlock the elbow, and open and close the hand.
7/15/16- I hung out with my friends at Fourroux Prosthetics for eight more hours.
- We finalized suspension and line-of-pull.
- Adan sewed padding on the harness in spots that were uncomfortable.
- I decided exactly where I wanted the hand positioned most of the time. (I’ll still be able to manually rotate it at the wrist slightly to type.) They drilled a hole just above the wrist unit, fed the hand cable through it to hide it, and brought it back out near the elbow.
- I “took delivery” of the arm (paid my portion) for insurance purposes so I could take it home and wear it for a few days. I will make sure it works like I want it to before they do the outer lamination.
8/31/16- I dropped off the arm to Adan. I was not able to test it as originally planned because the hand made a noise like fingernails on a chalkboard when I opened it. I couldn’t stand it! We are not sure what is going on. He will have the team get on it right away. No rush on my part though. I am going to be speaking several places and leading tours over the next two months. I won’t be able to return until November.
Thanks for walking with me through this process. What are your thoughts about the building phase?
“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” (Psalm 18:32 NIV)
Read “New Arm- Part 1 (Picking Out Body Parts)” here:
Read “New Arm- Part 2 (Designing the Arm)” here: