About 2 million people in the United States are amputees. By 2050, that number is expected to reach 3.6 million at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, we're not only teaching students how to build prosthetics, we're teaching them how to interact with people who lost a limb.
Every time I meet a patient, I mean a new person, I have to introduce myself, I have to build that rapport. I have to build that confidence in that patient that hey, I can do what I say I can do. Students in the Prosthetics and Orthotics Program, do everything from getting to know the patient's needs to building and fitting them with new prosthetics.
Without us a lot of these people will never, would be wheelchair bound, or like crutches. So like they come into, especially like people get fitted for the first time, but it was like it gives them that spark of hope.
One of those people is Lavonne Richard.
I was mowing where the hillside and I went under a tree and the branch of the tree caught on the roll bar and it was like a boomerang. Because once it let go, it threw the me off the tractor in front of it. And the tractor then ran over my leg, my foot, and then the tractor crashed into a tree.
Not long after that. Her doctor had to make a tough decision.
I was laying there. And he says, "Listen, the only thing I can tell you is you might as well just get a cut off. Because you'll be in nothing but pain." And that was like that realization I didn't understand. I mean, it sounds silly. Cut it off. Yes, you get it, but when that's a part of your person, and cutting it off, it was... I'm like, what?
But being without a leg didn't damage her spirit.
She is amazing woman. She's funny. She's like, she's the grandma that you see on TVs, the cool crazy grandmother one. And she's a really good patient.
Jessica Thomas built prosthetics for Lavonne as part of her training.
I got to build two things for her, a check socket, and a laminated socket. And in the real world, you do check socket, just to make sure you like that should check to make sure everything is right. My check socket was awful. It was too tight for her.
And some legs feel really good and some legs are not good.
I know in her head, she's like, "Oh my gosh, this is awful." But she's really nice.
I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings or ruin their day but they have to know. You know that something isn't right. So I just try to be diplomatic. But it is kind of hard, but I'm getting better at it. I'm getting way better at being able to say, "This isn't this doesn't feel right."
Even when you have a terrible fit. You just learned so much more about what you should have done, what you can do, what you cannot do, how can you fix it?
And that's what's important. You have, you know, you have to crawl before you can walk.
Program Director Sarah Peterson thinks this is one of the most important lessons for the students.
We encourage the students to make the mistakes here so when they go out in the field, they're not making the mistakes at the facility that they're working at.
But how does it feel when a build fits perfectly?
All that hard work paid off!Yyou just it just feels so good because like it's one thing to build it and have it look good, but it is also another thing to build it, have it look good and actually do what it's supposed to. The fact that it sort of slides on nice thing and fits right. You don't need any suspension sleeves, three ply sock, that's all you you're just like, Ah, that's what it feels like. Okay!
That makes me feel good because they are happy that it worked that well. I would trust anybody that would come out of this program to build me a leg and take care of me.