A Personal “Thank You” to Our Veterans

A Personal “Thank You” to Our Veterans

Travis Mills and Matt Albuquerque
Travis Mills, retired United States Army Staff Sergeant and recalibrated warrior, with Matt Albuquerque

Dear Veteran,

On Veteran’s Day and every day, I am thankful for your service and all you represent, not just as the President of Next Step, but as the proud son of a Navy veteran.

In fact, the military has had a profound impact on my life and our mission at Next Step. After serving twenty years, my dad retired from the Navy as a master chief. He had enlisted as a young man, searching for something meaningful after the loss of both his parents. What he found was a culture and people that modeled sacrifice, integrity, and the commitment to being part of a mission much larger than he was – one where he could make a difference.  As he often told me, “the Navy saved my life.” After he retired, the invaluable experience and training he had gained through his service opened up a successful second career opportunity with Sanders Associates (now part of BAE), a defense contractor. As his son, I grew up knowing one thing – if I did nothing else, I wanted to find a way to thank the military for saving my Dad and giving me my strong family and home. Continue reading “A Personal “Thank You” to Our Veterans”

Supporting Amputee Veterans Through Policy and Education

To our veterans:

Navigating the healthcare system can be complicated, especially if you are a veteran. I’m sure you’ve heard the local and national coverage of the challenges the Veterans’ Administration (VA) has in providing the level of service you’ve earned on behalf of a grateful nation. If you’re an amputee veteran, those challenges can be especially difficult as you navigate the complex system for the prosthetic equipment and support you need to reclaim your best possible life.

Next Step Team with Luke ArmSomething we’ve learned at Next Step and through our involvement with NH organizations such as Veterans Count, is that our veterans need integrated and responsive healthcare support. To accomplish that outcome, awareness on the part of lawmakers and providers is key. Our goal is to serve as a resource and information bridge for amputee veterans and the lawmakers entrusted with oversight of military medical care. As an NH-based company, we’ve been fortunate to be able to leverage the national spotlight of our first-in-the-nation primaries to inform our future executive and legislative leaders on the challenges of healthcare and veterans’ benefits. We also have worked with our amputee veterans in understanding and exercising their full range of benefits and coverage through the VA. We know there is much more work to do, and we are committed to being part of the solution.  Continue reading “Supporting Amputee Veterans Through Policy and Education”

No Water Legs? No Problem. Swimming & Water Sports for Everyone

Swimming with ProsthesisAh, summer. It’s 86 degrees out, the sun is strong, and your thoughts naturally turn to cooling off in cool, refreshing water. Maybe it’s jumping off a diving board or the back of a boat, or simply lazing in the pool. When you are an amputee, though, you have questions about your prosthesis. Can it get wet? Will it get damaged if you just dive in? Is any of this covered by your warranty? And, what can you do if wearing your prosthesis is not an option? How will you swim, waterski, and dive without it? Is there such a thing as a prosthetic leg for swimming? ‘

The good news is that you have options. Let’s start with the basics.

Waterproof Prosthesis
Rob’s first time in water with prosthesis

 

While you can provide some minimal water protection for your prosthetic limb by using a cover, it cannot waterproof it. Moreover, if you do get water into your prosthetic device, it can cause rust and damage to the working components and the resulting damage will most likely not be covered by your warranty. There are waterproof prosthetic limbs available, however, these are normally viewed as non-essential, they are often not covered by insurance. A great example of a completely waterproof prosthetic knee is the Ottobock X3, for above knee amputees, which can be submerged and used in nearly any water-based activity. To determine whether your insurance will cover a specialized prosthesis like this, consult your prosthetics provider.

Waterproof Prosthetic Legs in pool
Waterproof Prosthetic Legs in Pool

 

There are water-resistant prosthetic limbs that can protect from minimal water exposure (such as walking through a puddle or a rainstorm), but they fall short of withstanding water immersion, and water damage can still void your warranty. We advise caution here, especially if you are looking for a watersport solution.

There is another alternative to using your prosthesis for swimming or water sports and that’s leaving it at home. In fact, many amputees find that with some modifications, they can plunge right back into water sports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding, diving, swimming, and boating.

Water sports with Prosthesis
Patricia’s first summer at their beach house

The prospect of adapting to a sport without a limb might be intimidating, especially for those of you with more recent limb loss, but you would be amazed at what you can do with time, practice, and a few adjustments. It’s also an opportunity to just take a break from prosthetic wear and management.

Don’t let concerns about the “how” keep you from enjoying the joys of water in the summer. We’re happy to talk with you about how you can get back out there.

 

 

 

How We Developed the LUKE Arm Interface

Luke Arm InterfaceImagine a state-of-the-art prosthetic limb designed to quickly integrate with your own body, a limb that could give you the capability to grasp a small paintbrush or a pair of chopsticks. Now imagine that limb with a traditional prosthetic socket interface, one that uses friction and pressure to secure it, compromising its function and comfort. This was the problem faced by the developers of the LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) Arm. The LUKE arm needed an interface as elegant as its design. That’s where we came in.

Approved by the FDA in 2014 and in development for nearly a decade, the revolutionary Luke Arm was designed by Segway creator Dean Kamen and his company, DEKA. While the device’s intuitive nature and ability to execute extremely fine and flexible movements is groundbreaking, the challenge of human integration presented its own unique challenges. Traditional socket designs act more as a “cup” to hold the limb allowing the bone and surrounding tissue to move inside it. The result of this “disconnect” is the loss of skeletal integrity with much-wasted motion, not to mention the discomfort caused by constant friction. How would the LUKE interface replicate the skeletal motion and nearly seamless extension needed to work this highly advanced prosthetic device?  Continue reading “How We Developed the LUKE Arm Interface”

Celebrating the Milestones – Dancing, Walking, and Running for the First Time

Next Step Celebrating MilestonesIf you have recently experienced the loss of a limb, it can be difficult to envision yourself and what your life will look like in a month, or a year, or even tomorrow.  You know there are incredible amputee athletes out there pushing the limits of human endurance – climbing mountains, sprinting, or competing with thousands of elite athletes in the Paralympics. Perhaps those stories inspire you; maybe they’re just hard to relate to. Most of us are not world-class athletes or driven to pursue extreme athletic accomplishments.  Continue reading “Celebrating the Milestones – Dancing, Walking, and Running for the First Time”

What Happens if a Patient’s Body Size Changes Due to Weight Loss or Weight Gain?

Weight Loss Weight Gain ProsthesisIf you have a prosthesis, you know the time and care taken in ensuring the socket is exactly the right size and dimension and integrates seamlessly with your residual limb. The fitting of your prosthesis is especially demanding from a technical and anatomical perspective. Consequently, no two are the same; your prosthetic limb is as unique as you are, part of a unique and complex human-device equation.

Continue reading “What Happens if a Patient’s Body Size Changes Due to Weight Loss or Weight Gain?”

Traveling with a Prosthesis – Navigating Airport Security, Road Trips, and Unfamiliar Destinations

Traveling with a Prosthesis

It’s that time of year again when we pack up and get out of town for vacation. If you are anticipating a flight or getting on the (not so) open road, traveling with a prosthesis takes some extra preparation and planning. Whether you are staying in the U.S. or traveling abroad, while we can’t promise a stress-free traveling experience, we can help avoid some common challenges.

Before You Go

You’ll want to inspect your prosthesis at least a month before you travel. If you see any cracks, tears, loose parts, or if the fit has changed, see your prosthetist to make sure it is in top shape. Also, visit your prosthetist for guidance and any recommended equipment if you will be engaging in special or prolonged activity. Not only does he/she know you and your prosthesis best, the last thing you want to do is look for a prosthetist while you’re on vacation far from home.  Continue reading “Traveling with a Prosthesis – Navigating Airport Security, Road Trips, and Unfamiliar Destinations”

Preparing For a Hike – Mountain Climbing – Life As An Amputee

For my hike in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the top of the Nyiragongo Volcano, it didn’t take too much preparation because I’d already been hiking a lot in Mount Kilimanjaro and other places. But one of the biggest considerations I always have is my knees. So, I had knee surgery several times and what that means is that my prosthetic is meant to make sure that it’s not putting a lot of pressure on those incision marks but it still does just because the nature of hiking requires you to have a lot of mobility and flexibility in your knees.  Continue reading “Preparing For a Hike – Mountain Climbing – Life As An Amputee”

How to Talk to Kids About Limb Loss

My Little Pony Pediatric Prosthetics

If you’re the parent of a child with limb loss, the prospect of sending your child to school, camp, or daycare can be overwhelming. We don’t have to tell you what it can be like out there, and no doubt you remember trials when you were in school. Things haven’t changed. The fact is, kids can be cruel, even to children without apparent differences. However, they can also be incredibly compassionate and protective.

How will your child cope with being on their own in a new environment? How will other students, and even their teachers react? How can you protect them from the teasing and insensitive comments you know will most likely come their way? The good news is you are not alone. Many parents have faced the same challenges. (Read this parent’s experience in a previous blog post.)  There are very effective steps you can take to smooth the transition and help ensure your child has a positive school experience.

Continue reading “How to Talk to Kids About Limb Loss”

The Breakthrough Bionic Arm for Upper Limb Amputees

In development for nearly a decade, the revolutionary Luke Arm will soon be available. Designed and produced by Segway creator Dean Kamen’s company, DEKA, and funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Next Step has partnered in the critical fit and testing since the beginning of the project.  Approved by the FDA in 2014, the Luke Arm represents Life Under Kinetic Evolution.

Bionic ArmWhat sets the Luke Arm apart? Simply put, its intuitive integration into the user’s body movements. The human arm and hand with its opposable thumb and five independently articulated fingers, is incredibly complex and capable. The prosthesis uses electrodes placed on the amputated limb (above the elbow or below the elbow) to pick up electrical signals from the user’s muscles. Compared to the typical prosthesis controlled by switches or buttons, or even controlled manually, the Luke Arm is capable of extremely fine as well as flexible movements. What does it feel like for an amputee to be able to reach over their head to pluck an apple from a tree or pick up a heavy piece of equipment, or delicately peel a banana? Now it will be possible for amputees to experience these and many more life experiences that they haven’t been able to since losing their limb.

Kamen’s group even tackled the key reason amputees don’t wear their prosthetic limb – comfort. Unlike the traditional connection method that relies on the greatest possible surface area contact between flesh and the prosthetic arm (causing friction, heat, and pain), Randy Alley, C.P. from Biodesigns, Inc.  in Westlake Village, California, along with assistance from Next Step, developed a socket that was made for the Luke Arm called the Hi Fidelity Interface, this socket is also adaptable to traditional prostheses. Continue reading “The Breakthrough Bionic Arm for Upper Limb Amputees”