Often, when highlighting a patient or component, we tend to focus on the high-tech; the cutting-edge; the "latest and greatest." However, the simplest of prosthetic devices can make a very big impact on a person's life and functionality.
Meet Dennis Partin, Optimus Prosthetics patient and thumb amputee.
On May 10, 2010, Dennis was working a 400-ton punch press. It was not equipped with dual palm buttons - a standard safety feature for these huge machines - and one wrong move cost Dennis his right thumb. "In less than a second, it was gone. It happened so quick," says Dennis.
"All the small things, all the things you don't think about, they were suddenly much harder," Dennis, who is right-handed, explained. "Turning a key, writing, tightening and loosening things, struggling to open a 20-oz pop bottle, everything is more difficult." Dennis went on to explain the impact on his remaining fingers, as well as his left hand. Since he is compensating for the missing thumb, he puts a lot of extra pressure on his fingers and other hand; to the point of needing injections in his left hand for pain.
Travis Barlow, CP, worked with Dennis on a solution. "When he came to us, he already had a passive device. We wanted to come up with something that gave him more options and greater functionality."
Dennis explained that the biggest advantage of his first device was purely cosmetic. "It really helped in terms of being self-conscious about my hand - but I couldn't do much with it. The thumb couldn't really move, so it was still difficult to hold things."
Travis used Dennis' input when making his new, more functional prosthesis. "Thumb placement was very important to Dennis," Travis explained. "We wanted to give him an opposition post that could be manipulated easily to accommodate for larger objects, and allow him to grasp things securely. We also were careful not to limit the range of motion of his hand and wrist."
As a machinist, Dennis uses both hands all day long, and having a functional, movable thumb has made a huge difference! "My new prosthesis is great!" Dennis said. "The thumb can swivel and move and I can adjust the tension to hold things tightly, without worrying about dropping them."
Like so many amputees, Dennis stays positive by focusing on what he has, instead of what he has lost. "I was inches away from losing my arm," Dennis said. "I was just 23 at the time of the accident. I have 40 years of work ahead of me. I can't let this get me down."