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Helen Bouchard: A Smile Makes Everything Better

When a child is born with any sort of birth defect, it's easy to say, "Oh, that poor child. They never had a chance to live a full life." But the way Helen Bouchard lives will make you rethink how you view children born with birth defects.


Helen was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, a rare, non-hereditary birth defect that affects the pelvis, particularly the hip bone, and the proximal femur. Her left leg was amputated below the knee one day before her first birthday on January 25, 2007. But this was just the beginning for Helen.


When she was two and half years old, Helen experienced something that was not only beneficial for herself, but also uplifting for others as well. At the time, her family lived in Alexandria, VA, a short drive from Washington D.C. and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Helen visited soldiers at Walter Reed who had been injured and were facing similar difficulties after an amputation. While visiting with these men, she kept a smile on her face, encouraging and inspiring these men and showing them what it meant to not let their circumstances keep them down.


As part of a military family, Helen first came to Optimus in 2009, when her father was transferred to Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  Another transfer took the Bouchards to Florida in 2013; however, they had difficulty finding a prosthetic provider to meet their needs.  After a year, the decision was made to move back to Ohio so Helen could continue her care at Optimus, and we are thrilled to have her back!


A smile can almost always be seen on Helen's face. It is a true testament to a young lady who has persevered through large amounts of physical therapy at such a young age. Her life to this point has been incredibly "full," as she has been active in soccer (an iconic photo of Helen playing is hung at both Optimus locations) and now cheerleading. While she is working on trying to do cheer stunts while keeping her balance on her prosthetic on her own, it wouldn't be a stretch to say she's doing it with a smile on her face.


"I am always happy, and my family makes me happy too!" Helen said when asked how she's able to keep a positive attitude. She also said she would tell other amputees who are struggling to "never give up and keep trying."


Everything in Helen's incredibly full eight years of life says she's very good at following her own advice.

Celebrating Those Whom We can Never Repay

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."  - Winston Churchill


The month of November is special for many reasons. While the holiday that gets all the attention is Thanksgiving, another holiday in November is just as important: Veterans Day.


Although the quote at the beginning of this article was originally spoken by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during a bleak time during the Battle of Britain in World War II, it encompasses the larger feeling of thanks owed to the men and women of our armed forces.


Since the beginning of our country, we have been fortunate to have brave men and women who have stood up and answered the call, whether it was in the Revolutionary War, both World Wars, or in the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are the brave men and women who have said, "I will go for the greater good."  Regardless of any and all political debate, those who have served our country deserve our never ending thanks.


At Optimus, we count ourselves blessed to have worked with veterans who have returned from conflicts having lost a limb. This includes veterans like Steve Bultje, one of the patients highlighted in this month's newsletter. It is the least we can do for our veterans who have made the sacrifice to serve our country and have paid a high price in doing so.


Yet, many of you may ask, "How can I repay these courageous individuals that answered the call so that I didn't have to?" The honest answer is that we can't, not fully. But there are many ways we can show our thanks to the men and women who have put themselves in harm's way to protect their families, friends, communities and their country.


Hug a Vet- if you're fortunate enough to know a former or current service member, a simple hug and "thank you" goes a long way. If you don't personally know a vet, you can visit a nearby veterans hospital or organization to express your thanks.


Connect with a veterans organization- many towns and cities have Am Vets or Veterans of Foreign War posts. Get in touch with them and see if you can set up an event or help them with the upkeep of their posts or other projects.


Honor those we've lost- visiting a military cemetery or the grave of family member or friend who served is one way to honor a fallen veteran. You can also donate to TAPS or Folds of Honor, organizations that support the families of fallen soldiers.


Explain the holiday to your children- young children may have a hard time grasping the importance of the holiday. Teach them what the holiday is about and why it's important.


Continue to remember our veterans throughout the year- while it is nice to have a day set aside for veterans, we should continue to honor and thank them at all times.


Circle Nov. 11 on your calendar and start thinking of ways you can honor our veterans. They have done so much for us that we can never repay, so any thanks we can offer or any way we can show our gratitude, especially during a month so heavy with thankfulness, is the right thing to do.

Steve Bultje: Serving Those Who Serve

At Optimus, we count it as an extreme honor to be able to work with our nation's veterans. To be able to serve those who have fought and served this country is an amazing privilege that we do not take for granted.


Steve Bultje, a retired United States Marine, is one of the veterans that we have had the honor of working with in our Columbus office.  Steve's story is one of triumph and perseverance that starts with a tragic event that occurred while he was on patrol in Afghanistan in 2011.


"I was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while on dismounted patrol. I suffered several injuries to my right foot and knee," Steve said. "I was immediately faced with the harrowing decision of whether to amputate or try to salvage what was left of my leg. I chose the latter, and began my long journey towards the inevitable transtibial amputation."


Over the course of the next two and a half years, Steve underwent 20 surgeries. During his recovery, he was able to start walking and running again using a special orthotic brace called the intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis (IDEO). It allowed Steve to be active while living free of his wheelchair and cane. However, Steve would have to face another obstacle.


"The honeymoon period ended abruptly, however, as we realized that my ankle and foot were becoming unfused," Steve said. "My options at that point were to try the fusions again, face a long, painful recovery and repeat, or to amputate." 


Steve had researched the amputation during his recovery, but wanted to try every option to keep his leg first. After exhausting these options, he finally made the decision to amputate his right leg.


Every amputee faces physical, mental and emotional challenges. For Steve, the biggest hurdle he had to overcome was finding a sense of community. He found some of that in the military with other wounded warriors, but returning to Ohio was being "thrust back into the real world, a world where there aren't other amputees all around me."


Steve has learned some particularly vital lessons since as well:

  • Be Patient- "There are timelines in our minds that we believe to be correct.  Once we are faced with injury or limb loss, we need to incorporate flexibility into these timelines. Had I decided any earlier to have my amputation, I would've had regrets anytime that something went wrong.  I had to be patient then, just as I have to be patient now. 
  • Stay Positive- "I am able to keep a positive attitude because I know how important it is for me and my well being.  In the military hospitals I have seen a spectrum of different injuries.  The men and women who were happy and successful were not those with the most minor injuries, but those with the best attitudes and outlooks."
  • Take Life Slowly- "Allow yourself to have time to get used to life as an amputee. I have seen many people who are quick to get back to work, almost acting like nothing happened. A lot of my friends gave me this advice prior to my amputation, I chose not to follow it, and have learned the hard way."


For his prosthetic care, Steve chose Optimus because of the patient-focused care.


 "Optimus has stood out to me for one major reason: they care," Steve said. "It is important to have someone who truly cares on your side."

We are particularly grateful for Steve and all of our nation's veterans this month, as Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. We are extremely proud to have been able to work with military members in their prosthetic care. It is the least we can do for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to serve our country. On Nov. 11, be sure to take time to remember a veteran, or thank a living veteran or current member of our armed forces for their duty and sacrifice in keeping us the land of the free and the home of brave.

Jim's Corner
Prosthetic Stance - Sound Limb Stance and Prosthetic Limb Stepping.


Optimus Prosthetics Jim Scharf
Jim Scharf, PTA

The goal of "Jim's Corner" is to provide helpful information and be a resource for those helping patients fitted with prosthetics learn to use them correctly in order to enjoy a better quality of life as an amputee.



The last couple of months we have looked at improving the patient's prosthetic stance with their sound limb stepping, as well as the importance of achieving terminal stance with all the other "ingredients" from the past columns. This month we are going to progress to the next step: sound limb stance and prosthetic limb stepping.


To start this, the patient stands up in the parallel bars or with a stable object for the required assistance and safety. Have the patient place their sound limb out in front and keep it there. The patient will then be stepping forward and backward with their prosthesis while stance is on the sound limb.


Remember, it will be important for the patient to have a good understanding of proper residual limb extension, prosthetic weight shifting, prosthetic balance and prosthetic weight bearing. A few things to watch for include excessive upper extremity support, insufficient prosthetic weight bearing/insufficient toe load, insufficient residual limb extension, moving only to mid-stance and not to terminal stance, or lifting too soon.


The patient is to keep repeating until they can demonstrate good technique. Like last month's column, I have found that many patients will struggle with this concept. To aid in this learning process I have made a tape grid on the floor to give the patient a "target" to aim for. The grid will form boxes that are a little larger than the patient's shoe size.


From the standing position at the "starting line" have the patient place their sound limb foot into the first box and keep it there. Then the patient is to step forward with their prosthesis into the second box. As the patient steps forward, it may be beneficial to cue the patient to "push forward," meaning push the residual limb forward from prosthetic terminal stance with weight on the prosthetic toes. Then return back to the "starting line". The patient is to keep repeating until they can demonstrate good technique.




Jim Scharf, PTA, Prosthetic Assistant/Gait Specialist

Jim has been a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant since 1988.  Jim has worked with lower extremity amputee patients throughout his career.  He serves as a Gait Specialist and Liaison when prosthetic patients are meeting with their therapists. Feel free to contact Jim if he can assist you in any way at:jscharf@optimusprosthetics.com.

In This Issue

D = Dayton Area

C = Columbus Area


Course #1

No courses scheduled.


Course #2

D-11/3 @ Rest Haven @ 12p


D- 11/18 @ Mary Scott @ 12:15p


D- 11/26 @ Heartland of Bellefontaine @ 12:15p


Course #3

D-11/6 @ Quaker Heights @ 12p


D-11/7 @ Springfield Manor @ 12p


D-11/21 @ Rest Haven @ 12p


Course #4

C-11/4 @ Columbus Colony @ 12p 


D-11/5 @ Springfield Regional @ 12p


C-11/11 @ Rehab and Health Center of Gahanna @ 12p


C-11/18 @ Mt Carmel Rehab and Sports Medicine @ 11am


D- 11/20 @ Wilson Memorial @ 12p


Course #5

D- 11/12 @ Southview @ 12p


C- 11/25 @ Laurels of Norworth @ 11:30a


Course #6

D- 11/19 @ Greene Memorial @ 12p


Course #7

D- 11/10 @ Laurels of Shane Hill @ 12p


D- 11/17 @ Cypress Pointe @ 12p


Course #8

D- 11/3 @ KMC @ 12p


Course #9

D- 11/13 @ Carriage Inn @ 12p


D- 11/24 @ Sanctuary of Wilmington @ 12p


Course #10

D-11/14 @ Otterbein by Atrium @ 12p


Optimus Prosthetics, Dayton
8517 North Dixie Drive, Suite 100/300
Dayton, Ohio 45414
(937) 454-1900


Optimus Prosthetics, Columbus
3132 Olentangy River Road
Columbus, Ohio 43202 

(614) 263-LIMB (5462)

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