The loss of a limb due to illness or trauma can be devastating for patients and their families. Thanks to the multidisciplinary collaboration between specialists in the Prosthetics and Orthotics Program and the rehab teams at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre, these patients receive the care and guidance needed for a return to active living.
“Working with patients in a team setting, we design and manufacture custom artificial limbs and supportive devices for individuals affected with limb loss or debilitating conditions,” explains Brad Haardeng, Clinical Manager of the Prosthetics and Orthotics Program, which is the largest provider of prosthetic and orthotic services in Canada.
The patient’s rehabilitation journey is directed by a physiatrist starting from the early stages of amputation, throughout the inpatient stay in the Amputee Rehabilitation Program, and all the way to follow-up in the Amputee Outpatient Clinic after discharge.
According to physiotherapist Deb Lambert of the Amputee Rehabilitation Program at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre, “patients can feel like they’re a burden to society. They can feel like they’re not whole. We help them realize they’re not alone and we help them get back to an active life again.”
In the Amputee Rehabilitation Program, physiotherapists like Deb assess a new patient’s level of mobility, strength and goals for recovery. After the patient is cast for a prosthesis and the device is custom-manufactured, the physiotherapist begins the next phase of education and physical conditioning.
“For lower-limb amputees, physiotherapists teach them how to put the prosthesis on and how to remove it properly. We work on strength, mobility and fitness while teaching patients how to walk with the prosthesis. We also collaborate with occupational therapists to teach patients how to use their prosthesis to accomplish functional activities safely.”
– Deb Lambert
These activities include various personal care, home management and occupational tasks that are important to an individual’s independence.
“In addition to working closely with physiotherapists and lower-limb amputees, occupational therapists also take a front-line role caring with those with upper-limb amputations,” explains Meredith Bourne, a Registered Occupational Therapist. “This includes teaching clients how to care for and use a hand/arm prosthesis functionally in order to get back to doing the things that are important in their lives.”
“The Prosthetics and Orthotics program also collaborates with the multidisciplinary teams in the Acquired Brain Injury, Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury programs at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre,” says Brad. “We treat those patients with orthotic interventions, helping to provide bracing solutions as needed.”
For all the diverse disciplines in the various programs involved, the end goal is the same – to improve the quality of life for patients.
“It’s very fulfilling to make a real impact in patients’ lives,” says Deb. “I love to see them realize that life isn’t over because of their amputation or injury – it’s just a new beginning.”