Game Changer – By Zach H

As a prosthetist, there are constantly new products coming out that I have to evaluate and decide if this is better or different in any way.  I get somewhat amused at the names that manufactures call their feet – the Panthera, the Triton, the Truper, the Renegade, Elation… A new one that I recently encountered is called the “Game Changer.”

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Amy Purdy, from Dancing with the Stars, was in our office to see a 4-year-old boy named Beau get his new running feet.  Beau has bilateral through ankle (Boyd) amputations and, as most people know, Amy has bilateral below-knee amputations.  Amy is a Paralympic snowboarder and co-founded an adaptive snowboard program at Copper Mountain called Adaptive Action Sports.  A snowboard instructor of the program went to school with Beau’s mother, which is how the connections were made between myself and Beau.

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Beau is a shy kid and he LOVES Amy Purdy.  He even calls her “Amy Purdy!”  I’ve known Amy for quite a while now through our mutual participation in adaptive ski/snowboard events in Colorado.  She reached out to me when she first met Beau and asked if there were any running feet options for kids because the feet Beau was using were very basic.
Beau and his mom first came to our office when I had an adult with bilateral symes amputations come in from New Mexico to receive his new Cheetah Xplore running feet (another amusing name).  Beau was in awe as this guy ran and jumped without pain for the first time in 15 years.  We filmed some video that reached over 13K views!

At that time, we put the opportunity of running for Beau in the hands of the insurance company, which would likely not cover them.  However, I was then contacted by inventor Adam O.  Adam O is a foot manufacturer of the Game Changer foot. This is a foot designed for adults that has unique materials and user adjustability in the heel.  He let me know that he wanted to donate running feet to kids, and he was wondering if I knew of anyone who could benefit.

After thinking about Beau, I checked with his mom and they were all for it.  Her only request was that Amy Purdy be there with her blades on the first day of Beau running.  I contacted Amy and she was ecstatic.  Since Beau was comfortable in his current sockets, I got him back in and was able to duplicate them and prepare them for game day.  The pediatric running feet, I later learned, were the cutest things ever.  Adam sent me a couple different sizes, and the smallest fit in the palm of my hand!

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There was a lot leading up to that day, but what ended up happening was that Adam O and his camera man flew in on the same flight as Amy and her friend (they didn’t realize they were on the same flight from LA!).  Another inspiring woman, Pam, with bilateral symes amputations was in our office a little earlier getting her new prostheses.  We scheduled Pam strategically the same day, so she could meet everyone and be part of this exciting party of people.  I had several of our residents attend for clinical support and for their own experience.  We ordered pizza for lunch, and tried to get what we needed done, even though this meant we had to interrupting the conversations everyone was so enthralled in because of all the shared experiences!

The highlight of the day for me was seeing Beau get past being shy and decide to put on his new running legs, with game changer feet, for the first time and stand up to dance with Amy Purdy.  He was so excited that he fell down giggling at one point.  It took him around 15 minutes of walking, holding hands with adults, before he was ready to walk a short distance on his own to his mom’s arms.  Shortly after that first solo journey, he was able to walk down the hall and even attempt to keep up with Amy Purdy, who was encouraging him to run.

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We had some people from the hospital pop in as well.  A PT came in and offered some tips to Beau about using his arms to build momentum.  A PMR doctor came in and got to see some of the excitement and got to meet Adam and Pam.  The PR department of the hospital where our office is located got very excited and called the news station.  Unfortunately, at that point it was too late and Beau, his mom, and younger brother were so overwhelmed that it was time to leave.

This story is far from over.  I bet that in a week Beau will be running without being taught and without people encouraging him, but WITH the right equipment: Good fitting sockets and appropriate feet.

Probably the coolest thing about that day was how all these people came together and built something bigger than imaginable and bigger than I could have on my own.  I think it’s really important to seek out opportunities to put the right people together when there may be great things to happen.

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LIM359 is a great example of a group of people who share a philosophy of recovery through helping each other.  The group has evolved into more than just events and people who share limb loss/limb differences in common.  It’s unexpected connections and a spirit of positive support that has made LIM359 what it is today.  

That, to me, is a true game changer!

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