Jennifer Robinson, a congenital amputee and Director of Westcoast Brace & Limb’s Amputee Case Management Program remembers when Westcoast was contacted to provide a prosthetic consultation for Fritzcar. Jennifer called Abby Wold, an outgoing bilateral below knee amputee and long time patient at Westcoast Brace & Limb. “Abby is a ray of light when she walks into a room”, Jennifer says. “She loves connecting with others, is passionate about life, and is very nurturing. Abby has been visiting new amputees through our Amputee Peer Visitation Program for years. On top of everything, she’s hilarious.”
Abby immediately connected with Fritzcar, even removing her prosthetic legs to show the toddler how much the two have in common. Jennifer points out, “Abby introduced Fritzcar to the concept of a prosthetic limb in a very positive, loving way. For Fritzcar, prosthetic limbs became cool. When it was her turn to receive a prosthesis, she was already familiar with it. It wasn’t foreign to her.”
The first priority in Fritzcar’s rehabilitation plan was to address her head trauma and allow for the large wound to heal fully. Westcoast Brace & Limb continued to follow up with Frtizcar’s progress and Abby’s relationship with the little girl flourished. By September of 2010, Fritzcar was ready to be fitted with an above elbow prosthetic arm by Greg Bauer, CPO, President of Westcoast Brace & Limb.
“Kids at this age aren’t really that self-aware yet,” Greg comments. “When they have a strong support system, like Fritzcar does, they can bounce back and they generally do great. Fritzcar’s father glows when he sees how well his daughter is doing now.”
Bauer’s initial prosthetic goals were to allow Fritzcar to become comfortable with wearing a prosthesis and encourage her to incorporate it into everyday activities. “For several months, Fritzcar adapted herself to accomplish all tasks with one hand. She became very good at it,” Greg points out. “That’s common for upper extremity amputees who, for whatever reason, initially do not utilize a prosthesis. The problem comes in the future, when the one good arm experiences overuse syndrome. That’s what we want to avoid”.
Fritzcar bends and straightens her prosthetic elbow by moving the joint with her other hand. The elbow remains in the same position until she changes it. The prosthesis allows her to do things like use both hands to catch a ball, and hold a toy while walking across the room. “She is two years old now. In the near future, we will graduate her to a more functional prosthesis that operates independent of her good arm. It takes fine motor skills of the shoulders andresidual limb to operate such a prosthesis. That’s why she has to be a bit older to use one successfully,” Greg explains.
The first day Fritzcar put on her prosthetic arm, she celebrated by giving everyone in the room ‘high fives’ with the prosthesis. “That was a great sign,” Greg says. Westcoast Brace & Limb later referred Fritzcar to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital for out-patient therapy so that Fritzcar could fine-tune her skills.
When asked about the greatest challenge in this case, Greg stops to think. “You know, I just didn’t know what to expect. She’s been through so much and she’s persevered. The language barrier was tough at first, but we had a lot of help from translators and Catholic Charities. The peer support from Abby made a world of difference. When I created this prosthetic plan, I had to consider the extent of her overall injuries and the emotional trauma she experienced. Fritzcar has done extremely well and teaches me a lot about the endurance of the human spirit. Everyone just falls in love with her.” Westcoast Brace & Limb offers its Amputee Peer Visitation Program to any amputee needing emotional support. Peer Visitors like Abby Wold are available to visit individuals in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and any other medical setting. This program is free of charge. For more information, contact Jennifer Robinson at (813) 985-5000 ext 204, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.