Fall into Spring

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Michael Carroll

It's the most wonderful time of the year—especially if you are a student. As of this writing, O&P clinicians are rushing to get deliveries out before the end of the year, and now that they've met their annual deductibles, O&P consumers are coming in with prescriptions to get their new devices. But for O&P students, the moment we put our pencils down and turn in our last final exam of the semester, everything in the world is great.

The second half of the fall 2009 classes at St. Petersburg College were quite busy. In addition to researching and applying to various residency sites, we had a number of large papers, presentations, and exams. We had our coursework on Monday; our orthotics and prosthetics labs were scheduled on various days during the rest of the week. While it was difficult to juggle the many overlapping due dates and exams with studying and writing papers, it was nice to have the didactic portion of each week finished on Mondays, which left the more enjoyable labs and clinical rotations for the rest of the week.

While these labs were enjoyable, they also were difficult. We concluded our Lower Extremity Orthotics (LEO) II class by fabricating a metal KAFO, which proved to be easier than when we made the AFOs during our first LEO class. Though the fabrication process went fairly smooth, it was not without fault. During our tracing, my partner and I didn't adequately bolster the knee. This caused the adipose tissue in the coxal region to push laterally, and the lateral upright on the KAFO, which we bent to match the tracing, looked very unnatural.

In our Transfemoral Prosthetics lab, we were taught casting techniques and alignment methods for hip disarticulation (HD) and hemipelvectomy (HP) patients. It's interesting to see how the alignment we were taught in our Transtibial Prosthetics course compares to the alignment of the transfemoral prosthesis or the HP/HD prosthesis. It's an additional challenge when alignment changes can be made at more points than those available in transtibial prostheses.

While learning about various prosthetic knees or orthotic joints, I find so many stories, articles, and studies that I really want to read, but it's difficult to find the time to squeeze them in. One of my favorite things about the breaks we have is that they give me some time to catch up on my reading and, of course, some of the movie watching that I've missed out on... Here I come, New Moon! Just kidding!

It's always exciting to start working on something unique or something that hasn't been done extensively, and one of the things that has popped up is the opportunity to develop prosthetic legs for animals, birds in particular! As a student, I am constantly learning about various techniques and theories that apply to the fabrication and creation of orthotic and prosthetic devices for humans, so it's a welcome change to start sailing into new territories.

I love that we can develop a solution for a bird and then bring that same solution to the general patient population. Some of the things we must worry about and the methods used to combat them, such as wound prevention for the birds, bring about new methods that we can employ to minimize similar risks to people. It's a lot of fun to be able to help animals while at the same time learning more about O&P.

Though I am excited to be done with the fall semester and am enjoying the winter break, I'm already looking forward to the spring because of the new topics that we are going to be covering. Through clinical rotations, I've been lucky enough to witness and participate in the casting, fabrication, and delivery of upper-extremity devices—orthotic and prosthetic alike—and during the spring semester, we'll be focusing on upper-extremity orthotics and prosthetics. While I have immensely enjoyed learning more about the lower extremities and the devices that can assist or replace them, I think the change of pace will be welcoming and challenging. As George S. Patton said, "Accept challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory."

Michael Carroll is a senior at St. Petersburg College (SPC), Florida. He will be sharing his experiences with The O&P EDGE as he completes his bachelor's degree in orthotics and prosthetics.

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