June 16, 2008

Prosthetist Featured on Good Morning America

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Helping a wounded dolphin get back into the swim of things has landed Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics practitioner Dan Strzempka, CPO, on Good Morning America. In a segment that aired on June 11, Strzempka, of Sarasota, Florida, was interviewed by ABC's Jeffrey Kofman about his volunteer work on the team that produced prosthetic flukes for Winter, a two-and-a-half year old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin.

In December, 2005, Winter became entangled in the ropes of a crab trap near Cape Canaveral, Florida. Rescuers transported her to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where her severe injuries received round-the-clock medical attention. In spite of the Clearwater staff's efforts, Winter's tail fluke eventually fell off and she lost two vertebrae. After healing, she developed a sharklike side-to-side swimming style that was inefficient and led to a severe spinal curvature. In 2006, the aquarium selected Hanger's vice president of prosthetics, Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, to begin developing and fitting a prosthetic tail for Winter. Strzempka joined him soon after, volunteering nights and weekends for more than two years

Strzempka and Carroll have since created five prototype tails, with 50 iterations within the prototypes to accommodate Winter's growth. Winter now swims in her tail twice a day for 30 minutes at a time and has lost the potentially damaging spinal curvature. Her trainers and veterinarians are steadily increasing the amount of time she spends in her tail.

However, the new tail isn't just a boon for dolphins. The clinical research that Hanger performed for her case resulted in the development of a new gel liner for amputees with severe skin sensitivities and irritations. According to the Hanger website, Strzempka and Carroll also gleaned valuable information about skin irritation, forces within a prosthetic socket, and non-verbal patient communication. Strzempka also told Kofman about a young patient with a hip disarticulation who refused to wear his own prosthetic--until he met Winter. After that meeting, Strzempka said, "he requested a running leg, and now you can't get his leg away from him."

To read more about Winter, visit www.oandp.com/edge/issues/articles/NEWS_2007-04-24_01.asp

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