WillowWood Blog

Road Trip to Socket Bliss

January 12th, 2016 by WillowWood

WillowWood’s guest blogger this month is Kevin Bidwell, CP, BOCO, of Precision Orthotics & Prosthetics in Las Vegas. Thank you Kevin for sharing your experiences with the WillowWood One System as both a user and a clinician!

Hi, my name is Kevin Bidwell.   I am an active left transfemoral amputee of 25 years.  I was involved in a Motorcycle accident at the age of 19 that quickly led to a long left transfemoral amputation.  Like many young and healthy new amputees, I was fit with a standard suction socket.   It worked fairly well, and at a young age, I pretty much overcame everything.

I adapted to life with a prosthesis and went back to college two months after the accident.  As a mechanical and crafty type of guy, I was soon tearing apart my knee and making a few of my own adjustments.   At that time, it was such a surprise to me that my prosthetist, Dennis Luse, CP, somehow knew that I had made some of my own alignment adjustments. I felt I had done a fine job of aligning myself.  Now that I think back, I can only imagine how bad I must have looked walking back into his prosthetic clinic after one of my self-adjustments.   However, all that self-alignment trouble I caused got me into the prosthetics lab.  Once I was introduced to where all the action took place, I was hooked.   Wanting to improve my own life as well as the lives of others, I geared my education towards prosthetics and soon became a certified prosthetist.

Always in search of the “Best Fit”, I have tried about everything.  I started in a fairly round brimmed suction socket, and I eventually ended up in a very contoured anatomically-designed ischial containment suction socket.  This socket has served me very well for a very long time.  Like any socket system, it has its drawbacks.   I have tried many liner systems in search of some sort of socket euphoria, but never seemed to find it.  I always seemed to go back to my suction socket system as I felt greater control with that system.  It was not until I was introduced to the WillowWood One System that I felt I had found a suspension system that could provide much greater comfort, much better suspension, and just as much control over my prosthesis.

The Search is Over
In June of 2015, I was fortunate enough to have WillowWood clinician Andy Marsland travel to Las Vegas and teach the WillowWood One System at our facility.  I was one of the patient models and was a little skeptical at first.  As mentioned, I am like most amputees, a creature of habit, a habitual limb abuser, going back to the same system that beat me up a little before…like a love-hate relationship.  That suction socket would treat me right for quite a while and then beat me up with a vengeance.  I must say, I have been in the WillowWood One System for the past five months since that course and have not gone back to my old system.  I love this system.  I can work in my yard in 110 degree heat and not sweat out of my socket.  I can ride my bicycle and not have to wear a belt in case I lose suction.  My limb does not look beat up after a long day of running back and forth between the hospital and facilities.  I can go hiking in the heat and not have to take my leg off and drain out all the perspiration.

Sharing the Love
As a prosthetist who found success fitting himself, I immediately began fitting many of my patients with this system.  The patients I have fit have had many similar positive outcomes just as I found with myself.  Greater comfort, more consistent suspension, an ability to do more, less perspiration, and the ability to wear the prosthesis all day long, are typical reports by my patients.   I have improved my skills at fitting this socket system after numerous fittings.  So as you would expect, I fabricated another socket for myself.  Well, not the final socket, the test socket.   Once the final fitting was complete, I packed it up along with my very cool designed T-shirt for the outer layer and shipped it off to WillowWood for fabrication. Chris, supervisor of WillowWood’s custom solutions team, took good care of it.

Kevin models his latest WillowWood One System Socket. Very cool design!

Road Trip!
It just so happened that my wife and I had a trip planned in the fall that ended in Ohio.  So, we recently found ourselves at WillowWood in Mt. Sterling, Ohio, at the end of a two week journey across the Northeast and Midwest.   That drive was probably one of the most comfortable road trips that I have had in a long time.  The typical socket brim pressure experienced after sitting in a car for long time did not come about with my WillowWood One System Socket.

Kevin and his wife visited WillowWood in November 2015 to pick-up his new socket. They lucked into a beautiful fall day in Ohio for this portion of their road trip.

I was so glad to be able to stop by and pick up my new ride (a.k.a. socket) at WillowWood on my way out of Ohio.  I loved my first One System, but I love my newest socket system even more.   On this trip I gave my WillowWood One System a work out.  I walked all over Washington D.C., and New York City.  I rambled around Vermont and Niagara Falls, and I traversed all over Ohio.  It was a comfortable ride.

I just wanted to say thanks to all of the friendly and knowledgeable staff at WillowWood for showing me around the facility and fabricating my cool new socket.  I am about to try this system out on my patient who I like to refer to as my “prosthetic nemesis”.  I will let you know how it goes.

The socket history of Kevin’s “prosthetic nemesis” as presented by Rob, a prosthetic technician at Precision Orthotics & Prosthetics.


All Set for Standing Beach ParaVolleyball

December 2nd, 2015 by WillowWood

WillowWood’s guest blogger, Chris Seilkop, is a long-time friend of ours.  We’ve been on some amazing journeys with Chris and are delighted to hear about his latest endeavor.

As a guest blogger, allow me to introduce myself and share a brief background. My name is Chris Seilkop and I lost my right leg below the knee at the age of seven in an accident with a riding lawn mower. I was very active in sports growing up. In 1990, while attending the University of Central Florida, my prosthetist introduced me to Ohio Willow Wood components. This started a partnership with WillowWood that over the years allowed me to push my athletic limits and excel at the highest competitive levels wearing the Pathfinder® Foot and Alpha® Liners. In 1996, I was the starting middle blocker for the USA Standing Volleyball team at the Atlanta Paralympics. In 1998 and 1999 I was voted best blocker in the world. In 2000, I represented the USA again at the Sydney Paralympics.

Unfortunately, the Sydney games would be the last Paralympics for standing volleyball. Over the past few years, though, there had been rumors of a few counties trying to get the standing game active on the beach. Earlier this year I found out about a tournament that the ParaVolley Asia Oceania (PVAO) organization was going to put on in Thailand.

I contacted a few of my old teammates about forming a team. To be honest, I was very nervous about the idea of playing beach volleyball. At the age of 45, I don’t have the ups I once did and years of sports and jump training has taken a toll on my knees. Growing up on the beaches of Daytona, I was familiar with the game. However, it has been decades since I played in a beach tournament and now I could be up against players probably more than half my age.

On the Beach
With the help of WillowWood and other generous sponsors we were able to raise the funds to attend the Pattaya 2015 Para Beach Volley Standing Challenge Cup held from Oct. 26-29, 2015, in Pattaya, Thailand. This was the first major international beach standing volleyball tournament. It is my hope, and that of the organizers, that this tournament will give momentum to the beach volleyball discipline. In the twilight of my volleyball career, I want to help get this sport going so future athletes will have the same opportunities I experienced.

There were seven teams from six countries: Germany, Poland, Kazakhstan, Laos, the United States, and two teams from Thailand. The format was three man, with one person on the net and two playing defense and hitting. We played two matches a day with the heat index hitting 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a learning experience for our team. It was the first time we had played together since 2003. Plus, we didn’t practice for this tournament until we met in Thailand. As the tournament went on, the team adjusted and we made it to the finals against a team from Poland that has been playing together on the beach for 10 years. It was a tough match and we fell short 19-21 and 20-22.

Looking forward
The ParaVolley Asia Oceania region plans to host two beach tournaments in 2016 and we want to be able to field two USA teams for each tournament. We need to identify possible players. If you know of an athlete interested in playing standing beach volleyball, please contact me at USAV15@yahoo.com. Videos and pictures from the tournament can be found at the ParaVolley Asia Oceania Facebook page.

Team USA at the Pattaya 2015 Para Beach Volley Standing Challenge Cup members are (left to right) Chris, Dave Newkirk, and Eric Duda.


Team USA receiving its silver medals at the end of the Para Beach Volley Standing Challenge Cup.

More and Less Lead to Good DESIGN

September 17th, 2015 by WillowWood

Less is more.
More or less.
Why choose? Can’t you have both more and less?

Yes! Alpha DESIGN® Liners, prosthetically speaking, eliminate the need for clinicians to choose between more and less.

With the release of Alpha DESIGN Liners in 2005 more control was put in the hands of clinicians to design liners from the inside out. The result is that more gel in some areas and less gel in other areas of a liner yielded total contact between a liner and a residual limb for greater comfort, improved limb health, higher quality of life, and happy amputees.

Since coming to the market a decade ago, clinicians have been getting more and more savvy in how to ‘construct’ custom liners. Creative clinical thinking now has Alpha DESIGN Liners being used for amputees who may only be able to “get by” with prefabricated liners, but who would ultimately benefit more from a liner with localized customization.

More: Applications of designing liners using ‘more’ gel includes:

  • Fill deep invaginations with gel (up to 25 mm thick) in a residual limb to ensure the residual limb and liner have total contact.
  • Instead of building a relief within a socket, design a relief directly in the liner to off-load sensitive areas and bony prominences with gel build-ups [see figures 1 & 2]. An added bonus is liner life may be extended by eliminating wear on a liner due to it continually rubbing against a built-in socket relief.
  • Build up gel distally to provide extra protection and comfort. Distal gel build up can also eliminate the need for using gel cups.
  • When working with an asymmetrical shape such as a large thigh that tapers to a narrow residual limb, add gel proximally to build substance and support to aid in liner fit and to prevent the liner from rolling down due to an amputee’s anatomy [figure 3]. An excellent companion to this design is choosing the one-way stretch Select fabric to help the liner stay in place yet provides for easy donning due to its circumferential stretch.
  • Add gel to the medial side of the knee to allow for some weight transfer for increased comfort over the bone structure.
Figure-1 Figure 1


Figure 2 Figure 2


Figure 3 Figure 3

Less: Applications of using ‘less’ gel in a custom liner include:

  • Upper extremity amputees or amputees coping with medical issues resulting in low energy can benefit from thinning gel throughout the liner to reduce the overall weight.
  • For added knee flexion and comfort, thin the gel over the patella [figure 4]. This trick reduces the risk of the liner uncomfortably pulling on the knee cap when the residual limb is bent and relieves hamstring pressure.
  • For patients who almost have complete comfort from a prefabricated liner, modify a ‘standard’ Alpha Liner profile. Clinicians can thin the gel in a specific, localized area to optimize a liner’s fit and comfort.
  • Patients who struggle with getting their liners on and off may benefit from having less gel throughout a custom liner to enable easier donning and doffing.
  • For amputees desiring less bulky prosthetic, a liner may be designed with less gel in order to reduce ‘bulk’ and achieve a more cosmetically appealing liner.
Figure 4 - Gel thinned over patella, medial view Figure 4 – Gel thinned over patella, medial view

Creative Design of Custom Liners

June 17th, 2015 by WillowWood

Ten years ago, WillowWood introduced Alpha DESIGN® Liners to allow practitioners to specify the thickness and placement of gel within an Alpha® Liner. That initial offering of Alpha DESIGN Liners focused on amputees with uniquely-shaped limbs who could not wear off-the-shelf liners to experience the comfort of Alpha gel.

As clinicians have become more and more skilled in creating Alpha DESIGN Liners, a number of common trends have evolved:

  • Suited for short residual limbs: Most prefabricated Alpha Liner profiles thin to 3 mm posteriorly to minimize bunching behind the knee and permit easier knee flexion. Amputees with short residual limbs, however, may not have the limb length allowing the knee to line up correctly with the prefabricated liner profile. As a result, the gel may be 6 mm to 9 mm thick behind the knee. With DESIGN Liners, a “standard” off-the-shelf Alpha Liner profile may be customized to line up exactly with an amputee’s anatomy and provide optimal knee flexion and comfort for those with short residual limbs.
  • Stylized for Symes and Knee Disarticulations: Amputees who have Symes amputations or knee disarticulations commonly have residual limbs that are bulbous at the distal end. As a result, definitive sockets for these amputees typically have a unique shape. Alpha DESIGN Liners allow for gel to be added around the narrower parts of the residual limb and for gel to be reduced at the bulbous end (Figure 1). The result is a liner that internally provides a tailored fit with a uniform exterior shape, allowing for a more “standard” socket shape.

Figure 1

  • Leveling out uneven distal ends: A residual limb that is pointed (conical) or dramatically uneven distally can pose challenges in achieving a comfortable socket fit. By adjusting the gel thickness appropriately along the contours of the residual limb’s distal end, a liner can be created that cradles the residual limb interiorly while creating a smooth, uniformly-shaped distal end to an Alpha DESIGN Liner. From this point, the clinician can then create a more “standard- shaped” prosthetic socket.
  • Perfect for PFFD patients: Clinicians who have patients with proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD) find that DESIGN Liners can be a great asset in achieving a good prosthetic fit that is also comfortable. Because the gel in DESIGN Liners can be as thin as 3 mm or as thick as 25 mm, gel can be placed in the contours of the deficiency to create a “standard” shape to which a socket can be applied (Figure 2). Comfort is achieved by containing and supporting the anatomy, allowing more opportunity for prosthetic success and improved quality of life through ADLs and sports.

Figure 2

This ability to create gel profiles that are very thin or very thick can provide benefits for a number of other clinical applications as well. Watch for the next post on this blog to learn more!

Thank You, Good Samaritans

January 26th, 2015 by WillowWood

Thank you. Just two little words, but they can convey so much emotion. For an individual who receives prosthetic care or a prosthesis free-of-charge from a generous clinician or as part of a mission trip abroad, the simple phrase of ‘Thank you’ may be the easiest way to convey a flood of emotions.

In a period of  federal healthcare changes, industry audits, and shrinking reimbursements, we felt it right to say thank you to clinicians and patient care facilities within the orthotic and prosthetic community who generously help those in need simply because it is the right thing to do. These clinicians generously donate their time and resources to help amputees within their local communities, to travel abroad as part of prosthetic and medical mission trips, or donate prosthetic components to organizations like Limbs for Life and Physicians for Peace.  These generous actions change the lives of amputees.

WillowWood is proud to be part of an industry that has such generous hearts. Thank you!

Excellence in Ecuador

November 12th, 2014 by WillowWood

WillowWood is fortunate to have a global network of distribution companies to provide sales and support for our products around the world. We love hearing about the great work that they’re doing, and we enjoy sharing it with you. In this month’s blog, we are highlighting some recent activities in Ecuador.

Uniting Frontiers Forum

The Uniting Frontiers Forum is an international conference for professionals in the fields of prosthetics, orthotics, orthopedics, and physical rehabilitation. Two years ago, during the 5th Uniting Frontiers Forum in Mexico, it was proposed that the 6th Forum in 2014 should be held in Ecuador. This was very exciting news for PROTELITE, a provider of O&P services in Ecuador that has also served as our distribution partner there for many years.

Diego Muñoz, Manager of PROTELITE, was named President of the organizing committee. He worked hard for two years to prepare for the meeting, which was held October 19-22 in Quito. Rosie Jované of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) Executive Board provided significant assistance, along with members of the U.S. and Ecuador chapters of ISPO. PROTELITE and its team of volunteers were able to manage the huge amount of work necessary to create a successful event for attendees from 22 different countries.

PROTELITE’s President, Santiago Muñoz, was also quite busy during the forum. In addition to serving as the International Representative for Ecuador’s ISPO chapter, he also taught a well-attended seminar on the LimbLogic® System with his colleague Luis Estevez. The seminar ended with a special demonstration of LimbLogic’s capabilities — click the link to watch!  http://youtu.be/kP26Pz0MbuU

Study Abroad Program

Experienced professionals weren’t the only ones at the Uniting Frontiers Forum; there was also a group of students from the United States in attendance. Santiago, an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Sciences in O&P Program, created a Study Abroad opportunity for the students to attend the conference and also provide O&P services to people in Ecuador. Santiago shared the stories of Briana and Angel, two of the patients who were treated by the students with support from WillowWood and Becker Orthopedic.

Briana was born without legs below her knees. Her parents couldn’t find any support or help for her until they until they arrived at PROTELITE. The students were able to fit her with her very first “stubbies” to develop her gait. In few more weeks she will be introduced to prosthetic feet and knees. The students did a terrific job during her evaluation and treatment.

The students also evaluated and casted Angel Pulla, a veteran athlete who has participated in hundreds of athletic tournaments in Ecuador and overseas during the past 16 years. Angel was one of the very first users of Alpha® Liners in Ecuador in 1996, and has been using the liners ever since. Because of Angel’s high level of activity, the students suggested switching from his Alpha Locking Classic 9mm Tapered Liner to an Alpha SmartTemp™ Liner and a LimbLogic® System. Angel was a little bit skeptical, but after they fabricated his new socket, he was impressed with the perfect fit and precise suspension.

A few days later, on October 26th, Angel ran the 5-mile Poland Spring Marathon Kick Off with 2,000 other runners in New York’s Central Park. Angel finished first among the several amputees who participated! He said it was the first race that he finished without a blister on the end of his limb. He improved his time by almost 15 minutes and he had no perspiration during the race, other than a little bit of moisture along the top edge of the liner. He didn’t have to stop several times like he used to have to do to accommodate the internal rotation of the socket due to poor suspension.

Angel and Briana

A New Venture

Santiago and Diego recently announced the introduction of a new company called ORTHOPROTESICA, created specifically to focus on the distribution aspect of their business. We congratulate them on the launch of this new brand, and are excited to see the opportunities that it presents!

New Zealand and Australia OMEGA® Training Tour

August 28th, 2014 by WillowWood

This month’s blogger is Clinical Support Prosthetist Jennifer Dowell, CPO/LPO.

After WillowWood released completely new and renovated OMEGA software, I traveled to New Zealand and Australia to work with WillowWood’s distribution partner in that part of the world, Masson’s Healthcare, to provide training and support. Owner Anton Karak and I-En Lim from Masson’s office in Melbourne, Australia were my hosts for this adventure.

1st Stop: New Zealand Artificial Limb Services, Wellington, New Zealand

Anton, I-En, and I spent May 26 and 27 with a group of prosthetists from New Zealand’s Artificial Limb Service centers based throughout the country. We focused our time on the new OMEGA software, the OMEGA Scanner 3D, and other WillowWood products. This NZALS group was impressive. They are innovative and don’t shy away from a prosthetic challenge.

2nd Stop: Skeletal Support Systems in Cairns, AU

After spending May 28th traveling to Cairns, we spent two days with Ryan Kelly and Daniel Baldwin of Skeletal Support Systems. This session was focused on both prosthetic and orthotic applications, but with some specific focus on cranial remolding helmets and AFO applications. Ryan and Daniel provide a full spectrum of orthotic and prosthetic services throughout the far reaches of Queensland – a state that covers almost 2 million square kilometers!

While Anton and I-En went home for the weekend, I did a little snorkeling and got to hold a koala.

3rd Stop: Orthotic Solutions- Chermside, AU ( Brisbane area)

Anton, I-En and I reconvened in Brisbane to train Clint and Bianca Nielsen and their fabulous staff at Orthotic Solutions on Monday and Tuesday. This stop was a bit different than the others, as this training session was for new OMEGA users. While the focus was primarily on scanning techniques and cranial remolding applications in the new software, the latest transtibial and transfemoral applications got some attention as well.

We dove into the cranial application in great detail. Thanks to Clint and Bianca for offering your children as practice patients!

4th Stop: The Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne, AU

Our first visit in Melbourne was to The Royal Children’s Hospital for a two-day training session on the new software and the OMEGA Scanner 3D for orthotic and prosthetic services. The staff was fantastic and we took turns rotating through different specialty groups. We covered topics from cranial, scoliosis, and AFOs to transtibial and transfemoral socket and custom liner applications. I had met many of these folks through online sessions, but it was great to finally meet them in person.

They routinely work with some amazing kids that are dealing with challenging orthopedic and medical situations. Straightforward cases are few and far between. Instead, these clinicians address some of the most complicated clinical challenges children can experience.

The hospital is still quite new, having opened just three years ago. The facility is more than impressive. Great detail was given to making this a welcoming and happy place. Not only is there a two-story aquarium, there’s also a meerkat exhibit!

5th & Final Stop: Masson’s & WillowWood OMEGA workshop in Melbourne, AU

The last official session was also held in Melbourne at a local hotel on June 3. This last session was a workshop for 10 people interested in OMEGA to get firsthand experience with the system. The day concluded with part of the group visiting Masson’s office nearby for a demonstration of the OMEGA Carver. It was a great way to conclude a fantastic training tour.

Thanks to everyone at Masson’s Healthcare for their support – especially Anton Karak for planning, organizing, and hosting. You are an amazing host and I hope to have the opportunity in the future to return your gracious hospitality. Please send more Tim Tams!

Over 30 clinicians were trained, spanning New Zealand to the East Coast of Australia. The trip involved over 22,000 flight miles, 10 flights, 7 airports (Sydney airport 4 times alone), 20 days traveling, over 48 hours of total flight time, and countless hotel rooms!Australia and New Zealand map

What to Expect From the New OMEGA®

July 21st, 2014 by WillowWood

Hopefully you’ve heard by now that our industry-leading OMEGA Tracer software has been completely redesigned from scratch and is now known simply as OMEGA. If you’re an existing user, you may be asking, “Why would I want to upgrade, when my existing software works perfectly fine?”

Well, for starters, we listened to the feedback that we received from you over the years. There are no more locks, previews, or confirmations of every selection you made. Gone are menu after menu of options for finding what you need. Instead, you’ll click links and icons to get where you need to be. Tool usage and shape manipulation are much more direct and intuitive.

OMEGA’s primary functions are grouped into three basic areas: Capture, Design, and Fabricate.  Each one of these areas is organized into a group of steps referred to as a Stack.  These stacks guide you through the process of creating, modifying, and sending the shape file for fabrication.

The Design stack can be customized to include your selection of design steps, organized the way you want, with the name and the default view that you want. You can then save it as a template for repeated use.  You can create a whole library of these templates if you like, for different socket designs or cranial shapes. And you can create libraries of regions, shelves, and trimlines, too. Yes, you can now create your own popliteal shelf shape and save it as a favorite to be applied to future shapes.

We’ve kept many of the same modification tools, but we’ve included some helpful new features, such as a goniometer to help you measure and change the angle of the knee, hip, or ankle. For AFO shape modification, we’ve added a virtual floor as a visual reference for use with several of the alignment tools. On the prosthetic side, there’s now an interval option to help you adjust the circumference of a shape by different amounts at specified intervals.

Here’s another cool new feature: modifications to the model can be displayed in color – reductions in red, additions in blue. Also, if you were never very good at the freehand draw option, you’re in luck! You can now create trimlines, regions, and popliteal shelves by clicking on points that the software will connect for you. You can then reshape or reposition an area as needed.


Another helpful improvement is the ability to open a shape file and make an edit without disrupting the rest of the modifications. Did you ever, for example, reduce a TT shape by 7% and then wish you could go back and reduce 9% instead, but you didn’t want to lose all those other perfect modifications you made after that?  In the new software, you can open an existing shape file, go to a specific modification step, and edit that region or circumference without having to start from scratch.

And last but not least, let’s talk about file maintenance. All shape files are now neatly organized in the patient’s folder and sorted by affected area, which is especially helpful for patients with bilateral or multi-area involvements. This example shows a folder for a right TT/left TF patient. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.

So, you’re probably ready to jump into OMEGA with both feet, but I do want to make sure you’re aware of a few things:

  • You’ll need to make sure your computer is compatible with the software, so I’ve listed the specs below.
  • Even though the software is more intuitive, we still require that you take a training course to learn the new navigation and begin the process of customizing the software to suit your needs and preferences.
  • Because the software has changed so much, you’ll still want to keep your old Tracer software for opening old files or for using the T-Ring or Tracing Hardware.

Ready to get started? Give us a call at 800.872.2373800.872.2373800.872.237 today!


OMEGA System Requirements
CPU: Core i7, 3rd Generation
Data Storage, Hard Drive Capacity, and/or Optical Drive: 500 GB 7200RPM hard disk, DVD-RW/CD-RW drive
Connectivity or Ports: 4 USB 2.0, 100Mbps LAN (RJ45)
Wireless: 802.11g
Video: NVIDIA Graphics Card (Core Speed: minimum 850MHz; Memory Speed: minimum 1800MHz; Memory: minimum 2048MB)
Operating System: Windows 7 (64-bit) or Windows 8 (64-bit)

Summer Fun at Camp

April 14th, 2014 by WillowWood

The Amputee Coalition’s Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp is a five-day traditional summer camp experience for children ages 10-17 who have lost arms and/or legs or who were born with limb differences. The camp offers challenging activities that build campers’ confidence regardless of skill level and takes place at Camp JOY in Clarksville, Ohio.

Last year was my first year as camp coordinator and it was an amazing five days. The night before the campers arrived, a counselor told me that “what happens at camp stays with you forever.” She was right.

I watched as 87 campers tackled the ropes course and rock wall, went fishing, canoeing, enjoyed creative arts, played hours of “ga-ga,” had an incredible carnival night (hosted by about 50 WillowWood volunteers), and danced the night away. Simply put, we had an absolute blast!

While camp was certainly full of fun, I quickly learned that the Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp is also a very important camp. And thanks to wonderful camp sponsors like WillowWood, this camp changes lives. Campers inspired each other toward greater self-confidence, challenged each other to try new things, and shared common experiences with others that have faced similar situations. For some kids, this camp is the first or only place they are able to interact with other youth with limb loss. They leave camp with a support system of peers, with renewed confidence and friendships that last a lifetime.

We are currently gearing up for our 15th annual Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp in July and we are hoping to bring over 100 campers from across the country. This will be our largest camp ever. When I’m tempted to get lost in the administrative details and logistics, I simply look back at one of countless notes from campers and parents and am reminded of the big picture:

“My son’s life changed the moment we walked into the cafeteria filled with other campers.  I saw a look of hope on his face that I had never seen in my life. There in a room filled with complete strangers, Sawyer was more comfortable than anywhere this life has taken him. Here, for the first time in his life, he was like everyone else.” – Laryssa

 I can’t wait to hear how Camp 2014 impacts the lives of even more children and more families. It’s going to be another wonderful year.

Jessie Cantrell
Amputee Coalition
Youth Camp Coordinator

With the help of sponsors and donations, the Amputee Coalition covers all expenses, including travel, for every camper. For more information or to learn how you can be involved, please contact the Amputee Coalition: www.amputee-coalition.org/camp.

Happy Campers

Campers experience all the typical summer camp fun but also establish strong peer bonds.


Game of basketball

The Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp may be the first time some campers get to hang out with kids just like themselves.

On the ropes

Two ropes courses allow campers to push themselves to new heights of accomplishment!

Developing a Master’s of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics to Tackle the New and Ever-Changing Healthcare Environment

January 14th, 2014 by WillowWood

This month’s guest blogger, W. Lee Childers PhD MSPO CP from the Department of Prosthetics and Orthotics at Alabama State University, writes about the challenge of establishing a Master’s program in P&O.

Today’s healthcare environment is more comprehensive, complex and dynamic than ever before.  We are treating more complicated patients with ever tightening budgets. Third-party payers are forsaking for evidence demonstrating prosthetic and orthotic treatment effectiveness. No longer is our practice domain a “simple limb or brace maker” but is instead that of allied health care professional, multi-disciplinary team member and patient manager. Treatment technologies (much like our profession as a whole) are evolving rapidly. Take prosthetic foot technology, for example; we had the SACH foot for a very long time, then the advent of the Carbon Copy 2® and Flexfoot© brought with it a rapid growth in design.  Now most prosthetic feet (even some K2 feet) are made of a carbon composite and we are experiencing another shift toward microprocessor control. Therefore, P&O practice and professional education, much like technology, must evolve to meet the needs of this complex and dynamic healthcare environment.

Studying only the fundamental concepts and fabrication processes of P&O will not prepare future practitioners for today’s (much less tomorrow’s) healthcare environment. Practitioners entering our profession need the skills to document their patient encounters; understand how to manage a practice, provide measurable outcomes to third-party payers to justify prosthetic and orthotic care, use and understand P&O research to combat RAC audits, generate a larger body of knowledge to pro-actively demonstrate “comparable effectiveness” (one of many new buzz words in the Affordable Care Act), understand our patients’ complex pathologies, understand how to manage and assist patients throughout their care, integrate and collaborate with other rehabilitation professionals (PT, OT, rehab counseling, etc.), utilize the plethora of different technologies to optimize care, and actually fabricate these devices. The list goes on and on….

Take a minute to think of all the changes you’ve experienced in your long career. Now think about learning enough of that to enter the profession as a resident and contend with the healthcare landscape.

Healthcare delivery is changing, therefore, we must change practitioner education to best prepare them to contend with these changes. Moving the profession toward a Master’s of science in Prosthetics and Orthotics enables educational institutions flexibility to offer courses beyond fabrication and traditional P&O designs to include courses on documentation, practice management, interdisciplinary collaboration across the healthcare team, psychosocial aspects of disability, understanding and interpreting research, and advanced technologies. Universities offering this necessary coursework will enable development of true prosthetists/orthotists; serving our patients and enabling them the best care. A Master’s program enables our profession to embrace its rich history while preparing for its future.

Starting a new Master’s level P&O program is anything but easy. P&O education is unlike any other type of master’s education. It is a professional education incorporating many facets, e.g. fabrication experience, textbook, labs, patient models, and clinical exposure. P&O education is extraordinarily expensive to maintain. As you see your material costs go up, so do the material costs for educators.  Except, the student projects are not delivered, i.e. material costs are not recuperated.  They are fabricated, fitted, and then, hopefully, recycled. A P&O school needs additional space, i.e. additional capital expense, to house a fabrication lab. Our program at Alabama State University (ASU) just finished renovation of an 8000 sqft fabrication facility and built a 1200 sqft biomechanics laboratory dedicated to P&O research. In fact, P&O program start up costs exceed several million dollars before one student starts paying tuition.

Master’s level students now come from a wide range of backgrounds and, although this ultimately benefits the profession, educating these diverse skillsets in a consistent manner poses a challenge. Yet this inevitably provides an opportunity to better integrate future practitioners into the current healthcare environment. The MSPO program at ASU facilitates this by integrating the students with its other programs in PT, OT, rehabilitation counseling, and health information management to offer a more complete instructional spectrum consistent with the needs of today’s healthcare. This interdisciplinary approach enables additional instruction while allowing the P&O faculty to focus on developing student fabrication and clinical skills. In summary, the advancement toward a Master’s of Science degree will elevate and enable our profession to meet the dynamics of today’s healthcare environment while staying true to our heritage of hand fabrication.