In early October, Rachel Smith’s Kinesiology and Recreation 253 class Therapeutic Recreation Techniques had a special guest come in to speak with them regarding a unique topic: orthotics and prosthetics (O&P). Emily Power is an Illinois State University alum who graduated in 2015 with a degree in therapeutic recreation. After graduation, she went on to pursue her master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics from Northwestern University. She is currently an orthotic resident at Hanger Clinic. Fun fact: Hanger Clinic was the motivation behind the movie Dolphin Tale and created the prosthetic fin for Winter, the dolphin seen in the movie!
Current therapeutic recreation senior Danielle Krizman shares important lessons from this class:
What started Emily’s presentation off so strongly, catching the attention of the audience, was not necessarily the bionic hand, or the prosthetic finger sitting on the table in front of us, but rather her story about how she got into this specific field in the first place. The majority of students who select therapeutic recreation (TR) as their major have some sort of real-life experience with people with disabilities. As students in the TR field, we rely on those real-life, hands-on experiences in order to be successful in our major, and therefore hearing Emily’s own personal story immediately hooked us and reeled us all the way in, until the very end of her presentation.
Emily chose the field of O&P because she grew up with a close friend who had myelomeningocele; also known as spina bifida. This is what ultimately led her to the field of TR, and then onto the field of orthotics and prosthetics when one day she thought, “why don’t I make her braces myself?” Emily went on to share her favorite quote, one she holds close throughout all the ups and downs, good days and bad days: Patients are always better leaving than when they walk in the door. I couldn’t agree more! I know that I wasn’t the only one in the room during that moment nodding my head and agreeing wholeheartedly with Emily’s words because that is why I, along with many others I know, chose the path of TR. To help others, and to help them in a way no one else can. To increase their life satisfaction and help find their joy, happiness, and independence again.
This is just one way that the fields of O&P and TR relate to one another. It will not be uncommon that the individuals we will see as recreational therapists, could possibly use these kinds of orthoses and prostheses. I think therefore Emily’s presentation was so beneficial to us in such a surprising way. Not only did we learn about all the different types of orthoses and prostheses and how they work and are made, but we learned about how TR is used in O&P, along with an extremely exciting new invention out on the market called BILLY shoes.
You’re probably thinking, “what exactly are orthotics and prosthetics in the first place?” Well, prostheses are artificial limbs—they replace a limb once it is lost. On the other hand, orthoses help alleviate pain, prevent contractures, optimize an individual’s gait, and allow for more independent activities of daily living (ADLs). Therapeutic recreation is used in orthotics and prosthetics by incorporating patient education, adaptive devices, community resources, community integration, and more. If it weren’t for the field of O&P, then we wouldn’t have such amazing adaptive devices as we do today. For example, the level spoon allows individuals with Parkinson’s Disease to feed themselves independently, and individuals with specific disabilities who cannot hold ski poles or basketballs, to do so. Along with adaptive devices to assist in independently using an iPad, or to go fishing.
As for these BILLY shoes? Once you do your research, I think we will all be sporting a new pair of BILLY shoes in the future. I mention these because this is such an essential universal design for something so critical to everyday life. Whether an individual has a disability or not, these shoes possess a universal design that works for and appeals to everyone. They satisfy but are not restrained to the adaptive market. Check them out for yourself! You might be like me, and immediately think of someone you know that would greatly benefit from a pair of these! Emily’s presentation was informational, beneficial, and overall motivational. You never know what you might learn, benefit from, and take with you on your future endeavors from a surprise guest speaker who comes into your class. Thank you, Emily, for your extremely knowledgeable information and eye-opening presentation on the field of O&P, and for reminding us why we have chosen a career in helping others in the first place.