Since Cocco Enterprises’ new bionics division opened in March, patients are learning that simply functioning isn’t good enough.
“They just figured that the prosthesis that they had, that was their limitation,” clinical director Mike Meramo said. “And now we’re trying to tell them, ‘That’s not your limitation. You can do this now.’”
Until recently, the goal of fitting patients with prosthetics was to give them the ability to carry out necessary, daily functions like walking, getting into a car or shopping. But Meramo said the bionics division has changed patients’ ability to function in their environment to the ability to excel in it.
New technology has raised the bar of what prosthesis options amputees have based on their specific needs. At Cocco Enterprises, Meramo works with patients to determine the exact type of prosthesis will best fit their bodies and the types of activities they plan to do.
At age 70, and just three weeks after receiving his prosthesis, Richard Perry walked a lap in physical therapy, assisted only by a cane.
He’s already learned many of the ways his microprocessor knee has been a benefit to him. Inside his prosthesis is actually a computer that can literally learn the way Perry walks and adjust accordingly. The battery-operated knee also has a remote control, which Perry can use to change the resistance, for example, if he were walking up a ramp or riding a bike.
The microprocessor can even perform functions for the patient, like extending the leg instead of the patient using his own muscles to do so. It also keeps a log of all its wearer’s activity, which Meramo can access to monitor progress.
One of the key elements is a feature that keeps its wearer feeling confident.
“It creates a safety feature for the patient,” Meramo said. “One of the major fears of a patient is falling. So with this new technology now, it senses when he’s going to fall, and it automatically increases the resistance 100 times to prevent him from falling.”
The technology has come a long way even in recent years, as research has advanced materials and the technology through computers. Once futuristic ideas about what’s possible slowly become a reality as each advancement is streamlined and modified.
“When you look at Star Wars and they have all these electronic hands and all that, well someone comes up (with an idea) and says, ‘We can do that now,’” Meramo said.
After nearly 24 years of wearing a lower leg prosthesis, Mike Pylypiak is moving faster than ever — he’s running.
Pylypiak lost the lower half of his leg after a motorcycle accident in 1988, and has used a prosthesis ever since. When he came to Meramo to discuss a new type of prosthesis this year, one of his requirements is he wanted to be able to run again.
His prosthesis, a vacuum suction socket with a vertical shock flex foot, was designed to absorb the shock of running by allowing it to compress down when he takes a step.
After 14 years of marriage, Pylypiak said his family is finally able to see him do things he never could before — things as simple as walking the boardwalk in the summer with his kids, running and walking in the evenings.
The industry is constantly changing, Meramo said, but advances in prosthetics are continuing to change everyday lives.
Cocco Enterprises is located at 1255 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road in Hamilton. Phone: (609)581-5250. On the Web: cocco-ent.com.