Engineering Prostheses for Specialized Populations

Engineering Prostheses for Specialized Populations

Specialized populations require special care, and this prosthetist sees it through.
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Michelle Hall, M.S., CPO, LPO, FAAOP(D), prosthetics team lead at Gillette Children's in St. Paul, Minnesota, went to school for biomedical engineering with the intention of attending medical school. However, an internship working with prostheses set her on a different path.

Collaborating to benefit kids' care

"We work with the patient and their family to optimize their care and daily function through use of custom orthoses (limb braces) and prostheses (artificial arms or legs). We are constantly adjusting pieces to grow with the child. Kids typically outgrow them annually. We want to ensure that these kids continue to grow as normally as possible and are able to do all the things that other kids do."

Prioritizing the backlog of needs

"Throughout the pandemic, care has been accessible at varying degrees. Although Gillette Children's remained open, many of our kids have complex medical conditions that placed them at greater risk of complications to COVID-19, so their families chose to postpone their care until they felt it was safer. This meant that many of our kids outgrew their custom devices and were desperately in need of new ones. We've done our best to address each kid's needs as quickly and efficiently as possible, but our clinicians have felt that strain and pressure. It has taught all of us patience and grace."

Favorite part of the job

"As the team lead, I take on more complex cases. One patient, Ruth Evelyn, has been with me and our team since she was 2 years old. When she was 5, she wanted an upright bicycle. Working with her combined my engineering and biomechanical and clinical skills, but also my clinical skills. We had to combine safety parameters and techniques used for both orthoses and prostheses to make a custom prosthesis for steering the bicycle. Ruth's story gained traction nationally, leading a kid's family in Texas to reach out to my colleagues at Scottish Rite Children's Hospital and ask for a similar prosthesis. I shared my designs, and they successfully customized the design to that specific patient. It was awesome to be part of that collaboration."

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Written By:
Grant Heiman
Writer/Editor, Children's Hospital Association

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