February 3, 2004 > Fremont Artificial Limb & Brace
Fremont Artificial Limb & Brace
The unassuming office hides rooms of surprises. Although most come at the request of their physician and are primarily interested in regaining mobility, the process and care by which their goals are achieved is the result of much thought, fabrication techniques and, at times, a bit of good old-fashioned ingenuity. The waiting room, fitting rooms, office and exercise room are just the tip of the iceberg at Fremont Artificial Limb & Brace. Amputees are fitted with light weight limbs and those in need of structural stability for limbs that need assistance are fitted with appliances that make movement possible. This is a place of magic, a castle where mobility is recovered and solutions to painful and dangerous physical limitations are conquered.
Ken Rasmussen is the master magician who can help people regain lost legs, feet and arms. He comes from a family that has been associated with this work for many years. "My father worked as an "orthodist" in this field and my grandfather was an 'AK' (above knee) amputee." He says, "What God gives you is a very special piece of equipment. I can only give you second best." But second best has become much better over the past 30 years. Ken displays a leg prosthesis manufactured many years ago - it is heavy and unwieldy. It doesn't take much imagination to empathize with someone who used such a device lifting and dragging a considerable amount of weight. With a smile, Ken now easily lifts a recent manufacture of the same item and it weighs ounces rather than pounds!
The advances in manufacture are incredible. People, who in the past, were saddled with heavy, uncomfortable appliances, can now move easily and comfortably. Of course, losing a limb is not an easy thing for anyone and Ken and his staff are extremely sensitive to their client's situations, but they hold hope and know that many limitations can be overcome. Swimming and physical activity are possible and Ken knows they can find the right fit because the magic of creation happens in his own facility.
Moving beyond the front rooms, rolls of materials, ovens and shaping instruments compete for space. It is in these areas that the idea and impressions of what needs to be created comes to life! Ken can have confidence in his creations because they are made in his own shop. If something needs to be adjusted, he can do it. If a situation calls for some creativity, this is not an office where something must be sent back to another location for advice and adjustment, it is all right here!
Ken shows a device he created for someone who has trouble lifting their toes as they walk. This can be dangerous since tripping is always a possibility and a conscious effort must be made to either swing the foot away from the body or lift the leg high enough to avoid scraping toes on the ground. The solution is a lightweight brace that allows a movement down with the foot when required, but then springs back keeping the toes away from the ground when walking. These solutions come direct from Fremont Artificial Limb & Brace.
Ken has been working his magic for the past twenty-five years. He has seen progress in his field that is amazing. Joint movements have now been duplicated and braces, orthotics to support weakened joints and muscles, and artificial limbs have become stronger, yet lighter. There are now competitive athletes in many sports using artificial limbs. Ken says that when people who have lost a limb come to him, he can assure them that "This isn't the end. You will be back up and about again." If someone is having a hard time, "we can put them in touch with support groups and others who have had similar problems."
The challenge of building and fitting an artificial limb such as a leg is that weight that used to be distributed through the body must now be supported outside of it. To fit a device that will handle the load and the dynamics of walking in comfort throughout the day is not a guessing game. Ken says every case is different and each limb must be created individually. Mass production is not an option and success for his clients is dependent upon his knowledge of the field and expertise as a craftsman. To do his job, Ken must be a master clinician and master craftsman too.
Ken manufactures both protheses (replaces something that is gone) and orthoses (worn on the outside of the body to help it function) by prescription from medical practitioners. Clients are given individual care including an evaluation, casting, a test of the device fit and finally fitting and practice using parallel bars for balance and, for first time users of a prothesis, physical therapy to help adjust to the new limb. Fremont Artificial Limb & Brace is always available for adjustments as necessary.
"Although this is a 'white coat' field, I get to work with my hands too," says Ken. Walking with him through the back rooms, he points to various devices to stabilize ankles, assist walking, control pain, replace limbs and "everything in between." Call it magic, science or mystery, this is the place where dreams of walking, running and swimming can come true.
Kenneth Rasmussen, C.PED., BOC-O.P.
Fremont Artificial Limb & Brace
1999 Mowry Ave., Suite J, Fremont