Living a typical, active American life in Leeds, New York. The 37-year-old husband and father of one helped to support his family by working in construction and auto repair until August 14, 2010, when he suffered a spinal stroke that immediately impacted his legs and lower back.
He was hospitalized for eight days. While he regained some of his lost leg function during his stay, he had also sustained bilateral foot drop. Wanting to return to his previous activity level, Del turned to Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates (POA) in Kingston, New York, for help.
Jason Silke, CPO, started working with Del several months after he had begun his rehabilitation process. In his initial evaluation, Jason found that Del had been previously fitted with traditional ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) to help him ambulate. He also found that Del had adequate flexibility and range of motion in both legs, but his knees had very limited stability, flexion, and extension capabilities. Based on that assessment, Jason discussed a wide variety of orthotic options to assist Del with his daily activities. These possibilities ranged from carbon fiber AFOs to weight-activated KAFOs to custom-made, carbon fiber stance-control KAFOs.
However, Del wanted to recover more functionality than what he had attained with his current AFOs and a pair of canes he was now forced to use as walking aids. Additionally, using the canes and the basic orthotic devices were causing a great deal of wear and tear on his body.
“He was just way too young to settle for a life with limited mobility,” Jason says.
Del wanted more stability in his legs, to be able to shop with his wife, and most of all, to forgo the canes, enabling him to use his hands while shopping or simply while walking from one place to another. So he and Jason worked together to find a solution—which for Del turned out to be the Orthotronic Mobility System, commonly known as the C-Brace®. Developed by Germany-based manufacturer Ottobock, the C-Brace is an adaptation of Ottobock’s C-Leg, a proven microprocessorcontrolled system routinely used for patients with above-knee amputations. The C-Brace had been getting rave reviews from other patients suffering from limited mobility due to stroke, and Jason and Del agreed that it was the most appropriate device to help Del achieve his activity goals. However, the C-Brace had not yet been provided in the United States to a stroke victim with both legs affected. Del and Jason would need to prove that this new technology could work for a patient with Del’s condition. Both men were up to the challenge.
In the fall of 2012, Jason approached the clinical experts at Ottobock with the idea of partnering to modify the C-Brace technology to assist Del.
“Jason really went to bat for me with Ottobock to make this all happen,” Del says. “The entire group at POA is extremely focused on their patients. It has been amazing to see the lengths that they all go to help someone like me.” With Jason’s diligence and Del’s determination, the two were able to collaborate with Ottobock and make Del’s goal of improved mobility attainable.
In the spring of 2013, Del took his first steps with his two C-Brace devices. He now walks with a more natural gait and at a much more accelerated pace. Best of all, Del continued to work with his physical therapist and Jason through the summer, and he now walks routinely without either of his canes.
“The way that things worked out has been nothing short of amazing,” Del says. “I’m not really sure where I would be if I had not found an orthotist who would work so closely with me. Jason and the entire POA team have helped me to change my life.”