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September 19, 2017 Sophia Nesamoney

Future-focused: A Conversation with Three ReMotion Patients & Dr. Mukul

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Sanjay, Sophia, Subash, and Saddam in Jaipur, India at Dr. Pooja Mukul’s clinic.

Sophia Nesamoney is a junior at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, California. She is a published author and is passionate about global health and innovation. Sophia states, “I’m inspired by D-Rev because they have shown me that a prosthetic is not simply a crutch for a person to lean on. It’s a device that shapes a patient’s self-confidence, their interactions with others, and most importantly, their ability to achieve success and dispel stereotypes about the disabled community.” Below is a reflection from her trip.

“I am not disabled because I am now equal,” Saddam says with a determined smile. When he was only five years old, Saddam was struck by a truck while crossing the street. His body was trapped under the truck’s weight, crushing the bones and muscles in his right leg. “My leg was unsalvageable and had to be amputated. I thought I would be immobile for the rest of my life.” But thanks to quality prosthetic care, his lost limb does not prevent Saddam from achieving success and happiness.

When I met with Saddam, he introduced me to his best friends Sanjay and Subash. Like Saddam, they were also amputees using D-Rev’s ReMotion knee. As a tire-worker Subash had suffered an on-the-job accident: a pressurized air tank exploded on his body. Sanjay’s amputation saved him from bone cancer. What I observed was that despite the disease and trauma they had each endured, they all had something in common: admirable strength and humility. They possessed a certain confidence and thankfulness at simply being able to call themselves “equal” to others.

No law can change the mindset of people who wrinkle their faces when they see an amputee prosthetic. For amputees, sometimes the biggest challenge is not the physical pain that they must overcome, but rather the emotional pain of realizing their dependency. As their orthopedist, Dr. Pooja Mukul, said, “We must walk on two feet, for that is essentially what makes us human.” Losing mobility often means that an amputee can no longer support their family financially, pursue an education, or even transport themselves from one place to another without depending on someone else.

Because of the nature of their amputations, Dr. Mukul was able to oversee their fitting with the modern ReMotion knee.“Before using the ReMotion knee,” Dr. Mukul said, “they were using a metal rod that locks in place and does not even allow the amputee to sit down without unhinging the device.”

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Dr. Mukul displaying metal rod prosthetic prior to ReMotion.

I stared in surprise at the rod she showed me. It was a singular metal stick about an inch thick with a hinge about 3/4 of the way up, so that the user could fold the stick vertically when they wanted to sit down. In addition to being unrealistic for the diverse motions a human leg must make every day, the rod was neither visually appealing nor comfortable for patients. But the biggest flaw was that amputees could not wear shorts without burning with humiliation and pity as the eyes of their family, friends, and anyone who passed by looked at the rod. One of the biggest lessons I learned from Dr. Mukul is the importance of restoring the patient’s dignity. Without dignity, the amputee can never be equal to their counterparts because they won’t be held to the same standard as other humans.

To help their patients achieve equality to fully-abled humans, D-Rev used the human knee as a model to construct the ReMotion knee. In addition to looking much more like a human knee than the metal rod prosthetic, the ReMotion knee is a multi-axis knee. This means that it can bend at different points and can account for a greater range of diverse movements such as you would see in the human leg. Depending on the patient’s livelihood, the knee’s resistance to movement can be modified. This helps give the stability and safety that a manual laborer needs, while allowing the mobility a young and active amputee would want to pursue their social life.

Amputees who gain access to a prosthetic limb often use the mobility they’ve gained to help the greater community, and Saddam, Subash and Sanjay are no exception. One of the biggest challenges for an amputee is finding a job so that they can continue to support their family.

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Saddam, an amputee who was fit with ReMotion.

To solve this problem, Saddam, who has always aspired to be a social entrepreneur, has founded his own NGO, where he only employs people with physical and mental disabilities, to advocate for disabled rights. Saddam states that D-Rev’s ReMotion knee has led him to believe that, when given the right tools, someone with disabilities can be empowered to achieve their passions at an equal standard as someone who is fully-abled.

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Subash, looking towards the future.

Subash now leads his family’s business and even dreams of becoming an olympic athlete someday – a dream that once would have seemed unimaginable.

Sanjay, whose family’s sobs once filled his home after he was diagnosed with bone cancer, has now pursued an MA in political science and has become a successful stock broker with his first child on the way. Sanjay states he now lives his life optimistically and fearlessly. As someone who battled cancer and has still been able to return back to his normal lifestyle, Sanjay says he knows he can overcome ANY challenge that stands in his way.

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Sanjay, sharing his story to the group.

Before being fit with a ReMotion Knee, Sanjay, Subash, and Saddam’s identity of “disabled” dampened their dreams and rendered them as inferior to their fully-abled counterparts. However, when placed on equal footing, amputees can achieve anything that their fully-abled counterparts are able to accomplish. Equality between the disabled and fully-abled communities begins with restoring dignity to every patient and helping them realize their potential as future change makers of the world. With the support of rehabilitation doctors like Dr. Mukul, and the countless prosthetists, physiotherapists and other professionals who help amputees get back on their feet, patients like Sanjay, Subash, and Saddam will continue to achieve the impossible, break down barriers and stereotypes of disabled people, and inspire the next generation of amputees to become “unstoppable.”

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