Life Changing Loss

 

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the January 2018 Issue

life changing loss

Life Changing Loss

Joshua Hodgson was 12 when he decided to pursue a career in the prosthetics industry. It was an unusual choice, but his motivation was with him daily, or rather, not with him. Bone cancer took part of his a leg when he was a child.

Now, he’s been working full-time in the industry for eight years, but Hodgson has 27 years of experience wearing the same types of technology he’s helping other amputees to wear. He knows first- hand what it’s like to experience the muscle spasms, back pain and the constant soreness of alignment issues.

“I compare it to wearing old shoes,” Hodgson said. “Over time, shoes become uncomfortable and cause soreness and blisters. At the end of the day, you just want to take them off. We feel the same way about taking off our devices—except we really need them to do things, like get in the shower or go to the restroom.”

The good news is that the technology of artificial limbs and braces continues to improve, with better feet, knees and arms coming out all the time. Fortunately, Oklahoma is a strong leader in all aspects of the industry, from research to fabrication. A growing number of students in the U.S. and Canada begin their training at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, with a Prosthetics Technician degree.

“Going to Francis Tuttle was a huge asset to my career,” Hodgson said. “They gave me the vital fabrication training I needed, which accelerated me into a management position at a major prosthetics company within the first year.”

According to Joe Young, the director of the program at Francis Tuttle, the prosthetics career is still little-known, but its exclusivity has perks.

“Our students have good employment rates, a nice starting salary, and most remain in the industry for a long time,” Young said. “They use medical skills that are less about pathology and more about using tools and hand coordination. Art and carpentry students are usually very successful.”

Besides fabrication, students intern at clinical sites to learn more about patient care and fittings—a role that came easily to Hodgson, who could relate to amputees.

“Being an amputee isn’t just physical, it’s psychological,” Hodgson said. “It’s a lifelong journey to overcome obstacles, to adapt, and to understand that you can do a lot, but you can’t do everything like everyone else can.”

“Some people are bitter, especially if they lost their limb traumatically, but most of us are active and mobile and just want to be treated as ‘normal.’ In my case, my amputation saved my life, so I’m not bitter about it.”

To learn more visit francistuttle.edu.

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