Taking Nothing For Granted
May 24, 2013
Most of us would never give a second thought to the fact that our legs would simply continue to grow as we grew and that we’d always have full use of them throughout our lifetime. Since they worked so well, we’d rarely consider what might happen if we indeed had a problem with one or both of them.
But what would happen if your life was inhibited because one of them didn’t function to full capacity? What would happen if your one leg needed to be periodically upgraded, similar to computer hardware, as you got older?
Well that’s precisely the challenge Tommy Scheffer of Deltona, Fla. (pictured right) faces each day.
Tommy was born with a disformity which caused his right leg to be shorter, resulting in the amputation of his leg. Tommy has courageously made the very best of a difficult situation. While this challenge may have defeated other children, it, instead, focused Tommy and he decided that he would play the sport he loved – baseball.
Now to many, the thought of playing baseball when you cannot run well seems quite futile. But Tommy did join the local team and has become an excellent hitter. And while he cannot run the bases at top speed, he still enjoys the sport. Yet to accomplish his dream of running the bases similar to other athletes, Tommy would need a new prosthetic leg and foot.
While attending one of Tommy’s baseball games with her son, who wanted to cheer Tommy on, Serena Harrison of Deltona, Fla. became aware of Tommy and his challenges. She took a special interest in Tommy’s needs and after careful consideration and conversations with Tommy’s mother, Mandy, Harrison decided, in the fall of 2011, to develop The Tommy Fund, a non-profit foundation which raised funds specifically to acquire a new leg and foot for Tommy at this time in his life.
As a child grows, a new prosthetic device is necessary and in addition to custom fabrication, fitting and revising. A new limb can cost tens of thousands of dollars for the device itself and all the necessary medical bills. As a person grows and/or their body changes (weight gain/loss, activity level changes, etc.), they will have to start the process all over again.
From afar, Dr. Michele Skelton, Associate Professor, Department of Integrative Health Science at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., (pictured, center) marveled at Harrison’s time, effort and personal expense to begin this fund. Harrison and Skelton’s children attended the same school and played in the steel drum band together.
With a passion to raise enough money for Tommy, Harrison held fundraisers around town, for what would be known as The Tommy Fund, including music performed by the members of the children’s steel drum band, called The Panheads, in Artisan Alley in DeLand.
Through further conversations, Dr. Skelton decided to contact one of her former students, Rachel Friddle of Honea Path, S.C. (pictured left, taking measurements for Tommy’s prosthetic leg), who received her 2004 degree in Integrative Health Science at Stetson University. Rachel later completed a certificate post graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medical School of Chicago in Orthotics and Prosthetics in 2005.
Upon graduation, Friddle completed her residencies and worked in a private practice in Nashville, Tenn. for five years. She later joined her family’s business, Friddle Orthopedic Appliances, which was started by her great grandfather at Shriner’s Hospital in Greenville, So. Carolina. Now run by her father, a small part of the company is dedicated to central fabrication, which makes orthotics (braces) and prosthetics (artificial limbs).
“Rachel was amazing. When I first met her, she was self-motivated, knew what field she wanted to study and quickly espoused Stetson’s desire for students to become advocates and community leaders,” said Dr. Skelton of Friddle’s generosity and leadership in helping Tommy.
Through her contacts in the industry, Friddle reached out to Chris Doerger, PT, CP, and clinical educator for Ossur Manufacturing in Orlando, which donated a foot for Tommy. And once all the donations were acquired, Friddle, Doerger, Skelton, Harrison and Tommy all converged in Skelton’s office at Stetson University to measure Tommy for his new leg and foot.
With Friddle’s work to design and donate the perfect fabrication for the socket design (the portion of the leg that fits on Tommy around his knee and up his thigh), the help of Doerger with choosing the appropriate running foot, and the team at Hanger, Inc., who help Tommy with continual follow ups and adjustments, Tommy is now testing his new limb to insure its proper fitting.
Since each new socket is custom and intimately designed for each patient, a trial period is needed to see if any sores will build or skin breakdown will occur and, if so, adjustments are needed.
But ultimately, Tommy’s goal of effectively running the bases may not be too far off. While he still has more physical therapy to increase the strength of his hips, he and his family are grateful for the generosity of so many people to make his dream come true. Tommy believes he will reach home plate in the not-too-distant future.
By Mary M. McCambridge