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Paul was a full time assistant baker and head cake decorator in 2002. The hours were early — he remembers the alarm clock going off at 3am and thinking, is this what I want to do with my life?
In the summer of 2002, I met Bob Jensen and he hired me as an orthotic technician. The work was part time at first – after I finished my day at the bakery I would drive to Laurence Orthopedic and begin my shift modifying and fabricating custom arch supports. My background in art made this a pretty natural transition for me, and I found the job challenging but fun. After a few months, I was hired full time as an orthotic and prosthetic technician and left my job at the bakery.
I would study foot anatomy books and ask questions about everything. I really wanted to understand why I was doing what I was doing, what function did this modification serve? How does this affect how the foot orthotic feels on the patient’s foot?
I was constantly learning something new and developing my own techniques for fabricating devices. Our fabrication was pretty efficient in those days but I still thought we could to better, I created a workflow board and job tracking to get the lab more organized. With fabricating knowledge, I started shadowing the clinicians at Laurence helping with patient care. I found this was what I truly loved to do. I took a certified fitter course, took my board certification exam and became a certified orthotic fitter.
I continued to fabricate as well as see patients. Most of my time was spent seeing patients and overseeing fabrication as the lab supervisor. I still wanted more so I went back to college. Nights and weekends were spent going to class and falling asleep with books. I then went on to take my boards in 2008 to become a Certified Orthotic Assistant to further my patient care scope of practice.
At this point my focus was almost all on patient care, casting, fitting and follow up of my patients, going to clinics and assisting in the formulation of design for the devices I was providing. I was seeing a lot of people with ankle and foot dis-function — it is something that is complex and challenging. It is satisfying to me if I can help someone regain a function or reduce some pain with their daily activities.
In 2017 I took my board certification and became a Certified Pedorthist. I still like to fabricate but my heart is for helping people by making a small difference in someone’s life and seeing how it affects them is what drives me. I have patients that were once active; hikers, runners and even some marathon runners they have come in, now dragging their foot as they walk, hoping that anything will help. I talk to them about their goals, “What do you want this brace to do for you?” most of the time the answer is walk without stumbling. Some of those people have returned to their active lifestyle, as much as they tell me I’ve helped them it’s gratifying for me to see how much it helps them.
I look forward to working tougher cases in ankle and foot orthotics. I love to teach people what I know, so ultimately having a bigger team to teach and learn from is what I look forward to over the next few years.
Laurence Orthopedic was established by Matt Laurence in 1946 and has been providing prosthetic and orthotic patient care services to the Oakland and the East Bay communities for over 70 years.
Laurence Orthopedic specializes in orthotic treatment for scoliosis and clubfoot and state-of-the-art prosthetic services for veterans with limb loss.
My name is George Villarruel, Director of Prosthetics at Collier-Laurence Orthotics and Prosthetics. I want to speak about the additions-acquisition of Laurence Orthotics and Prosthetics into the Collier Family. This will allow us to service new accounts and to spread our philosophy of compassion and service to the orthotics and prosthetics communities. We feel we can provide excellent service to the pediatric and adult populations in need of an orthotic or prosthetic device.
Practitioner Ray Diaz recently cared for Mr. Harrell, a 50-year-old diabetic. He presented with a very unstable gait and had been previously diagnosed with left foot drop secondary to a stroke and leaving him with left side paralysis. Mr. Harrell would his arms for balance while ambulating, and had experienced a number of falls.
Ray fabricated a left double upright Ankle Foot Orthosis with extra depth shoes and custom accommodative inserts for Mr. Harrell. The AFO is used to control the instability in his lower limb by maintaining proper alignment and controlling motion and drop foot. The double upright AFO will be attached to the diabetic shoe which allows for edema and protects the diabetic foot from any shear forces. His chronic diabetic neuropathic condition requires extra depth shoes and custom diabetic inserts to accommodate his deformed feet. The AFO will also protect his de-sensitized feet from repetitive stress and irritation – something his current shoes were not providing.
Mr. Harrell has been wearing the double upright AFO for a few weeks now and it has boosted his confidence. He has been very satisfied with the progress he has made toward resuming his normal walking routine.
Harmony was born as a congenital right trans radial amputee. Now that she was getting older, her parents wanted to give her an opportunity for bi manual function.
Over about 5 visits, George has been working with Harmony for fittings and preparing her for some of the challenges when adapting to a prosthesis. In fact, George thought it could be helpful to Harmony and her parents to speak with someone who has lived as an amputee since birth. Laura Kendall, a long-time congenital left trans radial patient, came to the office to meet the family. Harmony’s parents were thrilled to connect with someone who really understood their daughter’s challenges – and Laura had such a happy, positive attitude that reinforces with Harmony that life is not about what you don’t have, it is about what you can achieve.
Harmony is eager and excited to use her new prosthesis when it is finished in the next week. You can learn more about Laura’s story here.
George Villarruel has trained our team in all aspects of care for young patients and their families. His psychology background helps him understand patient care and help our patients heal on the outside and the inside. If you have a question you can contact George here.
Colin needed to be fit for his first prosthesis. His long-term treatment plan was developed with his team of caregivers and his mom. Colin was treated by George Villarruel, one of our pediatric and upper extremity prosthetic specialist practitioners. He customized the prosthesis and educated Colin and his mom over a period of about a year during treatment.
Colin’s Mom was with him every step of the way and she deserves a lot of credit for her positive outlook and supportive encouragement. Over the many visits and with a lot of hard work, Colin is now successfully doing more activities with his new arm prosthesis and is not letting anything hold him back.
With the support of his family, and a prosthetic device from Collier O and P, Colin is ready to tackle his next goal.
Our lead prosthetist spent many years with Shriners Hospitals for Children. The volume of patients seen in this inpatient setting established him as a specialist in upper and lower extremity prosthetic care for children and their growing needs. Our philosophy is that we want to treat the family first, and then the patient will have the understanding and guidance they need to be self-reliant.
Millions around the world live everyday with the pain caused by congenital birth defects and accidents. In the poverty-stricken countries where many of these children live, public healthcare is lacking and families are too poor to address illness or injury as it arises, and they have given thousands of patients the opportunity for a better life.
Generous donors and volunteers are key in helping us change their lives for the better. Last year, Operation Rainbow performed more than 460 free surgeries and treated more than 6,500 other patients for orthopedic and other medical conditions not requiring surgery. The Operation Rainbow team completed 11 medical missions to communities in Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti and the West Bank. Part of their mission is to educate local health professionals to encourage medical self-sufficiency.
All team members are volunteers who participate without compensation on their own time. Without the generous donation of supplies from vendors and assistance from friends and family they couldn’t do this work. And there is so much work to do.
You can help educate others about Operation Rainbow by sharing this message, donating or volunteering.
Jon Boone works at Roseville Kaiser orthopedic department as The Senior Orthopedic Technician. He has referred patients to Collier for many years and we have donated orthopedic bracing supplies to the Operation Rainbow since 2009.
“Other than my first mission that was ‘eye opening ‘, the most memorable was our mission to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010. Many children had lost everything… their homes and families and still they would sing songs and help each other as they recovered from injuries. Being able to take my skills and apply it helping those less fortunate makes all the time and expense worthwhile,” says Boone.
Jon’s first mission was to Ecuador in 2009. Since then, he has made 16 missions to Ecuador, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Mexico. His next mission is to Honduras.
After being in a wheelchair for almost 5 years, Sandra wants to walk without any assistive devices or orthoses. Sandra’s biggest challenge has been to overcome her unstable gait due to a spinal cord injury. She has been working with Brian Lee for the last 6 months to learn and adapt to her new device.
Collier Solution: By applying the reciprocating gait orthosis, Brian was able to give Sandra the stability to stand and transfer the strength and momentum of her upper body to her legs. She can now ambulate and feels the sensation of lower extremity muscle contraction. She is very hopeful to continue to progress toward independent ambulation.
As you can see by the video, Sandra Thomas is determined and knows it will not be easy – our reward is to see how excited and grateful she is to receive this device that will help her toward her goal.
Are you interested in learning more about RGO development? Ask a Collier Practitioner below, or call us for a consultation.
Sophia’s mother was concerned that Sophia always slouched severely and seemed to be in pain. She also always looked down, and could not make eye contact with those around her.
Practitioner Brian Lee cast Sophia sitting upright to maintain lumbar and kyphotic curves in the ideal position, and with appropriate scapular adduction and shoulder retraction. Secondarily, the goal was to maintain her cervical spine in extension.
Over the last 6 months, Mom has reported that Sophia seems happier, and is able to look up and see the world around her and, most importantly, make eye contact.
Troy is a spinal cord injury survivor and Founder/ CEO of SCI Active Network – a community for spinal cord injury survivors. They welcome survivors AND their families to join and participate so they can network, learn and be supportive of their loved one – and their loved one can connect to those with similar life challenges.
SCI Active Network
P.O. Box 3434
Vallejo, CA 94590