As you might know, if you’re a loyal follower of GeekMom, I’ve been sharing with you the new options that are becoming available for making unique prosthetic leg covers. In my series I’ve shown you several companies that use 3D printers to make fairings, hard plastic covers that click on over the top of an existing leg socket.
As I was sharing one of my earlier posts on social media, I crossed paths with a guy who is making a different type of prosthetic leg cover, and even more than that, he’s making a cover for an AFO brace.
If you’re not familiar with the world of leg braces, an AFO (ankle foot orhthotic) is a white brace that is worn by people who have atrophy or weakness in their calf and/or ankle. Most people who struggle with a drop foot (difficulty lifting the front part of your foot, leading to frequent tripping) wear an AFO brace.
I’m very familiar with AFO braces. For most of my life I had a very weak left foot and ankle, which were complications from a birth defect. By the time I was in my third pregnancy, my leg was worn out and weak. My orthopedic doctor prescribed me an AFO brace and the support it gave me was very helpful as I tried to keep up with our house full of toddlers.
But I hated the look. And I hated how it rubbed rashes and sores on the front of my leg, where it hooked on. Eventually my foot wore out and I happily traded it in for a prosthetic foot. I’ve had no regrets in the ten years I’ve been an amputee but I’ve not forgotten the struggles of living with an AFO brace.
This is why I was so excited to see what a guy named James Devito is doing. Devito had a traumatic medical injury that left him with severe atrophy in his calves and a drop foot that required AFO braces. Like me, he hated how they looked and hated how they irritated his leg. He’s a young guy, and very athletic, so he wasn’t ready to give up just yet. After designing and redesigning, he eventually created the Freedom Cover.
Devito’s design includes a chute in the back of the cover, that cushions the plastic part of the brace, eliminating the rubbing and chafing. For people with atrophy, he has foam inserts that fill out the shape of a leg. This means that when he’s wearing his Freedom Cover, it looks like he’s just wearing tall socks. There is no hint of leg braces or disability. It changed the way Devito saw himself.
On this blog I’ve written about the psychological aspect of making prosthetic legs the shape of sound legs, so there is less contrast between an amputee’s limbs. Devito’s design does the same thing. When both of your calf muscles look the same, there’s no reason for a second glance from a stranger on the street.
With his new covers James rediscovered his life. He walked around all day forgetting he was wearing leg braces. He ran around with his nephews and nieces and once again took long walks with his dog. He not only fit in, visually, when he was in public, he was no longer in pain from plastic leg braces rubbing his leg with every step.
At first he designed the cover for himself. He gained so much confidence while wearing his Freedom Covers that he started to wonder how he could help others. One day at a convention he noticed a guy sitting to the side who seemed to have an oddly shaped calf muscle. With a closer look he realized the guy was an amputee who had stuffed a long tube sock to try to fill out the look of his leg. Devito introduced himself, then proceeded to unzip his freedom cover off his own leg, and zip it over the top of the amputee’s metal leg.
The guy was thrilled with the look and Devito realized his product could help more than just people with AFO braces. For amputees who wanted to blend in a bit more in a crowd, having a zip on way to fill out their thinner leg was the perfect answer. And having a padded cover to protect expensive prosthetic hardware was a bonus.
Devito’s product comes in several colors, including flesh color. It’s easy to zip on and zip off. It never interferes with the function of the AFO brace, and in fact offers even more support for a weak leg, without adding more bracing. It allows people who need braces to get around without feeling disabled.
Last week Devito found another great use for his Freedom Cover. Fransonet Martinez, a young boxer, who is recovering from a car crash that took most of his left leg, is using the cover in the boxing ring, to make his metal leg safer for his opponents. See Martinez’s story here.
Then check out this link for a great video of how Devito’s Freedom Cover works and to see it in action on a real person. It’s an exciting new product in the world of prosthetics and orthotics and I’m happy to be able to share it with you.