Being Cautious With News Stories About Prosthetics

Education GeekMom
My adorable friend Jordan, and her helper arm. Photo: Born Just Right
My adorable friend Jordan, and her helper arm. Photo: Born Just Right

There has been a lot of news lately about prosthetics. I wrote a compilation post for GeekMom just a few days ago. As an amputee myself, I receive many links about prosthetics from friends and family. Add to that the fact I’m a part of many online amputee groups, and it’s amazing to watch the lifespan of a well written story about some new advancement.

The part that worries me is the perception by the able bodied world.

When media outlets decide to jump on a story, they want it to be the most interesting, awe-inspiring story they can find. If it includes new technology or 3D printers, it’s almost a guaranteed hit. Throw in a cute kid who’s trying out his new hand or lightning fast running foot and you’ve got pure gold.

This leads the general public to think these options are suddenly out there, available to every amputee, and desired by every amputee. That’s not necessarily the case.

Most of the new designs are cost prohibitive. If you read the fine print, many of those new advancements cost more than your last house. The government is working on a lot of new designs, to help veterans who lost limbs in the battlefield. But even the government can’t afford to outfit every deserving amputee with the newest advancements.

And sometimes the new designs aren’t as practical as you might think. This is especially true when it comes to arm and hand prosthetics. I have a friend whose daughter was born with just one hand. Her website is cleverly titled Born Just Right. Jordan, her daughter, is active, not just at school and in sports, but in raising money so other kids with challenges can attend camp. They are an active, involved, compassionate family who lead by their amazing example.

It's Jordan for the steal! Photo: Born Just Right
It’s Jordan for the steal! Photo: Born Just Right

This week, after yet another inspiring story rose to the top of the news feeds, my friend sat down and wrote a thought provoking post. She put into words what I had wondered all along–how much do these exciting new advancements mean to her daughter? What role do they play in her real life, the one where she lives her life pretty much like every other little girl in her elementary school class?

You can read the whole post here (And please do click on the link. I promise you’ll see amputee kids in a new way).

The crux of her post comes down to this quote: “Prosthetics aren’t a solution. Prosthetics aren’t a ‘fix.’ Prosthetics are a tool that can be helpful at times.”

I think my friend would agree that we are all in favor of new ideas, new inventions, and new technology. Every new development paves the road for amputees of the future. Even if it’s not available to the folks who would love to use them today, just figuring out the kinks will lead to products that are available to the average amputee in the future.

But if you’re an able bodied person, one of those freaks of nature who actually has four working limbs, be cautious as you read the next exciting news story concerning prosthetics. Appreciate the science involved in creating the specimen, and be in awe of the capabilities of each new creation. But be careful about making assumptions and having the attitude that the world of prosthetics is finally fixed, that every amputee can now relax, because help has arrived. There is more, so much more to the story.


Jordan's Lego castle  Photo: Born Just Right
Jordan’s Lego castle Photo: Born Just Right
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3 thoughts on “Being Cautious With News Stories About Prosthetics

  1. Thank you! I have this same problem with issues around hearing loss. It doesn’t help that all the videos of people “hearing for the first time after having their ears fixed with computer ears how incredible!” are trending.

  2. I read the article linked and the term “limb different” caught my attention. I hadn’t seen that term before and I found it interesting. Thanks for another great post!

  3. Two years late I know :). However, I bookmarked your article when I first read it, and came back to it again after two years as I am a Prosthetist and currently working on a short Medium article on properly framing why we do what we do (in short, Prosthetics as Tools, not Cures or Costumes). Wondering if I might have permission to use a few quotes from your article in it?

    Thanks, Jason

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