Restore Orthotics and Prosthetics
By Richard DuPertuis
Enhancing Mobility & Improving
Story and Photos by Richard DuPertuis
The experts at Restore Orthotics and Prosthetics restore not only a missing arm or leg, but strive to raise the overall quality of life for amputees. They craft their patients’ replacement limbs themselves in a shop housed in their office, combining techniques of hand-sculpting and vacuum forming hot plastic. Once the prosthetic is finished, they lead each patient, often literally step by step, into a new life.
Today, Certified Prosthetist Mark O’Sullivan guides a new patient on such a journey. He sits on a stool at the end of a walking course marked by parallel bars about hip high. Steadied by those bars is Nick Twight of Weaverville, who carefully walks toward his prosthetist. With each step, both men check the function of his temporary leg.
Twight lost his right leg below the knee after a fall from atop a barn seven years ago. “It was about 60 feet tall,” he recalls. “I slid down the roof and fell 20, 25 feet.” He landed on his feet, resulting in a severe fracture. “I ended up with my fibula in my pinky,” he says.
Over the years, doctors tried to save his leg, but a deep-set bone infection plagued him. He finally he decided to let the leg go this year. O’Sullivan gauged his performance today as “pretty good, for a first-time walker right out the gate.”
O’Sullivan walked out that gate himself a while back. He lost his left leg more than 30 years ago in a traffic accident while hauling hay for his family’s ranch. “It was early morning, heavy fog. I was hit head-on by a dump truck. My leg was amputated at the scene.”
In another room at Restore, Certified Orthotist Jason Dunphy meets with a couple to discuss the need for a leg brace. On the wall behind him, a shelf displays a variety of supports and braces. After the session, Dunphy shows a plastic helmet, which he says is for infants.
“This is for cranial remolding, reshaping a head deformity in babies while their bones are still soft enough,” he explains. New helmets are custom made as the baby grows for up to about 2 years.
Dunphy and O’Sullivan co-own Restore. Dunphy builds structures to help ease pain from injury or deterioration. “Anything from a foot orthotic to custom leg braces,” he says. O’Sullivan sculpts, installs and monitors replacement limbs. As a team, Dunphy says, “We can provide anything from head to toe, essentially.”
O’Sullivan claims 20 years experience, but his education in amputation really began with his own. “Everything was a mystery,” he remembers. “I had no idea what would happen next.” Then, while still in a hospital bed, inspiration visited. “An amputee came into the room, rolled up his pant leg and walked in front of me. That gave me hope for the future.”
Within 30 days he was up on crutches, and within 6 months fitted with his new leg at Shasta Orthotist and Prosthetic Services in Redding. “By Francisco Rodriguez,” says O’Sullivan. “He became my mentor.” O’Sullivan enrolled at Florida International University and came back to Redding with a degree in prosthetics.
“And Frank hired me,” he beams.
Years later, O’Sullivan met a new orthotist at work, Dunphy, a former science teacher and coach who had just moved up from the Bay Area. They hit it off professionally. “We discovered we were like minded in the way we approached business and patient care,” says O’Sullivan. They left Shasta O&P, and opened Restore in February 2013.
On a wall at Restore hangs a framed group portrait of about 30 patients lined up at the Sundial Bridge. Many of them stand with some kind of sporting equipment to show that amputees can still enjoy their favorite recreation. O’Sullivan and Dunphy say that picture was taken to instill hope in their new patients.
One of the people in that photo is a very special patient – Angela Brown.
“She came in as a patient when we were at Shasta Orthopedics and Prosthetics,” says O’Sullivan. “Now she’s doing her residency here in both orthopedics and prosthetics.”
Brown lost her leg in an automobile accident more than 20 years ago. She bounced back motivated to help those in similar straits, earning a master’s degree in Orthotics and Prothetics from Northwestern University in Illinois. She is nearing the end of her dual residency at Restore, and is looking at testing for certification by next spring.
She will tell her patients to get up and go. “Objects in motion stay in motion,” Brown declares. She shudders when she sees patients surrender to life in a wheelchair. “The quality of life deteriorates when people become sedentary,” she says. “Up and moving around is the goal.”
Now in his mid-50s, O’Sullivan thinks a dual-certified Brown will be a great addition to the company. “She’s the younger generation moving up,” he says. “She’s actually making her own prostheses now. She’s definitely working into future plans at Restore.”
Restore Orthotics and Prosthetics • 2147 Court St., Redding • (530) 605-4292