Back in the game
By Betsy Friauf
Isiah Lanphear’s wish list is pretty simple.
Dr. Dombroski’s team of experts welcomes anyone with a prosthetic need.
To arrange an appointment, call 817-735-3627.
The 7-year-old Wisconsin boy says he wants to play baseball, ride his bike and play hockey. But such activities aren’t so easy when you’re missing your right hand.
That’s where UNT Health Science Center stepped in. Todd Dombroski, DO, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, is collaborating with a Fort Worth-area prosthetist to provide Isiah with custom-made attachments that allow him to wield a hockey stick, throw a baseball and safely grip handlebars.
“I made a promise to Isiah that I would figure out a way for him to play hockey, ride his bicycle and hit a baseball,” Dr. Dombroski said. “I was able to establish the network, machines and personnel to undertake the first phase, hockey, which takes minimal wrist movement.”
A retired colonel who came to UNTHSC in 2014 after more than two decades in the U.S. Army, Dr. Dombroski already has established a Department of Defense-funded apprenticeship program that trains veterans to make prosthetics. With assistance from the Massachusetts engineering firm Mentis Sciences, he also has secured a computerized alignment machine used for making lower limb prosthetics.
His relationship with Isiah dates to 2014, when the two met while Dr. Dombroski was working as a medical 3D printing consultant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. A year earlier, Isiah had lost his hand in a riding lawnmower accident on his family’s 22-acre property near Green Bay, Wis.
The accident was devastating to Isiah and his mother, Lisa Lanphear, but, ultimately, the boy proved resilient. He immediately wanted to resume riding his bicycle.
“Amputation does not define him,” Lanphear said. “He already was riding a bike when he first lost his hand. Afterward, we attached a cup on the handlebar that he stuck his nub into, but it wasn’t satisfactory.
“He just wants to do what all boys want to do.”
Creating comfortable, custom-fit prostheses for amputees is never simple – and for children it’s more complicated. They quickly can outgrow them. If the material is too heavy or cumbersome, the prosthesis is uncomfortable and the child may refuse to use it.
It’s a difficult challenge, but UNTHSC was up to the task. Isiah recently was fitted for a custom hockey attachment – painted black with orange flames. His mom says the hand attachment even helps him move faster on the ice.
Phase Two will be a new 3D-printed wrist so he can use a baseball bat and ride his bicycle on the rough trails near his home.
“I don’t know whether Isiah’s more excited, or his hockey coach,” Lanphear said. “It’s a great improvement, and Dr. Dombroski was instrumental.”