Technical advances help erase stigma of prosthetics

Jun 05, 2009 By James H. Burnett III

A Scottish magazine once ran a headline above an article on former Paralympics track star Aimee Mullins that read, "Can You See Anything Wrong With This Woman? No? Her Either."

Mullins, 33, had both legs amputated just below the knee when she was 1 because she was born with fibular hemimelia (missing fibula bones).

Mullins, a New York-based model, speaker and actress, says she has benefited from the progressive change in prosthetic technology over the past three decades.

By "progressive," Mullins means her artificial legs -- some of which flex at the and bend at the knee. They are a far cry from the unbendable plastic and wooden limbs that required her to almost waddle as a child.

"Today they're made of lightweight composites. They have bounce and spring to them, mimicking the natural step," Mullins says. "But this is about more than the technology. There really once was a stigma to having prosthetics that suggested you weren't a complete person if you had to use them. I think they've now started able-bodied athletes scratching their heads, because I've raced and beat some of them, too."

And athletes aren't the only ones scratching their heads.

Mullins recalls a Chanel fashion party she attended recently, at which she wore one of her longer sets of prosthetics that stretched the blond bombshell's normally 5-foot, 8-inch frame to 6 feet, frustrating and angering another woman who pouted and accused Mullins of "having an unfair advantage."

Her legs, she explains, are not just made for walkin'. They're also a functional but optionally stylish fashion accessory, much like eyeglasses and contact lenses have become.

"It's a funny thing when you cross the line from being cute to people to almost being a threat," Mullins says, chuckling. "People once viewed the physically disabled as cute, and to be pitied. So yes, the technology has changed attitudes. I think we're at the beginning of the end of that period when people who are missing natural limbs or have some other physical issue are automatically considered disabled. I'm certainly seeing less of that kind of attitude."

___

(c) 2009, The Miami Herald.
Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at www.herald.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Amgen misses 1Q views as higher costs cut profit

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Multivitamins are no magic bullet panacea

Mar 02, 2009

We've been told for years that popping a multivitamin will make us healthier and prolong our lives, but a major study recently found that daily multivitamins don't make a difference in the rate of breast or colon cancer, ...

Sports technology for para-athletes: Closing the gap

Jan 30, 2009

This issue of Sports Technology, published by Wiley-Blackwell, spotlights recent developments that seek to close the gap between able-bodied athletes and para-athletes, with two published articles highlighting running prosth ...

Recommended for you

Amgen misses 1Q views as higher costs cut profit

Apr 22, 2014

Despite higher sales, biotech drugmaker Amgen's first-quarter profit fell 25 percent as production and research costs rose sharply, while the year-ago quarter enjoyed a tax benefit. The company badly missed ...

Valeant, Ackman make $45.6B Allergan bid

Apr 22, 2014

Valeant Pharmaceuticals and activist investor Bill Ackman have unveiled details of their offer to buy Botox maker Allergan, proposing a cash-and-stock deal that could be worth about $45.6 billion.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vika_Tae
not rated yet Jun 06, 2009
As ever, there is a divide here between those who can afford to get realistic, functional prosthetics - Aimee's aren't functional, I know - and those whose health benefits do not include the costs required. Its a horrible, horrible catch 22 situation, where we need high-end prosthetics to be more widely disseminated to bring the price down, but at the same time the manufacturing costs won't fall until they are required in bulk.

Things will change of course as manufacturing processes alter, and become less costly, but Aimee's vision won't truly be here until that occurs, and all amputees can receive these more powerful/realistic prosthetics.

More news stories

FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes

The federal government wants to prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

Rising role seen for health education specialists

(HealthDay)—A health education specialist can help family practices implement quality improvement projects with limited additional financial resources, according to an article published in the March/April ...

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.