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Care, innovation, education and research

news item News Monday, July 16, 2018 Monday, July 16, 2018 10:15 AM - Monday, July 16, 2018 10:15 AM

Custom mobility devices give patients confidence

Seating technician at Philadelphia Shriners Hospital provides solutions for each patient's needs

Every patient who receives care at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia has a unique set of needs. Our clinical staff is able to customize the care and treatment for each specific child, providing them the best possible outcomes.

Though clinical care is a large part of the patient experience, patients will often need devices such as a walker or wheelchair to aid their everyday movements. Seating Technician Robert Townsend works hard to provide the right wheelchair or walker for any patient who requires one.

Adiatou, now 4 years old, was born with arthrogryposis, a condition where her joints were contracted in ways that prohibited her movement. She began travelling from her native Burkina Faso in West Africa in July 2017, with the help of a host family, to receive care at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital.

Following serial casting and surgeries to help her mobility, Adiatou was ready to begin strengthening her leg muscles to practice walking. She needed a special walker outfitted with a seat and structured trunk support in order to help support her body weight. A commercially available walker that would suit her needs weighed over 50 pounds and insurance would not cover the cost. This was not an option for Adiatou and her family.

After a consultation with Adiatou, her family and her physical therapists at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital, Townsend was able to locate a walker from hospital inventory that was just the right size for Adiatou. He attached a seat and designed chest and abdominal supports to attach to the walker. The custom walker only weighs 20 pounds, making it much easier for Adiatou to maneuver.

Townsend accompanies therapists during rehabilitation sessions to observe how a patient uses their device. Observing Adiatou’s physical therapy session, Rob asks her to use her walker while wearing different pairs of shoes to ensure maximum comfort. He also tweaks the seat height and adjusts the trunk supports as Adiatou moves.

“There aren’t a lot of ways to strengthen those little legs,” said Adiatou’s host parent Kathleen. “This walker will allow her to be more independent at home and help with her core weakness. It will make a huge difference.”

While Townsend designs many of his prototypes for years of growth, his model for Adiatou contributed so much to her improved strength that Harold van Bosse, M.D., recommended she begin walking with a different device designed to challenge her further.

Not only do Townsend’s services give patients additional mobility and independence, they also give them the confidence to explore their possibilities knowing that their device is fitted perfectly.

“Adiatou woke up this morning chanting ‘Shriners! Shriners! Shriners!' ” said Kathleen.

Adiatou with her seating technician and host mom