As a first time attendee, ACA 2009 was impressive, educational as well as inspirational. Everyone I met was truly committed to sharing information and making a difference in other's lives. I saw men, women and children of all ages, genders, and nationalities; many sporting customized sockets with ornate designs. The variety of devices available to promote mobility and independence was impressive. Technology has truly made a difference.

I had the opportunity to speak with countless individuals about their lives, their challenges and daily successes. The vast majority of individuals used some type of traditional prosthetic device between 4 to 12 hours per day. My question to them was: "What do you use the rest of the day?" The response was about equally divided between crutches and wheelchairs. Everyone said that they either did hop, do hop or thought they would continue to hop for the foreseeable future. The most common use of the "hop" was to make quick bathroom visits or get something from the kitchen.

Many spoke of issues related to their shoulders (rotator cuffs) and wrists from prolonged use of crutches. Most people visiting the LegSim booth were looking for an alternative to fill the time gap after they removed their prosthetic but were still performing activities of normal daily life: making dinner, doing dishes, laundry or tending to children. I was asked: "Have you ever made dinner on crutches?" "Have you ever washed dishes in a wheelchair?" Our goal: to maintain mobility, security and independence while preserving sound side joints.

Many individuals took the LegSim out for a "test run" around the conference center floor. Joe Schrader, Founder and CEO of Hartford Walking Systems, was able to video them on their maiden voyage. Individuals were able to see themselves in action with varying degrees of success. Most needed minor adjustments: changing the height, swapping out the seat for a different model, changing the handlebar to offset a person's center of gravity to their sound side. Joe was able to make these adjustments; I was able to see how they impacted performance and personal satisfaction. We made arrangements to provide each with a copy of their video to show to their physicians, prosthetists and therapists. Increasing awareness to the professional community will improve mobility, security and independence for more amputees.

I encourage those of you who have not attended an ACA conference to do so in the future. You will not be disappointed; much to the contrary you will be pleasantly impressed at the warm, supportive and nurturing environment at the conference. I certainly was.

John A. Tata
John A. Tata, MD
Medical Director
Hartford Walking Systems

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