2012-11-29 / Health & Wellness
Entrepreneur designs device for amputees
Determined to get his life going again, the Central Valley man did more than adapt to his physical constraints—he became a fivetime world-champion archer.
Fabry received bronze medals at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Paralympic games and won gold in the 2012 London Paralympics, using his mouth and teeth to draw back and release the arrow.
“I didn’t want any pity, and I didn’t want any help. I was determined to be independent,” said the double amputee who was one of three men visiting biodesigns Inc. in Westlake Village last week. Fabry was there to be fitted with a new biomechanical socket for a prosthetic arm.
Randall Alley, CEO of biodesigns and a certified prosthetist, designed the new socket, called a High Fidelity, or HiFi, Interface, which uses compression and release to control the limb and provide stability and comfort.
Traditional sockets often can’t grasp the limb properly, limiting physical activity, said Alley, who recently opened the state-of-theart patient treatment and training center in Westlake. The center specializes in advanced upper and lower limb clinical care and product development.
A graduate of UCLA, Alley is a member of several industry boards. He is an adjunct professor for Cal State Dominguez Hills’ orthotic and prosthetic program, has two patents and has contributed to five textbooks.
Alley received a certificate of appreciation from the Army for his upper limb training of military medical personnel.
Fabry’s prosthetist, Tom Cutler, who has been in the industry for 18 years, said the new socket device is revolutionary.
“It’s the difference between putting your leg in a round bucket and a clover leaf” that hugs all sides of the limb, said Cutler, who uses the HiFi technology at his prosthetics and orthotics facility in Visalia, Calif.
Although the industry has made strides to improve other artificial limb components, little focus has been paid to the socket, said Julie Alley, Randall Alley’s wife, who handles marketing for biodesigns.
“The main thing people don’t realize is how much energy it takes to walk when you’re an amputee,” she said, adding that the new interface allows patients to walk faster and use less energy.
With a traditional interface, patients have to swing their legs to move forward. The new socket allows patients to move more naturally, she said.
Mark Sethi lost his left leg in an accident just before his 30th birthday in 2009.
Days after the accident, Sethi was out of the hospital and on a quest to find the best prosthetics available on the market so he could resume his active lifestyle.
“I wasn’t happy with what I’d been fit with,” said the Woodland Hills resident, who enjoys hiking, backpacking, snowboarding and kite surfing.
He said the HiFi Interface gives him maximum mobility and function, and he plans to begin running again.
A former cook and volunteer paramedic, Sethi became a certified prosthetic technician and is now part of the biodesigns team.
According to Randall Alley, 150,000 to 180,000 people lose a limb each year in the U.S. The majority of amputations are caused by diabetes, followed by trauma and wartime injuries.
The Alleys moved to Thousand Oaks 12 years ago. They have two children.
“The goal was always for us to have our own business. Last year, when Randy turned 50, we decided to go for it,” Julie Alley said.
The 5,400-square-foot biodesigns facility in the WaterCourt Center on Hampshire Road houses private patient rooms, a state-of-the art rehab and training center, and a research and development lab.
The Alleys seek partner companies who can provide psychiatric, wellness, occupational and physical therapy to their patients under the same roof.
“It’s always been our vision to have a comprehensive clinical, performance and training facility that reflects the dynamics of who we are and what we do,” Julie Alley said.
Robert Knight, a certified orthotist who is studying prosthetics at Cal State Dominguez Hills’ Center for Orthotic and Prosthetic Education, is delighted with the new technology and facilities.
The South Bay resident was 19 when a van hit him from behind while he was waiting at a red light on his motorcycle. He lost a leg in the accident.
Knight, now 42, appreciates the new socket from biodesigns.
“The compression system design allows you greater feedback and control. Because there is less movement within the socket, it’s more comfortable,” he said.