Sophie de Oliveira Barata works out of a bright white, semi-disheveled northwest London studio surrounded by feet and fingers, legs leaning against walls and hands that look real enough to shake. With a background in art and special-effects makeup, she worked for eight years for a prosthetics manufacturer before deciding to become a creator of bespoke limbs. “It meant I could use my creative skills and do something massively rewarding,” she said, dropping an oddly appealing man’s foot in my lap. “Making an alternative limb is like entering a child’s imagination and playing with their alter ego,” she said. “You’re trying to find the essence of the person.”
In 2011, Sophie de Oliveira Barata started the Alternative Limb Project and soon found interested clients. She created one leg with a stereo embedded in it, another with removable muscles and a third, among others, that housed minidrawers. Recently she began collaborating with artists skilled in animatronics, 3-D printing, metalwork and carbon fiber.
“After losing a limb, a person isn’t the same,” de Oliveira Barata said. “So this is a form of expression, an empowerment, a celebration. It’s their choice of how to complete their body — whether that means having a realistic match or something from an unexplored imagination.”
Photo: Ryan Seary – formerly an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, US military
Toronto’s Sunnybrook Centre for Independent Living (SCIL) has a 25-member team of prosthetists, technicians and other experts. SCIL helps complex trauma patients regain independence and mobility with customized prostheses and individualized rehabilitation.
Prostheses are made in the on-site lab. The first step in creating a new limb is to make a socket in the stump or residuum. The artificial body part attaches inside the socket. The prosthetist takes detailed measurements of the residuum and then creates a cast of it – similar to that for a broken limb. When that cast dries, plaster is poured into it to make a form of the limb. The form is then carefully smoothed down and filed until it becomes an exact replica of the residuum. The amputee is fitted with a test socket and a limb and learns to walk with this set before the definitive socket and limb are finalized.
Technician Paul Russell says there is “a bit of an artistic feel and flow,” as some amputees need their sockets to be very strong and others want them to be light. “You’re trying to walk the line between something that’s strong enough and something that is not too heavy.”
Patients often develop a strong, lifelong bond with their prosthetist. The more the experts get to know the amputees, the better they are able to create sockets that work for their lifestyle. Getting the artificial limb for the first time can be a life-changing experience.
Two tuxedoed men seem to shatter the laws of physics, forcing time to slow and speed. Their bodies curve in ways that would stagger Newton. Theirs is a playful, gravity-defying dancing duet.
Virgil Gadson bounces and bends as though he has replaced every bone with licorice sticks. And, Julius Chisolm slips across the floor more smoothly than the slide on a trombone.
Improvisation is what they call “their natural science”. Chisholm says, “Music takes control of me. I’ll be chilling, and a beat will come on. I understand life when I’m dancing.”
Spencer West redefines height – in his spirit, in the way he lives, and in the actions he takes to affect other people’s lives.
Now two-foot-seven, Spencer was born with a spinal defect and legs that didn’t function. He was five when his doctors felt they had no choice but to amputate them. They said he wouldn’t be able to sit up or move around by himself. Spencer defied that prediction by learning to use his arms to move. Prosthetics weren’t for him.
While most people would be hard pressed to use their feet to walk the 300-kilometre distance from Edmonton to Calgary, Spencer West recently made the journey almost entirely on his hands. His purpose was to raise funds and awareness for Me to We /Free The Children’s ‘We Walk 4 Water’ campaign. The donations will provide a permanent source of clean water for 100,000 people around the world.
Spencer West is a favorite motivational speaker at Me to We events. Stories of his feats inspire audiences of school children across Canada. For example, he climbed the 19,341 foot-high Mount Kilimanjaro, raising more than half a million dollars in a similar Me To We campaign. He urges others to go beyond their perceived limitations and to give of themselves.
Check out Spencer’s best-selling autobiography “Standing Tall: My Journey”. Also, his experiences feature in the documentary “Redefine Possible: The Story of Spencer West” that was shown at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
But here is the next best way to learn more: TOMORROW, JUNE 17, 2014
There will be a LIVE-STREAMING of SPENCER WEST SPEAKING from 10am to 11:30 am EST at: www.freethechildren.com/watch
Daniel Laflamme grabs a water bottle with his foot and bends over to take a sip. Then he adroitly places a paintbrush between his toes and begins to paint. Deaf and mute, Laflamme, who has cerebral palsy, communicates through his painting.
In 2006, the Quebec City artist was in Toronto to help publicize an exhibition by Canada’s Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. The organization sells replicas of the painters’ works on greeting cards and calendars to help the artists live independent lives.
At the organization’s headquarters on St. Clair Avenue West, Laflamme showed off his prowess as an artist. Bent over like a pretzel on the floor, he painted with authority and skill as he worked on a still life of flowers and a fruit bowl.
Then he stopped to get more paint. He used one foot to bring the palette of paints closer to him. Holding his paintbrush between his toes, he dipped his brush in the paint and then began once more to delicately apply color to his masterpiece.
Quoting: Debra Black, Toronto Star, July 7, 2006
Photo by: Rick Eglinton, Toronto Star, July 7, 2006. Photo Source: http://thestar.blogs.com/photoblog/2012/05/yonge-and-eglinton-no-longer-intersect.html
Loretta Claiborne was born partially blind and could not walk or talk until she was four. Officials recommended that she be put into an institution—a common treatment for America’s “defectives” in the 1950s. Her mother refused.
Today Ms. Claiborne has 26 marathons and a black belt in karate to her name. She travels the world to speak for people like herself. Her purpose is to exemplify and to usher in a fresh understanding of ‘disability’. Definitions change over time: the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls disability an “evolving concept”.
How will future space suits differ from the current ones? As space is explored, footwear for astronauts is keeping pace. NASA claims their new soft boots are designed for real walking.
Currently, astronauts don’t “walk” in space. They hover and float, or their feet are placed into foot restraints so they don’t drift away. Space suits are somewhat flexible; they can bend at the knees and rotate at the waist. But no nuanced space shuffles or relay races quite yet.
Ever ahead in their thinking, NASA envisions that astronauts will go to Mars one day. With that prospect, they need to be suited up to explore alien terrain on foot or in their vehicles. NASA’s soft boots will take them there.
Photo source: http://www.nasa.gov/missions/shuttle/f_boots.html