Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lending a Hand

Harlingen doctor helps creates prosthetic arm for 7-year-old boy
By DAISY MARTINEZ—Valley Morning Star
September 23, 2007 - 10:37PM
HARLINGEN — Gildardo Guzman is like most other 7-year-old boys: he likes to swim, play video games and play with his older brother Carlos.
If it weren’t for the physical aspect, no one would ever be able to tell that he battled osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, just a year ago.
Gildardo won the battle against cancer, but in the process lost his left arm and shoulder. Doctors re-moved the limb and joint because they feared that the cancer would spread.
But Gildardo’s bubbly personality and big, bright smile divert attention from the left side of his body.
“I used to feel bad because my arm hurt all the time, but not anymore,” Gildardo said in Spanish. “I feel better now, because I don’t have pain anymore.”
Gildardo’s mother, Nancy Guzman, said that learning that her son had cancer was absolutely devastat-ing.
“But the strongest one through all of this has been Gildardo,” Nancy Guzman said in Spanish. “When he came out of surgery, when they had just removed his arm, he told me not to cry. He said that if he wasn’t crying, why should I be crying.”
Now that it has been more than a year since Gildardo’s arm was removed, he has hope of having an arm again.
The Guzman family lives in McAllen and said they searched the Rio Grande Valley for the best possi-ble prosthetic arm, the cost of which will be paid by Medicaid.
That’s how they ended up in Doug Wacker’s office.
Wacker, certified prosthetist/orthotist and Texas-licensed prosthetist/orthotist, owns Nutech Orthotics & Prosthetics in Harlingen. He said that in more than 27 years of practice in Houston at the Texas Medi-cal Center, he’s never seen a case like Gildardo’s.
Wacker has been working to create a “passive arm” for Gildardo, which will serve cosmetic purposes.
But the work hasn’t been easy, Wacker said.
“No other 7-year-old has ever had one,” Wacker said about Gildardo’s prosthetic.
Wacker said he’s called all over the nation, Canada and even Germany looking for the parts needed to make a prosthetic arm to fit Gildardo.
Liberating Technologies, Inc. of Holliston, Mass., custom-made the parts that Wacker needed to make the prosthetic for Gildardo. The prosthetic arm weighs about 4 pounds and is something to which Gildardo must become accus-tomed, Wacker said.
“(The prosthetic arm) will be difficult getting used to because his center of gravity has changed,” Wacker said. “We’ll see how he does with this. I’m hoping that in the future he’ll be able to get a myoelec-tric prosthesis (with which) he’ll be able to control his elbow and hand through nerve impulses.”
Wacker expects that Gildardo will use this prosthetic arm for about a year before exploring the possi-bilities of a more sophisticated one.
“This is a great feeling,” Wacker said about helping Gildardo. “This is what lets you sleep at night.”


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