From the Patient Chair to the Clinician Stool

LIM Clinician Steve Hoover’s journey began a long time ago, right before Christmas. His parents received the best present a parent can get; and also the worst. They were blessed with the birth of their first son, but things didn’t go as planned. Steve is their 3rd child, only son, and he came with a surprise.

I was born with Pseudarthrosis, a rare birth defect that results in bone fractures and usually amputation. Most cases are not diagnosed until walking age, when the break occurs. In my case I had broken my leg in 3 places before I was even born. My diagnosis came within hours of my birth. My parents were not prepared. Now that I’m one myself, I’m not sure any parent could be.

Medical science tried to fix me for a bit, before the inevitable became reality; a below knee amputation a month before my 4th birthday. It was a tough day for my parents, but probably one of the best for me. Not that surgery was enjoyable for a 3 year old! But it began a journey that I am still on. I was wearing tennis shoes for the first time a couple months later, and if you have met me, you know I still wear them most of the time. My therapy lasted about 5 minutes, the day I received my first prosthesis. That’s because about 20 feet down the hallway, I dropped my crutches and ran! I have since experienced similar things in my practice. Kids are resilient, and adapt very quickly. It wasn’t long before I was running in Gym class, on the football and baseball fields, and wrenching on cars, preferably fast ones.

The transition from the patient chair to the clinician stool was an easy one for me. I always wanted to do this! I watched my prosthetists over the years, and they took me into their labs to watch them mold art, mechanics, and craftsmanship into machines that change people’s lives. It was fascinating, and a natural fit for me. My love for mechanics and race cars blended perfectly into prosthetics. Although when I’m not in a prosthetic facility, I can often be found at the drag strip, usually in the driver’s seat.

I started in wooden sockets, hand carved, with metal joints and leather corsets for below knee amputees. Things have certainly changed over the years as this journey has continued. I am now an above knee amputee, having the revision done shortly before passing my board exams for prosthetics. As a clinician I was always eager to try new things; on myself as well as my patients. I learned over the years that “new” doesn’t always mean better. When I saw the Infinite Socket for the first time, I have to admit I was skeptical. It looked high tech, and the concepts were not foreign to me, but I just wasn’t sure this new company could pull off the art, mechanics, and craftsmanship I had grown up with, and I liked to think continued in my practice. Luckily I had a friend already working at LIM, who convinced me to try it, and more importantly, convinced me to become part of the team. I’ve been wearing my Infinite TF ever since. It has been and continues to be the most comfortable TF socket I have worn. And I like to think I made a few good ones for myself. Traveling most weeks means car and airplane seats, different clinics, weather and environments, etc. weekly. I know from previous experiences that my traditional socket was not up to these tasks. The ability to adjust the fit “on the fly” has been huge, allowing me comfort and stability no matter where I am, or what’s going on outside. Believe me, I flew into North Dakota recently and got off the plane straight into a 15” snow storm! I just adjust as necessary, and don’t get pain or sores like I used to. It has been a great experience for me, and one that I truly enjoy sharing with others!

I have a saying when people ask me what I do for a living; “I have the best job in the world, I get to watch people walk again for the first time.” Being with LIM has allowed me to experience this in many places, meeting some great people, and most importantly sharing this great technology with new friends. Friends who I get to see walk for the first, second, or thousandth time again; usually with smiles on their faces. It’s been an incredible journey, that I’m still on, and hope to be for some time. And it’s still the best job in the world!