Working in Construction with an Upper Limb Difference
by Amber Henson, on May 2, 2023
Some of our patients who work in construction or a similar trade were injured on the job and chose to go back to work. There are also people with congenital limb differences who choose construction work as their vocation. In this article, we’ll focus on the types of prostheses and rehabilitative care that can help people get back to construction and construction-related work or start a new job when they have an upper limb difference.
Mark Betters was injured on a construction job. He tripped and jostled an auger, causing the pieces of steel on the rig to release, crushing his thumb, index and middle fingers. After his stay in the hospital, his doctor suggested he might do well with a toe-to-thumb transfer. When he recovered from that surgery, he visited one of our Arm Dynamics centers. We fit him with Point Designs’ prosthetic fingers mounted to a custom socket and frame. This prosthetic solution allows him to complete heavy-duty tasks on the job and at home because the titanium fingers are strong and durable, yet lightweight. Point Designs’ prosthetic fingers are considered passive-positional devices — which means Mark has to move them into the position he wants by using his sound hand or pressing the fingers against his leg or a nearby surface. He can lift over one hundred pounds with each finger — perfect for a guy who has to carry heavy buckets and other equipment. You can learn more about Mark and watch him at work in the video below:
How about forklifts and other types of heavy equipment? Our patient Hugo Linares is another example of someone who was injured on the job but returned to his company. Hugo drives forklifts and has a below the elbow amputation. He also unloads trucks and delivers pallets. What type of prosthesis does he wear on the job? A myoelectric device with an Electric Terminal Device, or ETD. An ETD has tines that can be opened, closed and rotated by using the electric signals that originate from the nerves in the user’s residual limb. The ETD lets Hugo operate forklifts smoothly, especially after one of our clinical therapy specialists came to see him at work and helped him with positioning and using his prosthesis on the job. Watch Hugo drive his forklift in his patient profile video:
Both Jason Koger and Gerry Kinney became bilateral upper limb amputees due to electric shock. They each own a farm, and those farms need constant upkeep. Jason and Gerry are testaments to that quote from “Back to the Future”, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” In the videos below, you can see Jason and Gerry using their various body-powered and myoelectric devices (such as the ETD2) to complete construction related jobs, offload a tractor from a trailer, weld and use a circular saw:
Part of what makes our patients so successful in returning to work is how our prosthetists, technicians and therapists make sure that each patient is fit with a comfortable socket. It needs to feel good for the entire workday and also have the right terminal device for the tasks they're completing.
Another part of what makes our patients successful is the holistic rehabilitation plan that our clinical therapy specialists offer, including traveling to someone’s worksite for prosthetic training. A third part is the lifelong care and continued maintenance facilitated by our center patient coordinators and patient relationship managers. All of those parts together, along with support from our national Arm Dynamics family, means that we have helped many people successfully return to their job or start a new one.
If you or someone you know could benefit from the kind of care that we offer, please contact us. If you work in construction and would like to leave a comment, please do so below. We hope you have found this article helpful.
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