07/12/12 — Practice helps patients take back their lives

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Practice helps patients take back their lives

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 12, 2012 1:46 PM

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Lafayett Hines, right, tries out the adjustments to his prosthetic device in the office of N.C. Orthotics and Prosthetics as William Stauffer, owner of the business, looks on. Stauffer opened up the office on Wayne Memorial Drive in 2008 and works with patients who need prosthetic limbs and orthotic braces.

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William Stauffer discusses the characteristics and machinery of a prosthetic leg in his workshop at the office on Wayne Memorial Drive.

Lafayett Hines ambles into the office of N.C. Orthotics and Prosthetics.

If he weren't wearing shorts, you might not readily notice the artificial limb replacing the one claimed during a motorcycle accident 10 years ago.

The wreck on Beston Road could have been much worse, the 34-year-old said.

He lost three-quarters of his right leg in the accident. Today he gets around with a "state-of-the-art computerized knee" and shows no sign of slowing down.

"I'm hard-headed," shrugged the former airman from New Jersey. "It's been actually relatively easy for me. I have had the right equipment."

Stubbornness might have contributed to his ability to persevere. That, he says, and his age at the time.

"I was young. I didn't realize it was going to be hard," he said. "I was young enough, I didn't realize the obstacles."

Now, the cook at East Coast Wings has other reasons to be thankful that his life was spared -- his two children, ages 6 and 10. He has even attempted roller skating and riding a bike, thanks to the customized prosthesis he likens to a sports car.

"It's the best of the best as far as I know," he said. "It's not pretty but I can move pretty fast."

The device actually has a small computerized camera that registers how hard he's walking, how fast he's going and sets a program to make it function as close as possible to the other leg, said William Stauffer, owner of N.C. Orthotics and Prosthetics on Wayne Memorial Drive.

His office features custom prosthetic limbs, orthotic braces, mastectomy products, compression garments and diabetic shoes and inserts. In addition to those who have lost a foot or a leg -- diabetics are the fastest-growth number seen in that category, he said -- he also works with stroke victims and has even crafted a custom knee brace for a young athlete.

Several years ago, Stauffer and a co-worker began traveling to Goldsboro to see patients a few days a week. When he realized what an "underserved" area it was for the service, he opened the business in 2008.

"Nobody walks through the door until they have to," he says of his clientele. "They're always here because they're hurt, something's missing, they have a bad wound on their leg. We have to try to do what we can to help them out.

"Nobody has a clue this exists until they need it."

Stauffer understands that firsthand, having been introduced to the field more than 20 years ago when he was going through rehab. He had been a tank gunner in the Army for seven years when he experienced his own injury in 1987.

The disabled veteran returned to college in southern California, obtaining his certification in both orthotics and prosthetics in 2004, then moved to North Carolina to start his residency.

"It's just kind of nice to be on the other side of the fence, just to be able to help people now," he said.

Advancements in the field have helped make it easier to treat patients, Stauffer said. He can digitally take a scan on the computer, send it by email to a lab in Raleigh and have the patient, if they're otherwise healthy, up and walking in a matter of weeks.

"Every patient's different," he said. "Young ones, generally, they'll literally walk out of here."

There are other variables, he said. If the patient has lost a leg to diabetes, for instance, that's a different starting point.

Still, he said, being in a position to improve a patient's quality of life "can be huge."

"Someone comes in here without a leg and you give them back a leg," he said.

Stauffer works closely with Wayne Memorial Hospital and surgeons of patients who may benefit from the prosthetic or orthotic services. He also strongly recommends physical therapy for additional support.

It may be physical, but it's also psychological. Either way, Stauffer said, it's rewarding to be in such a profession.

"Everybody that walks in the door is not having a good day," he said. "They may leave having a good day, and that's what we try to do. But when they come here, they have a problem we're trying to fix.

"I'm the mechanic and the patients are the people you're going to help drive."