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Foot article spurs action

| Friday, Nov. 10, 2006

When Kittanning dentist Dr. Howard Freedlander read a Valley News Dispatch article about a soldier from New Kensington receiving an advanced computerized ankle and foot prosthesis, he had to tell his son, Aaron.

Aaron Freedlander is an orthotics and prosthetics technician for Advanced Orthopedic Products in Fayetteville, N.C., located near the Army's Fort Bragg. He was working with soldiers returning from the Middle East with amputated limbs.

"He sent me the article. I had heard about the foot," Aaron Freedlander said. He said the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and many of the Veterans Administration hospitals already had it. He pursued getting the prosthetics. Ossur is the Icelandic company making the technologically advanced Proprio Foot.

The new artificial feet use computerized sensors to measure toe and heel pressure and adjusts to provide a range of motion for the wearer.

A motor drive pivots the heel; the heel serves as the shock absorber.

"We became only the second testing facility outside the military to get the foot," Freedlander said. He said he is only one of six practitioners in the country authorized to work with the device.

"I'm happy for the people who will get it and I'm happy to be able to provide it," he said. "This is a product that is going to change a lot of people's lives."

Freedlander makes and fits the titanium socket that connects the foot to the prosthetic limb.

He starts by seeing the patient and evaluating their situation.

"I start working with an amputee literally days after their surgery," Freedlander said. "I know them before they're able to wear it."

Freedlander, a 1999 Kittanning High School graduate, attended California University of Pennsylvania with hopes of becoming a shop teacher. While at college, he accidentally learned about prosthetics and an interest developed.

"You have to almost trip and fall into that field," Freedlander said. "It's not something you think of."

He enrolled in the Median School of Allied Health Careers in Pittsburgh and earned an associate in science degree in orthotics and prosthetics.

Howard said his son was offered an administrative job with the artificial foot's manufacturer, but turned it down.

"I was proud of him when he said he wanted to keep working with the patients," Howard Freedlander said.

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer with the Leader Times of Kittanning.

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