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Going out on a limb to make a difference


​​I had always wanted to work in the healthcare sector. After some research, I chanced upon an unusual profession that few have heard of: Prosthetist and Orthotist or P&O for short! P&Os work in a multidisciplinary team – consisting of doctors, physiotherapists and medical social workers – to care for patients who were born without limbs, have had their limbs amputated or with abnormal joints at the amputee clinic. They also shape replacement limbs and fit suitable mechanical devices to get their patients back on their feet.

I like how the job allows me to get creative. I love thinking out of the box and researching different methods as I believe there is no one solution to every problem. Of course, my ideas do not have a 100% success rate. Even so, I am undeterred. Hey, if Thomas Edison had 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, a couple of failures is nothing. If anything, they spur me to continue finding the best solutions for my patients!

As a P&O, my typical day consists of seeing both existing and new patients. When I meet new patients, I assess them to decide on suitable devices and shape capture techniques. The common shape capture technique utilises plaster moulds, which are usually built in the workshops. To ensure the best fit for my patients, I would also have to provide direction and advice to the technicians in the workshops on design and materials to use.

Tsurayuki customising an artificial limb for his patient.

My favourite part of the job is to help children retain some sense of normalcy in their lives. I have made helmets for babies as young as three months old to prevent deformities, as well as handled cerebral palsy cases in toddlers. The sense of accomplishment at seeing the children being joyful while wearing their orthoses is the best reward no money can buy.

One memorable case I had was a 40-year-old patient who had motor-neuron disease. To help him live his life to the fullest for his remaining years, I made a neck-to-toe brace specially for him to be able to retain his ability to walk. I also had a patient who eventually became a friend! Due to an unfortunate road traffic accident, he had to undergo an amputation of his limb. As he wished to remain active in water sports, the team customised a prosthesis which was able to withstand seawater. It's the little things like this that P&Os are able to do, which make a world of difference to their patients. Now, as my friend, he readily provides help whenever I need it.

I am Tsurayuki Murakami, a Senior Prosthetist and Orthotist from Tan Tock Seng Hospital. If you like creative challenges and working in healthcare, this little-known profession may just be for you.

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