Amar Patel: Dental Student
My story starts as a 24-year-old second year student in dental school in San Antonio. I had been up very late one night studying for exams, and the following day, I was driving to Dallas.
During the drive, my fatigue got the best of me, and I fell asleep at the wheel. I awoke to see my car swerving across the highway onto the opposing service road. I felt the tires grab the road and thought “Oh no!” as the car tilted. Everything went into slow motion. The windshield of my car shattered as the car flipped. I desperately stuck up my left arm to brace myself…
And then my arm was gone.
I was rushed to the hospital nearby in Temple, Texas, where my arm was reattached. For 6 days, I waited with both hope and concern. My concern was well founded as I listened to the doctor say the arm wasn’t healing due to loss of blood flow to the muscles. The final decision: they had to amputate my left arm above the elbow. I was in shock.
So many thoughts raced through my head:
What did this mean for my dream of becoming a dentist? What did this mean for my future? I had wanted this for so long and worked so hard to achieve it. Was my dream going to be gone in an instant, all because of an untimely nap?
After surgery, I started to grasp the magnitude of this change. Thankfully my family and friends were present and supportive. They got me through a very difficult season of life, but I wasn’t throwing in the towel.
I wasn’t ready to let my dream go!
After being released from the hospital, I spent about a month in Irving, Texas. I started therapy with an Occupational Therapist (OT) and wanted to pursue dentistry despite the obstacles. I began searching for a prosthetic practice that specialized solely in upper-limb prosthetics, because my specific needs were so great. My OT recommended Chris Lake at Lake Prosthetics. I conducted more research of the leading upper-limb prosthetists across the country, and Lake Prosthetics kept coming up at the top of the list.
I called, and within a week I was sitting with Chris in his office. The initial process of assessment and development took about a month. Chris spent hour after hour with me, reviewing, measuring, exacting all the details necessary to meet my unique needs. He knew how important it was for me to return to school and pursue my dream of becoming a dentist. Chris’ brother is a dentist, and Chris spent extra time on my behalf speaking with his brother about skills I would need to be able to do with my prosthetic hand.
In addition to my specific prosthetic needs, additional unique challenges existed. Having an above-the-elbow amputation adds a layer of complexity in prosthetic design. Also, my amputation site was experiencing ossification, which is an instance in which the bone grows randomly for a time at the point of amputation. This created difficulty in obtaining a proper fit in the prosthetic socket.
The solution? Chris and his team designed a unique, custom socket that contained small windows to alleviate pressure on the bone. This brought me a superb degree of comfort and usability. Combined with the tailored fittings and tools he developed for my prosthetic hand, Chris had created a completely custom solution for my unique needs.
I received my custom prosthetic in October, and this provided me several months to adjust to the device for dental school, which resumed in January. I was quietly optimistic that I would have the dexterity needed to complete my courses and become a dentist.
Looking Toward the Future
My dental school was supportive, even though they were not sure what to expect. They had never had a student in my situation. At their request, I repeated several of the clinical classes to ensure I am capable of completing the necessary work.
Working with Lake Prosthetics has been an incredible experience. Their team took the time to assess what I truly needed. Chris has been available to help me with any issue that arises, making adjustments as necessary. If I need to come to the office, I can always get an appointment within a week, and he has been able to fix every issue I have had.
If you are seeking an upper-limb bionic prosthetic device, call the team at Lake Prosthetics. Chris is one of the few prosthetists in the country who specializes solely in upper-limb prosthetics, which means he knows the smaller technical details required to provide as much functionality as possible.
Of course their patient care and expertise are second to none. They have truly allowed me to continue toward my dream. And who knows, soon I may be working on Chris’ teeth!