Life is unpredictable. One of the only accepted truths we have is that we can’t say for certain what the next day will bring or what challenges we’ll have to face.
For most of us we go about our daily lives with a routine; wake up, take the kids to school, go to work, exercise, go home, rinse and repeat. For some of us however, the pattern can be interrupted. At any moment, due to the unpredictable nature of the world, we could come down with a sickness or suffer an injury that shakes the very definition of what our normal lives should be.
Suffering the loss of a limb or being born with musculoskeletal deformities or abnormalities bring with it struggles and difficulties that most of us can’t even imagine. The emotional impact of such changes or circumstances could very well exceed the physical limitations experienced leading to fear, depression and doubts about how to overcome such seemingly-Herculean adversities.
Thankfully, advancements in technology have dramatically improved the appearance and functionality of all prosthetic and orthotic devices. Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics has brought new hope in delivering satisfying solutions to mobility and other life-affecting hurdles to patients in Lexington.
They understand the anxiety and fear associated with what, for some, is a permanent, life-altering experience and are quick to provide information, answer questions, and listen attentively to patients’ concerns.
Ability and their Lexington Facility
Founded in 2004 in Pennsylvania by Jeffrey Brandt, an American Board Certified (ABC) prosthetist and orthotist, Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics is a field leader in providing high quality patient care and devices. Ability’s Lexington office was opened mid-2011 after Ability acquired Bridgepoint Medical, which operated Prosthetic Orthotic Associates.
Brandt and Ability bring extensive knowledge to the Lexington office gained through lessons learned operating more than ten such offices spread across six states; one such lesson being the importance of location.
“Often times people call into the office and are unable to find us,” said Brandt. “As soon as we tell them we’re behind the Dunkin Donuts, they know exactly where we are; often times joking that we should have said that in the first place.”
Located off of Broadway and situated next to Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Ability has brought the first Class A medical facility of its kind to the Lexington area – something that the greater central Kentucky area has been missing. The facility also sits less than a quarter of a mile away from the University of Kentucky Hospital.
Designed with the patient experience in mind, the hallways are wide and accommodating for wheel chairs and other motorized transport. Ergonomically-designed to be warm, airy, and inviting, the office also has several windows and skylights to allow natural light to flow throughout the office.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done with Ability Lexington. By moving the office to its current location and hiring a staff focused on providing high quality care we’ll be able to provide prosthetic and orthotic support and solutions to the Lexington community for a very long time,” said Brandt.
Ability prides itself on being as comprehensive as possible for its clients. Their certified orthotist and prosthetist practitioners evaluate, design and fit patients with custom, as well as off-the-shelf, orthotic and prosthetic devices. From their Lexington facility, they can offer patients custom lower and upper limb orthoses, silicone limb restoration, cranial remodeling helmets, custom protective face guards, spinal orthoses, fracture bracing, foot orthotics, diabetic prefabricated and custom shoes and inlays.
The Lexington office also employs cutting edge technology including paperless office systems and electronic charts, which allow Ability’s practitioners to access the same standardized data server and conduct a real-time roundtable conference call.
Ability also has gone to great lengths to create a new approach to prosthetics evaluation by using outcomes-based protocols. In the past, prosthetic design was based upon subjective opinions of both the patient and the practitioner, often causing negative patient outcomes and errors.
Outcomes-based protocols are developed through using three objective measures:
- Amputee Mobility Predictor (AMP) – a series of tasks that measures patient potential to ambulate with prosthesis.
- StepWatch ankle bracelet – this ‘heart rate’ monitor equivalent for prosthetics is worn by the patients and collects data to objectively determine function level.
- Prosthesis Evaluation Questionnaire – continually evaluates function and value of a given prosthesis.
By utilizing this new approach to prosthetics evaluations, Ability can now objectively determine which prosthetic components are ideal for each amputee initially, as well as over time to ensure their prosthesis fit both their bodies and their lives the best.
Another differentiating factor for Ability – one which allows them to run a more cleaner, healthier facility for its employees and patients – is that they do not do any onsite fabrication.
Ability instead relies on the use of state-of-the-art digital scanners to outsource their casts to one of the more than 50 technicians/manufacturers throughout the U.S. This allows Ability’s facility to be entirely patient-centric, with more space dedicated to handling on-site adjustments, modifications and therapy efforts; and rely on manufacturers that are leaders and innovators in the industry.
“Our mission at Ability is to constantly be upgrading and utilizing the most up-to-date technology,” said Brandt. “I hope that we have the opportunity to serve the greater Lexington area for several years to come and be able to give back ten fold.”
Continuing Education and Commitment to the Community
Another benefit to the 3,000 square foot Ability facility in Lexington is the conference room, a large glass area where practitioners can hold private educational sessions with patients, their spouses or parents, and even their physicians.
“Education is paramount,” said Brandt. “I’ve seen too many people leave a provider with a device who have no idea how to use it or, more importantly, why they have to use it.”
Ability prides itself on being a resource of continuing education for their patients and for the orthotic and prosthetic community as a whole. They have often times opened up their facilities to local Lexington-area therapists to create awareness on new technology, treatment options and other educational topics to foster better client care and mobility outcomes.
“Knowledge is power, and people need some anticipatory guidance so they’ll know what to expect when they go home with a new device, said Brandt. “It all harkens back to our core belief about treating people as well as possible.”
Practitioners also have insurance and financial training so they can assist the patients and their loved ones in understanding how a certain orthotic or prosthetic device may impact their health insurance premiums and coverage.
One of the other pillars of Ability’s mission is to give back to the community; something they see as a “social commitment to the Lexington area.”
“When you bring your company into a community, your business owes it to the neighboring area to give back in any way you can,” said Brandt. “Aligning ourselves with groups and other health care providers in the area allows us to give a better level of service to our patients and clients.”
In line with this effort, Ability has worked with local artists and art galleries to procure pieces to adorn the halls of their facility and had sponsored an upcoming 5k race in March for the Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, a non-profit, private facility providing services to orthopedic, amputee, and other injuries through rehabilitation.
Ability also makes an effort to give back to the industry by holding seats on the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) – a professional organization for practitioners in the disciplines of orthotics and prosthetics. The company also works closely with the US Government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) – where they were enlisted for their client standardization practices regarding a national data gathering study.
Ability’s Lexington Team
Despite being headquartered in Pennsylvania, Ability’s Lexington office’s design and organization allow it to function as the company’s regional HQ. With ample space for two talented and certified orthotist and prosthetist practitioners, the back of the Lexington space also houses Ability’s CEO and the company’s accountant.
All of the Ability team members live locally to further invest themselves in all things Lexington.
Clint McKinley, CEO
“Ability’s corporate employees are spread around all of the different offices we operate. Being a life-long Lexington resident, I was happy to have the chance to serve the company and community from my own backyard,” said Clint McKinley, CEO of Ability. “Being able to walk out of my office right into the practitioner space to see our team meet with clients, I’m able to get first-hand experience in our business – this provides invaluable motivation for me to do the best I can for our staff and our patients.”
With a proven history in corporate and operational management, Clint McKinley founded BridgePoint Medical and came aboard when Ability acquired BridgePoint Medical in January 2011. At Ability, he focuses on Ability’s strategic development and execution of its mission to the greater Lexington area and surrounding communities.
He holds a JD from the University of Kentucky College of Law (1989) and a BS from the University of Kentucky with a major in finance and a minor in economics (1985).
Jamie Hicks, CO
Jamie Hicks is Ability’s resident ABC Certified Orthotist and is currently a member of both the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) and the AAOP.
She holds various certifications for many devices across the orthotics spectrum including ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs) and knee-ankle-foot orthoses (KAFOS) that provide individuals with a more natural gait pattern.
“I believe the freedom and collaboration we have at Ability provides a huge benefit to our patients and clients,” said Hicks. “One of the main reasons I came here from Birmingham was that the wealth of knowledge Ability has to service customers allows me to provide the best orthotic device possible – either meeting or exceeding their expected level of mobility.”
Bryan Fairbanks, CP
Bryan Fairbanks serves as Ability’s resident ABC Certified Prosthetist and, like Jamie, is a current member of both the AAOP and the AOPA.
He is certified to provide the highly-advanced “Proprio’ foot by Ossur, the world’s first bionic foot and ankle system, as well as the “C-Leg” and “Rheo” microprocessor controlled knee-shin system for above knee amputees.
“When a patient comes in, it’s plain to see the fear in their eyes that the life as they know it is over,” said Fairbanks. “The grass can be greener on the other side, and I’m excited to get the opportunity to show them that.”
Life Isn’t Over After Amputation
In early 2012, Ms. Gay Gilvin was driven to the hospital with a 106-degree fever and tremendous pain emanating from her ankle. Suffering from swelling for over a year and what turned out to be Cancer in the bone of her leg, she had left transtibial amputation or below the knee amputation on January 20th, 2012.
While staying at the Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, her doctor spoke candidly about her options and suggested she consider working with Ability to get fitted for an appropriate prosthetic. This was not the first time she had heard of Ability, as prior to her surgery, she had overseen the installation of Ability’s sign for the Lexington facility.
She knew the Ability team would be the best candidate to assist her through this somewhat difficult transition.
“When I first came in and got my prosthetic and was testing it out with a walker, one of the practitioners told me ‘we’re going to have to look at you a bit differently.’ – that really stuck with me,” said Gilvin. “It was encouraging to be seen as an individual and that spoke volumes about their personalized practices.”
Despite the loss of her leg, she remained positive and has been working closely with the team at Ability for the past year.
“I really wasn’t really worried and I certainly didn’t have any expectations when I first received my prosthetic. I just figured we’d work it out as we went,” said Gilvin. “My life wasn’t over after my amputation. I roll with the punches and have had a really positive attitude my whole life; I just suck it up and get on with the day.”
Ability partnered with her in choosing the correct prosthetic device, maintained and adjusted as the process went on, and helped her regain the mobility to walk around her house, and even handle a few household chores including sweeping the kitchen.
Throughout the ordeal, she has been amazed at the transformation she has undertaken and has even lost 101 pounds since her amputation, joking that 31 of them were cut off.
“I was able to get back into a black skirt I haven’t been able to for four years, and being able to walk with my prosthetic has allowed that to happen,” said Gilvin. “The team at Ability has been patient, supportive and has really helped me through some very difficult steps. I’m tremendously grateful for where I am today.”
New Technology Coming to the Lexington Office
Being so close and tied into the medical community has allowed Ability to be among the first to sample and order new prostheses and orthoses.
Such is the case with the MyoPro™, a portable functional arm brace that restores movement to a weakened arm as a result of neuromuscular damage.
“What’s really interesting about the product is that it doesn’t use electrical stimulation like typical braces but incorporates a platform technology of non-invasive myoelectric sensors that rely on the patient’s own muscle signal to move the arm,” said Fairbanks. “It’s just an awesome step for our industry and we can’t wait to use it in Ability’s Lexington office.”
The MyoPro™ is the only custom myoelectric brace for upper extremity orthosis and Ability can custom fabricate the device to ensure better performance and user specific requirements.