When a patient started his therapy program, Colleen Goodwin was his first therapist on his road to recovery. Her patient had experienced a machine accident at work, resulting in partial hand damage and amputation of his ring and pinkie fingers.

While participating in the patient's rehab, Goodwin decided to coordinate with other professionals who could lend their knowledge and experience in getting the young man back to work.

"I contacted an organization in Hiram -- Georgia Orthopedics Resources -- that manufactures prosthetics," said Goodwin, an occupational therapist, certified hand therapist and owner of Able Rehab in Villa Rica. "They have the ability to assist in developing a prosthetic hand that could offer greater functional mobility and cosmetics. My specialty is hand therapy and there are numerous treatments that CHTs utilize to assist patients with rehabilitation and getting them back to life, sports, work, etc.

"It took some time and effort, but with the collaboration of practitioners, eventually the insurance companies allowed us to further work with the occupational therapists, prosthetists, and prosthetic technicians to form a team whereupon a group would be involved in the treatment plan."

James Strickland is a certified prosthetic orthopedic fitter at Georgia Orthopedics Resources.

"We are like a pharmacy of prosthetic and orthopedic devices," he said. "We evaluate the patient to figure out what type of device is required. We are specialists involved with manufacturing and fitting prosthetics, in this case fingers. With upper extremities, we take a cast of the limb and then send it to another facility like Touch Bionics in Ohio who will fit the patient with the best technology available. With this patient and other clients, for example, we make a hard socket and then take a cast of the amputated hand along with the other hand. We reverse everything on the good hand and transfer that via the computer. We then have a copy of the product, take silicone and put that on the mold, scan it into the computer, and reverse it."

After months of occupational therapy the patient, along with Goodwin and a bio-mechanical engineer with Georgia Orthopedic Resources, traveled to Dublin, Ohio, for additional collaboration with Touch Bionics.

Steve Martin, along with prosthetists, and technicians from Touch Bionics, collaborated with Goodwin and the engineer from Georgia Orthopedics Resources to develop a final product.

"When the patient arrived we added additional parts to the device," Martin said. "When a patient has new digits, he/she is not sure how to make the prosthetics work and or move. So additional training is required so the patient can operate his new fingers. We provide computer assistance and software programs that show the client how to apply exercises and movement."

Able Rehab's patient was the first to receive a new generation of the most advanced hand, at that time, in the United States named i-limb.

The computer was used to teach the patient how to manipulate his new digits to move, open doors, and continue his former lifestyle.

"It's similar to Biofeedback movement where two connection points energize the muscle transaction to actually electronically move a muscle," said Martin.

Touch Bionics provided Able Rehab with the necessary software to use with the device.

"Patients sometimes have inflated expectations after an amputation, but no one size of diagnostic prosthetic fits all," added Martin. Goodwin provided the training necessary at Able Rehab in Villa Rica for the patient's new hand.

Combining occupational therapists, prosthetists, orthopedic specialists, and bio-mechanical engineers, along with modern technological advances in prosthetics and bionics has enabled a new path for patients in west Georgia.

Atlanta has been building a reputation as a hub for bioscience technology for a while. Georgia Tech has a biomedical engineering program and they reportedly only accept 18 students per year. The Georgia Research Alliance combines the public-private alliance between universities and tech companies and provides them with the resources necessary to engage in bioscience research.

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