As summer turns to fall each year, the Philadelphia region welcomes thousands of new students to the area, which boasts Ivy League universities, community colleges, state schools and private institutions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and the Census Bureau, the Greater Philadelphia area is home to 100 colleges and universities with half a million students.
With the recent start of the new semester, the Inquirer tapped students at local universities to hear what’s on their minds.
Are you a student at a local campus with opinions to share with the Inquirer? Email commentary pieces on newsworthy issues to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
When you see someone wearing a prosthetic or orthotic device, it’s easy to think first about loss, particularly what a person lost in a physical sense. For me, it was the ability to play soccer, a sport I loved ever since I was a child. After four successive shoulder injuries — first tearing my labrum and biceps tendon — I was told that if I ever wanted to lift my kids up, I should stop playing. So, I retired from my goalkeeper position with Temple women’s soccer.
I couldn’t imagine my life without soccer and fell into a crippling depression. I would look at photos of myself in the goal and not recognize the person in the photo. It was a hard time, but eventually I learned that even when you lose something important to you, something positive can come from that loss. Now, as I pursue a degree in bioengineering, I’m hoping to merge the lessons I learned from my own injuries with the education I’m getting at school.
This all began my junior year of high school. I was recovering from my second serious shoulder injury and instead of working with a physical therapist, I did rehab on my own. This was crushing for me, because in physical therapy, I’d been pushed to improve both my body and my mind — to always see the silver lining. Without them, I crumbled.
Then, in an anatomy class, my teacher had us make a “prosthetic” hand out of paper and strings that had to hold a soda can. That spring, after the physics AP, our teacher let us do any project we wanted, so I decided to build a 3-D printed bionic arm, or at least attempt. That’s when I found my passion in biomechanics. I knew from my own experiences in physical therapy that prosthetic and orthotic devices can help to give something beyond mechanics: hope, purpose, and direction.
Now, as a student at Temple College of Engineering, that inspiration has stayed with me and is what powers a lot of the work done by a student professional organization I helped to start: Temple Prosthetics and Orthotics.
Last January, students from across engineering disciplines started working together with another group, Temple Biomedical Engineering Society, on updating a robotic prosthetic arm already on-hand, but also looking at how prosthetics and orthotics can help more people, more often.
In doing so, TemPO is also taking our work off-campus, to try to help others gain something out of loss.
Recently, we started working with Jefferson Hospital on a specialized glove meant to help patients who have suffered from a stroke regain some use of their hands. With another opportunity, we are developing a specialized prosthetic device to help a young girl ride her bike again. We are even working with a veterinarian in South Jersey to develop animal prosthetics.
Do I miss playing competitive soccer? Sure, but I don’t look at it as something I lost. Instead, I found an opportunity to help others gain something, too.