It's been a frustrating few months for Bryan Larson. He lost a leg in November after it got caught in a winch line while he was working for a tree service company.
But Larson says the mental challenge of adjusting to his new reality was even tougher.
Larson, 23, made a bit of progress last week at a unique clinic in The Dome sports facility in Anchorage. He worked with Steve Wall, a Canada-based lab supervisor for German prosthesis manufacturer Ottobock, on triggering pressure sensors in his high-tech prosthesis that would assist him as he climbed stairs. Almost immediately, he began to get the hang of it.
Scott Weber, an Ottobock marketing specialist, said the goal of the Friday clinic was to give amputees the chance to get guidance directly from the company's clinicians and technicians. It was also a chance for amputees to try products designed specifically for running.
"We're looking at the carbon fiber blade-type feet, which have a lot of shock absorption," Weber said. "But they also then give a lot of energy return."
That was a product Jeremy Maddamma looked forward to trying. He said it was a rare chance to work directly with a manufacturer. Maddamma has been a lower-leg amputee for three years, a consequence of an injury he suffered while serving in Afghanistan in 2012.
"It's a real treat to be able to test them out," he said of the Ottobock products.
Maddamma ran portions of the track and jumped rope, taking note of his gait and how responsive the prosthesis felt. He also sat and chatted with 3-year-old Justus Bohart of Seward. Justus' mother, Rhonda Bohart, said the boy, who was born with fibular hemimelia, now uses a prosthesis from Anchorage-based Alchemy Orthotics and Prosthetics.
Rhonda Bohart said she likes to bring her son to events where he can watch other active, capable amputees. At Friday's event, Maddamma ran the quarter-mile track with Justus and celebrated their finish with a high-five.
Larson said he is still learning to overcome the challenges of his amputation. But he can ski and swim with his prosthesis, and has started to play sled hockey. He said staying active has been key in his recovery so far.
"I try my best not to let anything stump me, I guess," Larson said. "I just kind of run at everything full speed."
Ottobock also planned an event for amputees to test prostheses for skiing and snowboarding at Alyeska Resort on Saturday.