Twenty-four CSU students, in fields such as biomedical engineering and health and exercise science, recently traveled to Ecuador as part of the Range of Motion Project. The experience helped them see how their training can prepare them for careers helping individuals with limb loss.

Biomedical engineering is a field of study that demands as much from the head as the heart, requiring coursework in calculus, physics, differential equations and life science, as well as the desire to help people, often those who have lost limbs. A practitioner must wear numerous hats—as engineer, scientist and researcher. In a word, the academic program is rigorous.
After students in Colorado State University’s undergraduate School of Biomedical Engineering expressed an interest in gaining hands-on experience, the program partnered with the Range of Motion Project. Known as ROMP, the international, non-profit, mobility organization based in Denver works to bridge the gap between access and resources available in America to people with amputation in the developing world.

ROMP’s goal is to improve prosthetic access in poor communities through assisting individuals without regard to citizenship or insurance status. Housing operations in the United States, Guatemala and Ecuador, ROMP also offers a number of volunteer programs to educate and inspire the next generation of innovators.

Dave Krupa, co-founder of ROMP, assesses patient John Cisneros. The Range of Motion Project provided hands-on experience creating prosthetics to CSU students Dominic Castillo and Ben Bunten. Here, they cut plastic that will be used to wrap around the mold of the prosthetic leg to create a custom fit. CSU faculty and co-leaders on the Ecuador trip: Ellen Brennan Pierce and Deb Misuraca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Our students want to make the world a better place and ROMP is currently doing that, so it was a perfect fit,” said co-leader, program creator, and BME academic advisor Deb Misuraca. “Our hope is that students will come away from this experience with a stronger base of knowledge and hands-on experiences in prosthetic and orthotic care, a greater sense of purpose and a stronger connection to the global community.”

Dominic Castillo, 21, was among the group of CSU students who recently traveled to Ecuador to participate in the ROMP’s volunteer program. Castillo, a third-year student, wanted practical experience working with practitioners to see if his future will involve prosthetic care. As a dual major in biomedical and mechanical engineering, he likes seeing pieces fit together: “I always knew I wanted to be an engineer. And the ability to give people the chance to walk is awesome,” Castillo says.

Castillo said the time in Ecuador helped confirm that he was on the right path.

“At the end of last semester, I was frustrated with school,” he says. “Classes were getting harder. And I knew there were tons of paths I could take that would be easier. ROMP helped me realize what [all the hard work is] for. So, my goal is to design prosthetic limbs.”

Castillo’s time with the Range of Motion Project also proved to be extremely gratifying: “Being able to work in the physical therapy office was an amazing experience because we got to witness amputees using their new prosthetics.” In a journal that he kept while working with ROMP, he explained how rewarding it is to observe amputees in action. Castillo wrote: “After a long day of work, we had the opportunity to play soccer, volleyball and basketball with a couple of amputees that were absolutely amazing at soccer. It was awesome to see these amputees not let anything hold them back.”

Castillo’s journey took him through various phases of prosthetic design; First he created molds. And then he wrapped them in plastic, sometimes adding more than a single layer. Then they heated the plastic to make it pliable: “I learned how much goes into [building prosthetic limbs], and how many specialists are involved. There are a lot of hands-on people who constantly work together to change lives.”

The Range of Motion Project not only changed the lives of amputees, it also served as a catalyst for Castillo. “This experience has been truly life-changing and will be something I never forget,” he says. “Giving people the tools to regain the ability to walk again and seeing their reaction as you carry in their new prosthetic was such an amazing feeling. I now know that biomedical and mechanical engineering was the right path for me and I strongly feel like there is nothing better I can do as a career.”

Castillo’s hands-on experience in Ecuador helped him determine that he wants to help design prosthetics in his future. And the Range of Motion Project played an invaluable role in Castillo’s development. He hopes to travel to Guatemala to assist with ROMP’s operations in 2019.

As a non-profit organization, ROMP depends on community support. For additional information or to make a donation, please see
www.rompglobal.org.

This article was adapted with permission from an article originally written for Amplitude magazine. Mary Beth Skylis is a Boulder-based freelance writer. To comment on this article, send an email to letters@nocostyle.com.