Long Island Medical Experts Use 3-D Printing To Help Veteran Amputee Swim Again

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of young men and women are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as amputees.

Now, thanks to 3-D printing and high-tech prosthetics, a Wounded Warrior has a new leg that lets him swim again, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports.

You might not notice anything unusual about Dan Lasko’s dive into the pool, or that he can swim laps to train for the triathlons he competes in. But then, he gets out of the pool, and you can see the Marine paid a price for his service to our country.

“I lost my left leg below the knee 13 years ago in Afghanistan while serving with the Marine Corps. The armored vehicle I was in struck two IEDs, and the explosion just took my left leg,” he says.

Lasko had a prosthetic leg that worked pretty well, except when he wanted to swim and play with his kids in the pool.

“It didn’t do anything. It was just heavier to kick with, it wasn’t propulsion – there was nothing there to help me kick the water,” he says. “It was useless.”

Then, experts from Northwell Health teamed up with Composite Prototyping Center and Eschen Prosthetics on Long Island to devise a detachable swim fin for Lasko’s leg.

“A fully patient-specific, designed for them, swim leg that gives support and propulsion,” said Todd Goldstein, of Northwell Health. “Being that it’s a lot of plastics and carbon fiber, you don’t have any corrosion. This actual swim leg here — a lot of the hardware is 25 years old. It’s been in and out of the Atlantic Ocean. Not a lick of corrosion.”

The real innovation was the ability to quickly design and test prototypes of the swim fin with 3-D printing until they got it just right for Laskos, Dr. Max reported. Both for his competitive swimming, and especially for what it lets him do with his kids.

“Having two feet on the pool floor, being able to pick my kids up and throw them up in the air and catch them, whatever in the water, have a good time — this is truly a life-changer,” he says.

The beauty of 3-D printing is that it allows prosthetics, like the swim fin, to be quickly designed and manufactured, making it possible to customize add-ons at a reasonable price. That could help the nearly 2 million amputees nationwide resume active lifestyles.

Northwell Health wants to help more Wounded Warriors and civilians with this new technology. To learn more and contact the prosthetic team, email prosthetics@northwell.edu.

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