NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As if growing up isn’t challenging enough, some children face a much larger obstacle in life if they’ve lost a limb.
With growing bodies, those children need new prosthetic limbs every two years. One man who makes those limbs is trying to make sure they’re available for all families regardless of financial standing.
For patients needing new limbs you think they’d go to a doctor, but sometimes that isn’t the case. Sometimes, you need a craftsman.
“As a kid I used to like to tinker with models and play with wood and do things with my hands,” said prosthetist Rob Schulman.
Schulman custom designs and fits prosthetics.
“It takes a whole new life when you’re fabricating something that’s not only going to be used by someone, but used to gain their life back,” Schulman said. “It’s a really neat thing to make something that will give someone that independence and the wings to fly.”
The work is done in the plaster-filled basement of his office.
“You have to make sure the prosthesis is not only structurally sound and hold them up and not break, but it’ll give them the flexibility and ability to move and have the range of motion they desire,” Schulman said.
After creating a plaster mold of the limb, it’s wrapped in carbon fiber tubing and a custom fabric.
A special resin bonds the materials while hardening the carbon fiber. In a matter of minutes, the funcional piece of art is set and ready to be worn.
The average prosthesis is between $10,000 and $25,000, and most insurance companies only cover 80 percent of the cost.
“(You’re) seeing how the healthcare industry has been changing where lots of families with children with limb loss have incredible out-of-pocket expenses,” Schulman said.
Every prosthesis is custom-fit, and growing children need a new one every year. So Rob is trying to raise $1.5 million to build America’s first non-profit children’s prosthetic facility.
It’s called “Out On A Limb.”
“We’re going to raise the capital to build a pediatric prosthetic center on Long Island, where no family will have to worry about paying any out of pocket expenses,” Schulman said.
Eight-year-old Logan Passe was born with a congenital bone condition. His life could have been confined to a wheelchair, but Schulman crafted a pair of custom legs. He recently returned to his office just seven weeks after learning to walk in them.
Logan says in the weeks since receiving his new legs, his confidence has soared.
“I used to be a lot different,” he said. “I pretty much didn’t feel comfortable with my legs… I hate little kids asking me a bunch of questions about my legs.”
Schulman has plenty of experience with children. For five straight years, he’s taken trips to Haiti where like in many third world countries, poor healthcare means even secondary infections can force limb loss.
“They are so thankful for what we’re providing for them because these people barely have enough for food,” Schulman said. “It puts everything in perspective.”
Over the past 25 years, the children impacted by Scholman number in the thousands. He’s helped kids do things they’ve never done, like run and jump.
For now, Logan’s confidence outweighs his ability. He still falls sometimes, but he’s lifted by his own ambition.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re different, there’s still something that makes you special,” the eight-year-old said.
While he’s raising money for the new facility, he’s expanding his international humanitarian efforts. Schulman’s not only going to Haiti, but also working towards creating trips to the Philippines and Africa.