April is Limb Difference Awareness Month so we are focusing on a big problem you may not be aware of in America. Did you know more than 2 million people in America are limb different, meaning they have had an amputation for one medical reason or another? That number, according to the Amputation Coalition, is expected to grow to more than 3.6 million by 2050. Will our healthcare system be able to fit prosthetics on this growing number of amputees when currently 60-percent of amputees don't have a prosthesis, and remain immobile. Paul Kent, founder and CEO of the disAbled Life Alliance, hopes to change that with a new Prosthesis for Every Limb Initiative. During this episode, he talks about the gaps in care for amputees and his strategy to help ensure all who desire to be mobile, can get back on their feet and thrive limb different.
Amputations on the Rise Due To Diabetes
The incidence of amputations has become increasingly common due to the rising prevalence of Diabetes. Globally, every twenty seconds, someone is confronted with a diabetic ulcer that necessitates amputation. Many of these ulcers are vascular-related, meaning that due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, there is insufficient oxygen and nutrients reaching the wound, causing it to heal slowly or not at all. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is caused by plaque accumulation, which constricts blood flow. Plaque buildup is exacerbated by excess sugar in the bloodstream, particularly in the leg arteries below the knee and extending into the foot. Smoking, obesity, autoimmune disorders, atrial fibrillation, heart valve issues, and other factors contribute to vascular-related amputations.
Paul Kent’s Story
Non-healing wounds can also occur as a result of other factors aside from vascular-related ailments. If any wound does not heal and becomes infected, it can lead to amputations due to the risk of sepsis. Paul Kent, who has a rare neuropathic disorder that affects his legs, faced this problem. He is an active athlete who enjoys adventure and pushing his limits despite his condition. The problem was that wounds would develop and become infected as he couldn't feel irritation by shoes or other sources due to the neuropathy. His frequent wounds put him at risk of sepsis and threatened his quality of life. Kent had to make a difficult choice as he didn't want to give up his active lifestyle. He ultimately decided to have both legs amputated below the knee by medical professionals.
Paul put a lot of thought into his decision. He conducted thorough research and ultimately decided to go to Boston, Massachusetts. There, he participated in various research studies that allowed him to receive cutting-edge prosthetics and rehabilitation. This helped him recover faster than others who have undergone amputation. He even ran the Boston Marathon once since then, and now he is preparing for the 127th Boston Marathon with his son, Peter, by training for up to 90 minutes every day.
Prosthesis for Every Limb Initiative
Paul's journey from amputation to rehabilitation was not a typical experience and he recognized his new calling in life to make the care he received more accessible to others. With his passion for service, he founded the disAbled Life Alliance, a public benefit corporation, to address this issue. Their first project, the Prosthesis for Every Limb Initiative, involves gathering input from individuals with limb differences and other relevant parties through a collaborative AI technology called Crowdsmart, Inc.
“Crowdsmart AI technology will enable members of the amputee community to contribute their ideas, engage with other community members' ideas, and be a crucial component in accomplishing the objectives of this critical initiative,”
explains Paul Kent.
“Together, our goal is to develop innovative solutions by identifying the challenges that community members face, sourcing programs and companies that are addressing these issues, and collaborating to create a comprehensive, inclusive, and accessible program that can be broadly adopted."
Listen to this impactful episode of The Heart of Innovation to learn how to help amputees, whether from peripheral artery disease, diabetes, neuropathy, trauma, or other medical factors: