The paws doctor
The magic of the “Paws Doctor”, Derrick Campana
Normally, when you open the newspaper or look at the news on the TV, more often than not what you see is sad, upsetting, disgusting… you name it. Humans being mean to other humans, humans destroying the planet and humans being cruel to animals. It is seldom you are confronted with something positive and that is why I would like to tell you this story.
How it all began
Derrick Campana, a 39-year-old North American, studied sports medicine and kinesiology, specializing in prostheses and human orthopedic. Then it happened. One day, Charles entered his lab. Now, Charles was a black Labrador retriever who had a real problem. He was suffering from a very unusual genetic malformation, because of which, his paws resembled the claws of a lobster. The owner of Charles, who happened to be a veterinarian, was at wit’s end for treating Charles. Because his boss was out of the office, Derrick studied the problem and came up with a solution that functioned. This is 13 years ago and Derrick has helped 20,000 animals since then. Animals who were limping from birth or because of an illness, accident or amputation. The variety of animals helped by Derrick is amazing, going from elephants to cranes and all species in between, dogs, cats, llamas, horses, deer, rabbits, owls, eagles as well as a ram from Tarragona, Spain.
The company of Derrick which is in Sterling, Virginia receives daily tens of petitions from all over the world. These people hope to find help from Derrick as a last resort. Often, he has tried out contraptions of his own design to see if they are feasible. Animals do not have the problem humans have regarding how they look. Animals just recover their confidence, wag their tail and start running. Derrick is a pioneer in a specialty where only 10 other individuals are practicing in the world.
The story of Felix the Ram
The story of Felix is really amazing. He was attacked by a group of dogs and badly wounded. He arrived at the Santuario El Hogar in Tarragona, where it was identified that because of a fall while being attacked, his front legs were completely shattered and pointing backward. Last summer, Derrick was in Spain and he designed a prosthesis for Felix. Derrick said this was his most unusual case because he had to reestablish equilibrium, so Felix could move about.
The emotional story of ChiChi, the Chinese dog
Perhaps, you know that in China, people eat dog meat. It is a dreadful sight to see so many dogs, all shapes and sizes pressed into boxes awaiting their fate. ChiChi was found hanging upside-down, tied by the legs with metal wire in one of those Chinese meat markets. To save her life, her four feet had to be amputated. Normally, in a meat market, cuts are performed with a meat cleaver and this crushes the bones and leaves very sharp points. Luckily, the amputations were done by a qualified vet, performed in his operating room and with clean cuts. Even if this was a very delicate case, Derick was able to provide ChiChi with four prostheses and ChiChi is able to play and run and is very happy. Derrick says of all the animals he has treated, ChiChi is one of his favorite cases.
Jabu, the African elephant weighing 6 metric tons
Jabu could not walk because he had a bad wound along with serious arthritis. For Derrick, this posed a problem because he had nothing of this size in his lab. Therefore, he had to special order a large number of components for this huge prosthesis. But in the end, it was a complete success. Derrick treated more elephants like Mosha and Motala, two Asian elephants. These poor animals lost their feet, stepping on a landmine. But because of his experience with Jabu, he had practical experience, and the elephant is an ideal patient. They follow orders, put out their foot when asked and let you try out components without complaining. Not to be compared to dogs, which often are too nervous to be handled or worse, cats as they are capable of doing anything to get rid of this strange attachment to their body.
The combination of Technology and handcrafted prosthesis
Derrick makes these prostheses from plastics that are malleable at high temperatures. This enables the owner of the animal to adjust the prosthesis by heating it with a hairdryer. He also uses other materials like carbon fiber, titanium, stainless steel, and foams. The material of construction depends on whether the animal lives in the home or outside. He has even, on some occasions, used prototypes made with 3-D technology. But many times, it is pure handwork where you have to sculpt the prosthesis to fit exactly to the receiving body part. Sometimes the difficulty comes from the type of wound and it may take many nights to find the solution. Such was the case of Ebony, a street dog who had an amputation very high on the shoulder. In total, 10 different models were made before Derrick found the ideal solution.
In 80% of the cases, Derrick cannot visit the patient personally. If that is the case, he will send a kit to the caretaker/owner so they are able to take a mold of the stump, then send this back to Derrick’s lab. It may be that this mold has to be refitted and travels back and forth many times before it is completed and the animal is comfortable. Derrick often uses Skype so he can see how the prosthesis has adapted.
Over the years, many people remain in contact and Derrick receives loads of Christmas and Thanksgiving cards.
Discovery launches DoDo Heroes
Discovery Channel has associated its self with The Dodo, which is the major platform in the world of digital content (2,000,000,000 video hits a month.) A lot of these stories are moving, funny or spectacular, where the protagonist often is an individual with four feet.
On Sunday the 10th of June, Dodo Heroes was launched worldwide. The story of Derrick Campana is the third chapter of the weekly series.
This is one of the stories that give hope to humankind when there are people who dedicate their lives to helping animals. As Derrick says “A wounded animal is sad. When you make them a prosthesis, they regain their confidence and are happy again.”
Source: The SUR newspaper of 2 June 2018, story by Ines Gallastegui
Photo Source: Pixabay
There are more exceptional people in this world, perhaps you like to read about Felix, a 9-year-old German boy who started a movement.