During our stay in India, my company and our team where doing beta testing for our prosthetic limb. We had been here before, for alpha testing, however this time we were set to work a few more patients then last time. The testing itself went very well, but it was a very different place to work then we are used to. I won’t go into all the details but one of our patients had an infection. I don’t mean a small one either, but a very serious, life threatening infection that has more than likely shortened his life. Without intervention it will probably cost him more of his leg if not out rightly kill him. The clinicians at the first place we worked with yelled at him for not cleaning it properly but never showed him how, nor gave him anything to do it. I was able to, and still find this probably the oddest thing I have ever done, go into the hospital, talk to a doctor, and without a name or age get a prescription for him. Our device will be more sanitary and possibly help him heal and effect his quality of life, but in the end that man is going to die because he couldn’t afford doctoral care when he needed it two or three years ago. I will have to admit that the clinicians did all they could, but the setup is very different then in the US and what both of us could do for this man was limited. That will bother me for a very long time. We are still in contact with him, and hope to convince him to take better care of himself at the same time as helping us test our device.
The first clinic that we worked with was well funded and attached to a medical school. There however is an issue with this. They are well funded, and it became very clear that funding was not concerning when it came to patients devices. They could afford giving out devices, but the patients often received ill-fitting or fragile sockets but have no other choice but to use it because it was given to them. Some did have to buy things but due to being well funded, nothing was optimized when it came to cost. It came from one company with high prices. The technicians there are awesome, and artists at what they do, but like artists are not very good at changing there process. There way of making a socket is not efficient, and often leads to having to do it over again. One of our team is a process engineer, the other a plastics engineer, so we proposed a solution to their process that would help them at least time wise. The turnaround normally is about 3 days, the last being casting where the plastic is heated for 3 hours and flipped every 5 minutes. This means that every 5 min, the oven door is opened, heat is expelled, and the material flipped over. This makes the heating process so much longer and produces a far lower plastic quality. The method we proposed was to not flip it, and not open the door until it needed to be. The plastic melted fully in 25 minutes with correct wall thickness but staff where uncooperative and the test failed to produce a socket. They did not want to be responsible if the test failed. I can’t blame them, as it is the way that they are told to do things, but because of this we wasted a few days and more plastic then needed. The socket they finally got us with there method broke before it got on a patient anyhow.
The other clinic that we worked with was, to put it bluntly, a bit more passionate about there work. They were not as well funded and didn’t have as much high tech equipment, but they were eager to work with us and show what they know. One of the techs that works there is an amputee himself, and about as tall as I am. He spoke English but few of the others did. It was clear when they were talking to patients, even without understanding what was being said, that they really cared about the people they work with. It was like a different world compared to the other clinic, and in truth refreshing to see. This clinic used a different method and plastic, witch was far more efficient and in the end better fitting. Many of the people we worked with in the hospital last time and the start of this visit where somewhat distant with their patients, in a more businesslike manner then physician type of way so it was nice to see the opposite spectrum.
I do hope that when we continue to work in this area that we can continue our relationships with both places, to learn what we can from them and help them in return.