Marcus Cassar, CPO, LPO Orthotist-Prosthetist, Moira
Tobin-Wickes Orthotics Program, Children's Memorial
Hospital, Chicago, Illinois
Feb, 14, 2008
As a medical professional who works with children who have impairments I
am often astounded by their resilience and resoive to participate in the same
activities as their 'able-bodied' peers. My own cousin Matthew, diagnosed with
Arthrogryposis, embodied these traits as a toddler. Unable to use his legs or
arms to crawl or stand, Matthew would roll across the floor to keep up with me.
Matthew's determination to overcome the various obstacles he faced throughout
his life compelled me to commit to helping those who have disabilities.
Prosthetics is defined as the provision of an artificial replacement of a limb
that has been lost through accident, disease, or during development, In reality,
prosthetics provides the means to restore that, which was lost by the amputation.
To a child, a prosthesis may enable him or her to regain the ability to run and
play; however, to the child's family it provides much more. A prosthesis may help
to restore the family unit and to alleviate parents' personal fears concerning the
future of their child's overall development both physically and emotionally.
However, prosthetics in isolation is not the entire story. Amputees need to be
trained in how to use their prosthesis properly; they need encouragement and
support from their family and other professionals to achieve 'optimum' outcomes.
Over the past six years, I have had the pleasure of working with a child who
was born with congenital deficiencies in both of his legs. Michael McCarthy first
came to see me when he was four years old and had never used his legs to
walk. Initially, Michael was unruly, and did not engage personalty during his
visits. As time passed, Michael quickly developed the skills to walk using lower
limb prostheses and progressed from using a rolling walker to forearm crutches.
Despite these improvements in functional independence, Michael's personal and
emotional development remained largely unchanged. It would take a couple of
years and the influence of another professional to bring about these changes.
Michael began learning karate with Sensei Jeff Kohn at the North Shore
Dojo when he was six years of age. Shortly thereafter, it was evident that
profound changes were emerging. Not only was he developing greater strength
and coordination with his prostheses, but also there was an air of confidence and
personal control that was missing before. Michael would now engage me
personally and take the initiative to describe upcoming events in his personal life.
Michael's physical and emotional development has continued over the years, and
now at age eleven, is an accomplished black belt in karate. He is an inspiration
for disabled and able-bodied people alike. Jeff's instruction, discipline and
personal guidance have provided Michael with the means to achieve any goal he
sets for himself. Whether it is to climb 40 stories to raise money for children, or to
compose his own speech to deliver to an audience following his black belt test, I
am confident that Michael possesses the tools necessary to succeed in all areas
of his life due in part to Sensei Jeff Kohn.
I am certain that Michael's life is not the only one that Sensei Jeff Kohn has
profoundly influenced. Jeff uses karate as a medium to cultivate the inner
capabilities of children with special needs. His instruction of karate provides
children with the physical discipline of the art and the belief that their goals are
attainable regardless of the limitations imposed by their bodies. It is important
that his technique is supported and nurtured so that it he can continue to
enhance the rehabilitation and personal growth of children with special needs,
just as I have witnessed in Michael