Insight into Prosthetics & Orthotics – Jarrod Cahir

Jarrod is a Prosthetist/Orthotist who works out of hospitals in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. His ‘Deadly Legs’ program has been instrumental in trying to remove the shame Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel when having to wear prosthetic limbs. The program involves collaboration between Jarrod and his patients to involve artwork or designs of significance to the patient (such as traditional artwork) within the limb which will hopefully encourage them to embrace their new lifestyles with pride. Jarrod’s passion and commitment to the rehabilitation of all his patients as well as his ability to recognise the need for a program such as ‘Deadly Legs’ makes him a strong ally within the allied health workspace.

Studied at: La Trobe University (Bundoora)
Current student or graduate: Graduated 2013
Current employment: Central Australian Health Service – Alice Springs Hospital

What do you do in your profession:
In my role as a Prosthetist/Orthotist I provide a service across the inpatient and the outpatient settings at Alice Springs and Tennant Creek Hospitals, where I am responsible for the clinical prescription, manufacture and fitting of prostheses (artificial limbs) and orthoses (musculoskeletal braces). These devices are designed to enhance people’s quality of life by improving mobility and independence.

Common misconceptions:
Whilst a significant portion of the job involves manufacturing and fitting artificial limbs post amputation, a majority of the time we are working as part of the multi-disciplinary team to prevent amputations from occurring. As an Orthotist this involves providing advice and modifications for appropriate footwear and working closely with podiatrists and physiotherapists to provide orthotic devices to biomechanically offload peak pressure areas on the high-risk foot to prevent ulceration and subsequent amputation.

Favourite things about the job:
One of my favourite things about the job is watching patients complete the rehabilitation process, having worked so hard to build up strength and stay motivated and resilient after a life changing event such as amputation. Being able to support them, and provide a prosthesis to allow them take their first few steps post-surgery, is a humbling and rewarding experience. I also enjoy focussing on getting to know people’s individual stories so we can set specific goals and see them achieve these and continue to develop personally over time.

Amputation within Central Australia is a common condition in the Indigenous community, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more than three times more likely to have diabetes. Consequently, with diabetic foot disease being the leading cause of amputations in Australia, Indigenous people are up to 38 times more likely to have a major amputation. Up to 80% of these amputations are preventable, and it is therefore imperative that as a community and as health practitioners we are aware of the significant effects of diabetic foot disease and how regular monitoring, foot checks and follow up can reduce these figures.

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