Two hours. That’s how long Saugus High School student Cameron Lutges would travel for his prosthetics and care.
The 17-year-old bilateral amputee, whose legs were amputated just above the knee at 10 months old, would travel to Loma Linda and other locations outside the Santa Clarita Valley up until last year when he met Robert Salone, a certified prosthetist and orthotist at Hanger Clinic in Newhall.
“I’ve switched from a couple of prosthetic places but two years ago I went to an Angel City Games (a Paralympic-style adaptive sports festival) and I got to meet Robert at the Hanger booth,” said Lutges. “I knew about Hanger for a while but didn’t know it was so close to me. A 5-minute drive definitely beats two hours.”
But having Hanger at close proximity was only the bonus, Lutges would agree. That’s because the Saugus student, who’s in his school’s swim program, has widened his capabilities in performing tasks more safely and confidently thanks to acquiring a state-of-the-art prosthetic knee first introduced for the modern military forces.
“With this, it’s like I have an assistant helping me walk,” said Lutges about his Ottobock X3 prosthetic knee, the highest of high-end prosthetics currently available and even deemed the “Lamborghini of legs” by Australian Navy seaman and amputee Mark Daniels.
Lutges is now able to perform tasks more safely, such as walk up a flight of stairs or squat to pick something up from the ground.
Before, he “used to get really frustrated with the other knee” because it was simply a straight joint without the technology.
“The different modes are really helpful,” he added. “If you’re trying to ride a bike and don’t need resistance you can put it in cycle mode or if you just want to stand there and don’t want the knees to bend you can switch to standing mode. It also helps with my back because I have scoliosis and a tilted pelvis.”
The X3 is “intuitive. The safety behind it and having that resistance, stumble recovery and spatial awareness of where he is in space is key,” Salone said.
Not many are able to attain an X3 as most people have a C-Leg or other microprocessing technology. A hefty price tag is a factor, said Salone, as it can cost up to $100,000.
Lutges, who has brought inspiration to others like him, is just one of many individuals from the SCV and around that Salone said make his job worthwhile at Hanger.
“Seeing somebody come in a wheelchair and then walking out, I mean, that’s part of the most rewarding part,” he said, although there are some challenges. “The hardest part is making sure that the patients that I see are comfortable and the solutions that we’re (bringing) for them prosthetically are working. I can make a prosthetic but I don’t wear them so it’s important that they work for every patient.”
Additional technological advances for the Hanger Clinic, with about 800 locations nationwide, could include a microprocessing ankle and targeted muscle re-intervention.
Santa Clarita’s Hanger Clinic, which offers free evaluations and peer supporting resources, is located at 23206 Lyons Ave.