For amputees, a chance to get back in the swim

Water sign: The Fin is a breakthrough for amputees, according to Northwell Health and former U.S. Marine Dan Lasko.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A retired U.S. Marine from Pennsylvania who lost part of his leg in the war on terror is diving back into his favorite athletic activities, thanks to next-level science created on Long Island.

Dan Lasko of Bethlehem, Pa., survived an explosion in Afghanistan in 2004 – his vehicle hit an IED – but his grievous injuries required the amputation of his left leg below the knee.

It was, obviously, a life-changing event for the then-21-year-old soldier, an avid amateur athlete – he’s a triathlete, among other pursuits – who’s now the father of two sons, ages 2 and 6.

Lasko has relied mostly on traditional prosthetics since his surgeries. But to compete athletically and to share his love of swimming with his boys, he’s had to hop on one leg across the pool deck and ease carefully into the water.

It hasn’t stopped him; he’s completed some 30 triathlons since his injury. But it has certainly slowed him down. His dream: a water-friendly prosthesis that would let him climb easily in and out of the pool, and perhaps stand up to the strength still surging through his right leg and the rest of his fit frame.

That wish has been granted. On Wednesday, Northwell Health officially announced the creation of “The Fin,” the world’s “first 3D-printed, amphibious, prosthetic leg,” according to the health system. The debut was personified by Lasko, who demonstrated it with a plunge off the diving board at the Nassau Aquatic Center in Eisenhower Park.

“The Fin is greatly improving my quality of life and allows me to return to my love of swimming,” Lasko said Wednesday. “I recently got back in the pool with my two young sons and for the first time was able to dive into the pool with them.”

The device was created through the pioneering efforts of crusading Northwell Health 3D printing scientist Todd Goldstein, Hicksville-based prosthetic design firm Eschen Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratories and the Composites Prototyping Center, a commercial-grade 3D manufacturing company in Plainview.

Todd Goldstein: Fin is just the beginning.

Joining the Marine at the splashdown was Goldstein, a managing director at Northwell Ventures, Northwell Health’s commercialization office, who won the graduate-level competition of the 2016 Hofstra University CPXi Challenge with the Mano-Matic, an artificial hand featuring biometric fingers and a plethora of electronic sensors and motors. Goldstein has since completed his PhD in molecular biology and tissue engineering.

Also in attendance: Composites Prototyping Center Chairman Joe Garone and Matt Flynn, a certified prosthetist (and fellow amputee) at Eschen Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratories, which also has offices in Riverhead and New York City.

The Fin, which is designed specifically to reduce drag in the water, easily attaches to any running or walking prosthetic, meaning Lasko can enter and exit the pool or open water without changing prosthetics.

“The Fin attaches to a standard prosthetic with ease,” Goldstein noted in a statement. “My hope is that this device creates unforeseen opportunities for amputees everywhere.”

Lasko and the breakthrough device will be featured in a new multimedia advertising campaign, dubbed “The Return,” launching this week. Spanning digital and social media, the campaign is designed to help amputees learn more about the world of 3D-printed prosthetics and other available limb-replacement technologies.

Northwell Health Senior Vice President Ramon Soto, the health system’s chief marketing and communications officer, said campaign will “continue to educate our community about who we are and what we do.”

“‘The Return’ is a unique demonstration of Northwell’s commitment to ‘Look North’ – to achieve the unimaginable and leverage Northwell’s 3D printing expertise and our relationship with veterans to create something that has never been done before,” Soto added.

Northwell Health and Eschen Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratories are also discussing strategies for commercializing The Fin and other customized prosthetic devices – good news for thousands of amputees facing challenges similar to Lasko’s, according to Northwell Ventures Senior Vice President Thomas Thornton.

“The prosthetic market is characterized by one-size- fits-all solutions,” Thornton said. “We made something that didn’t exist and solved a specific problem in a very spectacular way.

“We hope to develop other customized solutions that will enable the estimated 1.9 million people who have lost a limb nationwide, a number that is expected to double by 2050, to resume active lifestyles.”


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