Purdue University students build innovative prosthetic leg for 5-year-old with rare birth defect

Boy will be able to run, ride bike

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A team of Purdue University students has designed a new type of prosthetic leg for a 5-year-old boy born with a rare leg condition.

Lucas Resch was born with only part of his left femur, making his left leg a lot shorter than his right. The condition is a rare birth defect known as proximal femoral focal deficiency.

Lucas has a conventional prosthetic leg, but his parents, Ned and Melissa Resch of Providence, R.I., said Lucas still can't run or ride a bike.

"He has a traditional prosthesis that basically just makes his legs the same length, but does very little for his mobility," said Purdue doctoral student Anne Zakrajsek.

The family was told that Lucas' best hope was surgery to rotate his foot 180 degrees so the ankle of the shorter leg could act as a knee joint so a traditional prosthesis could be used.

The Resches wanted a less radical solution and learned about the "The Leg Up Project," a Purdue mechanical engineering senior design project in 2009 that created a prosthesis for an Indiana boy with PFFD.

Ned Resch came across a YouTube video about the 2009 project.

"He was running and riding a bike, just what we want Lucas to be able to do," he said.

Ned Resch found a group of students to take on the project for Lucas -- mechanical engineering seniors Sajed Dosenbach, Ted Kramer and James Vandewalle, and biomedical engineering seniors Alex Guerra and Ben Zakhary.

The prosthesis uses a gearbox to convert the ankle's range of motion -- about 40 degrees -- to a knee's range of motion -- about 90 degrees.

Lucas and his parents stopped by Purdue's campus Friday to meet with the students and begin fitting a new leg.

Lucas is scheduled to try out the prosthesis over the weekend, wearing it to the Purdue-Penn State football game Saturday.

The Purdue students will create a mold of Lucas's shin to make for a better fit, and the Resches will return in about a month to receive the form-fitted leg, which can be adjusted as Lucas grows.

"We're so grateful," Ned Resch said. "As parents, it means so much to us that he may soon be running faster and riding a bike."

Ned Resch said Lucas is excited about getting a new leg, although he doesn't understand all of the details.

"In one of the videos we sent the team, he was bouncing around being goofy and saying things like, 'Thank you for my new leg,' and, 'I want a big super hero leg,'" Ned Resch said.
 

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