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New Legs Give Student the Power to Compete

By Stacy Tintocalis, Freelance Writer
Athletic prosthetic legs have given twelve-year-old Katie Henry a competitive edge.
“Katie has gone through so many sets of legs that I’ve lost count,” her physical therapist, Bethany Underwood, said. Underwood has seen Katie Henry weekly since Katie was three.
Katie has had the same physical therapist for nine years. Underwood has seen her grow up.
“That’s what continuum of care is all about at Ozarks Medical Center,” says Pam Ream, Director of OMC Rehabilitation Services. “It’s about neighbors caring for neighbors throughout their lifetime. If Katie lived in a big city, where employee turnover is high, Katie might have gone through six physical therapists by now.”
Katie is now an active pre-teen and uses special athletic legs, so she can cheerlead and play softball. “Gymnastics tear up her regular prosthetic legs almost monthly,” Underwood explained. Katie goes through legs quickly because she’s so athletic. She either breaks them or grows out of them.
Katie’s journey began when she was born without tibias. She could only crawl by dragging her legs behind her. Doctors amputated her legs below the knee, so she could be fitted for her first set of prosthetic legs. “Katie doesn’t remember a time that she had legs,” Underwood said.
Eventually Katie needed athletic legs to participate in sports. The athletic legs are springy and scoop-shaped, which throws Katie off balance. During physical therapy at Ozarks Medical Center, Underwood helps Katie adjust to the difference between the athletic and regular prosthetic legs. “You get different feedback from normal prosthetic legs,” Underwood explained. “It’s hard to transition to the athletic legs and get used to them.”
Prosthetic legs have been expensive. Initially the annual OMC Docs vs. Jocks basketball challenge and the Zechman family helped fund her procedures and legs. While Medicaid now pays for her regular legs, the athletic legs have required a grant as well as funds from the Jonesboro Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratory.
“The most exciting thing about the athletic legs is how much Katie’s speed has increased,” Underwood said. “The possibilities are endless. A lot of sports don’t allow for the old prosthetics due to injuries. The athletic legs are approved by sports.”
“Katie has always competed in special needs gymnastics. And years ago, she would dance her heart out to the hip hop song ‘Get Low,’” Underwood said. “Now she’s competing in sports not as special needs.”
What’s amazing is that Underwood may see Katie dance at her prom and compete in college athletic events. “Many physical therapists at OMC have decades-long relationships with their patients,” Ream explained. “Friends come and go, but a patient at OMC might have the same doctor and physical therapist their entire life.”