Terry Fox’s legacy sparks prosthetic research in the Maritimes
Published Saturday, September 16, 2017 5:32PM ADT
It’s been 37 years since the trailblazer dipped his leg in the Atlantic Ocean, generating a movement that remains strong still today and continues to change the face of athletic prosthetics.
Charlottetown orthotic and prosthetic technician, Paul Hoar says Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope back in 1980, not only put a national spotlight on cancer research, but also helped pave the path for prosthetic research.
“Before that, there was just a general purpose leg you used for everything,” says Hoar. “After that, you started to see more specific things made for one purpose and one purpose only.”
While preparing for renovations a few months ago, Hoar came across an old knee piece he instantly recognized as the same type used by Fox.
Hoar then decided to create a replica of Fox’s iconic artificial legal to give people a better idea of the magnitude of his run and show how far prosthetic technology has come.
“I think it would have been painful running that far on that leg and then there's the energy he had to use on that leg,” says Hoar. “He must have been exhausted, he wasn't running a 100-metre dash in a modern prosthesis; he was running up hills and on the flats.”
It took Hoar two months to complete the replica with most of his time spent on research. He says the biggest challenge was figuring out how Fox’s prosthetic ankle was put together because it was almost always covered by a running sock.
The final result was the result of painstaking measurements, tracking down discontinued parts and factoring in the length of what was left of Fox’s natural leg.
Hoar says he even soaked elastic straps in buckets of tea to give the material a more realistic and aged appearance.
“It’s something that had touched him when he was a kid," says prosthetist, Gabriel Arsenault. “He brought in newspaper clippings that he had saved in a scrapbook just because he knew it was something that would be important.”
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital decided to feature Hoar’s prosthetic replica in a display dedicated to Fox and a company has donated a modern running prosthetic leg for comparison.
Modern prosthetic running legs are much lighter, conserve energy and are more comfortable than the one used by Fox.
One of the only modifications to Fox’s leg were elastic straps for his knees that caused his famous hop-skip gait.
“For him to be able to run on that was simply amazing compared to what people are able to run on today. It would be really interesting to see if he would have had the chance to run on that type of technology, if his journey would have been any different,” says Arsenault.
Fox covered nearly 5,400 kilometres over 143 days during the Marathon of Hope on a leg designed for walking on flat ground.
Thousands of Canadians are now preparing to continue Fox’s legacy for the Terry Fox Run on Sunday.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.