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James Nix

James Nix, 58, was an employee of the power company 28 years ago, when he encountered some high voltage that left him with serious burns and internal damage, and resulted in the amputation of parts of both of his arms.

After more than 4 months in the hospital, Nix spent most of the next year “in and out of the hospital, having surgeries…”

…a total of more than 30 surgeries, he believes.

While his left arm continued to heal, he was fitted with a prosthetic right arm. The conventional body-powered design allows him to grip, lift, carry, and manipulate objects.

Nix began visiting Snell’s in 1979, shortly after receiving the arm, when it needed some repairs and adjustments. He traveled to the Duke University Medical Center to have a left arm prosthesis fitted, and received extensive training and practice in working with both arms.

“I could have either gone to Duke or to Northwestern in Chicago; I chose Durham because a man who had burns similar to mine had just gone through Duke Rehab, and had good success,” recalls Nix.

“When I came home and needed work on my arms, I went back to Mr. Snell, because I was satisfied with their service and work.”

When Nix needed his next set of arms, Snell’s made them for him, and they have been replacing and updating his prostheses for the last 25 years since then.

Nix usually requires a new set of upper-limb prostheses every two years or so, and maintains a second set as “spares.”

“I wear one set every day and I call the second set my Sunday set. I wear them if I want to go out to eat, or to church or somewhere special. They perform just the same, but one set-the newer ones-look nicer, without so much wear and tear on them as the everyday set,” he explains.

If he encounters a problem with one set, he can wear the others until repairs can be made. “My wife can do some repairs on them, but for any major adjustments, I take them back to Snell’s.”

“I’m very satisfied with the service that I have received from Snell’s over these many years,” says Nix. “The people that work on my arms-Russell and Derrick-do very good work.”

He continues to keep himself active and capable. “I can basically do just about anything with these arms,” he claims. “They had to adapt my truck, but now I can drive it with ease. I do chores around the house because my wife works, and I help her out any way that I can.”

That includes laundry and managing the dishwasher, among other tasks. And, since Nix enjoys being outdoors, he also does the yard work, using a lawnmower that has a driving bar to make steering more comfortable for him.

He enjoys spending leisure time with his two daughters and especially his five grandchildren, playing with them and babysitting like other fond grandparents the world over.

To others facing a limb-loss situation similar to his own, Nix offers advice: “Basically, do what you think you can do, and don’t take no for an answer. When somebody tells you that you can’t do something, prove them wrong! I have had physical therapists and occupational therapists tell me that I wasn’t going to be able to do certain things-and I’ve just gone ahead and done it.

“For one thing, they told me I wouldn’t be able to wear blue jeans-but they hadn’t heard of Velcro! I have Velcro on all my clothes.”

It might take a little creative problem-solving, he admits, and sometimes it takes a little longer for him to perform a simple chore than someone with a natural hand and arm, but it can be done.

“It all just depends on you and your positive attitude about things. Just prove them wrong.”

Among Nix’s abilities is the gift of generously helping others.

“Anything I can do to help somebody, I will try. I have gone to visit with other Snell’s patients who are in a similar situation to mine; I try to help them to keep a positive attitude. It’s hard going through something like this-on you and your family.

“I don’t mind doing it,” says Nix with quiet strength. “If it helps somebody, I’m glad to do it. I just want to say that I don’t think I would be here today if it was not for the prayers of my church.”


Education Update

Clint and Chris attended the annual American Orthotics and Prosthetics Association Assembly in Boston, in September.  The annual assembly featured continuing education and networking on a national level.

Also in September, Clyde and Trevor conducted an educational seminar for LSU Medical School’s OT students and will be returning soon to provide education to their PT students.  And, on October 4th, Clint showed off and demonstrated his new KAFO to the PT students at LSU.

Clint, Kaitlynd and Clyde attended training in Dallas on cranial helmets at the Star Cranial Center.  STARband cranial helmets are used to treat deformational plagiocephaly, which is commonly referred to as “flat head syndrome”.  The STARband is used to correct this condition.  Our practitioners are now qualified and certified by The Star Cranial Center to fit STARband cranial helmets.

Chris is working getting his BOC certifications in prosthetics and orthotics.  He is currently doing the pre-requisites and will be completing his course work and obtaining his certifications.

The company is actively seeking a new resident(s) in order to continue with the success of Snell’s residency program.


Susan Ballard

Susan Ballard, 44, wears a KAFO (knee-ankle-foot-orthosis) to support her foot drop and right-side weakness that appeared as the result of an automobile accident in 1990.

It’s only one of a number of troublesome complications that also resulted from the accident but she lets none of them slow her down significantly.

Although prior to the accident, Ballard was healthy, athletic, with no hint of a problem, the head injury that she sustained also activated symptoms of multiple sclerosis, which were only identified after more than a year of doctor visits and testing.

Her seat belt lock had failed, allowing damage to her knee, as well.

Ballard’s variety of M.S. is called relapsing-remitting. “Each time that I have a flare-up, I lose a little bit of the strength in leg. The quad muscles on my right side are atrophying. I also have a lot of eye problems with it,” she adds matter-of-factly. “The eyes sort of jump around, and I have had two eye surgeries for that.”

After the accident, Ballard was fitted for an ankle foot orthosis. Following her knee surgery, she began also wearing a knee brace.

The series of braces she has worn ever since have been helpful in preventing more falls like the one that broke her wrist, and the thumb on her other hand.

“The braces (one regular hinge and one pneumatic hinge) help give support to my hip,” she explains. “My gait was altered and I was having problems, not swinging through properly. I had to go through gait training. The braces help to stabilize my knee. It’s a prototype that was featured in a story about me a couple of years ago, that appeared in a national orthotics magazine.”

“The KAFO has made a great difference in her ability to stay mobile,” she adds. “My orthopedist and Snell’s have been very good about keeping me in the brace, and keeping it repaired. I wear it down, wear it out, Velcro comes off, and screws come out but I get to use it. I get tired. I experience fatigue and other side-effects of M.S., but it has helped me be able to walk better. I climbed Stone Mountain in Georgia with the aid of my brace. I climbed up it twice, in 1998 and 2001. Randy, at Snells, said I ought to climb DOWN it, now! I tried to come down both times, but I didnt make it. That’s the next goal!”

Although Ballard was recently diagnosed with leukemia, and her anemia adds to the fatigue that is already associated with her M.S. symptoms, she sets a demanding pace for herself as a dedicated volunteer.

The love of her life in addition to her wonderfully supportive husband and 15-year-old daughter is serving as Scout Leader for “her girls”.

For ten years she has camped, hiked, and guided her group of high school-aged girl scouts through an impressive list of community service projects for the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, and others.

She and the scouts have also served at Buddy Camp, where children with disabilities are paired with typically developing peer children as partners or buddies.

“I’ve been a Buddy Parent the past few years, and my girl scouts have been counselors. The girls are great,” she says proudly. “When we go on a trip, they push me in the wheelchair, carry all the stuff, and take care of my backpack and luggage. They’re a wonderful group.”

These educational (and entertaining) trips have taken Ballard and her girls as far as Disney World, Savannah, San Antonio, and this year, New York City.

When she’s not volunteering and mentoring, Ballard is busy bicycling and riding horses in what remains of her free time.

Fatigue aside, Ballard appears to lead the life of a dedicated dynamo, and her words of inspiration are heartfelt:

“Dont give up, because Snell’s will keep you going! They really will. Poor Randy! I’ve put him through so much. I’ve gone through water and everything else with that brace, and he is just wonderful and encouraging and very supportive.

“I was playing basketball last year with my girl scouts, and a screw popped out. I wasn’t even playing defense,” she insists plaintively, “I was just going to shoot it!” Serious again, Ballard continues: “My orthopedist and Randy worked together to design a brace for me and they have both been very good about keeping me able to walk. So, I’d tell others in a similar situation not to give up.”

(If they follow Ballard’s example, they’ll be too busy to give up!)








2001: 9/11

2001: Terrorists attack the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D. C. using hijacked airplanes.