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Two Amputees Talk to Students About Prosthetics

On Nov. 13, School of Engineering and Arts students listened to Aaron Holm and Rob Rieckenberg, both amputees, talk about the challenges of living without legs, and the benefits of technology.

When Rob Rieckenberg was 26 years old, he was mugged on his way to a friend's house. He was left unconscious on the railroad tracks in Minneapolis when a train hit him. When Rieckenberg woke up in the Hennepin County Medical Center, he had 60 staples in his head and his right leg was amputated.

Aaron Holm was 40 years old when he decided to help a co-worker who got a flat tire on Interstate 394. In the process of changing her tire, a car traveling on the shoulder hit Holm at 55 miles per hour, pinning him between two cars. The accident cost him both his legs.

But on Nov. 13, at the School of Engineering and Arts, you would never know that Holm and Rieckenberg were short a leg or two.

That's because prosthetic limbs have given them the ability to walk again.

Holmn and Rieckenberg spoke to fourth grade students to help them learn about the benefits of technology - a large focus in the children's curriculum at SEA.

"We hope that the students will be able to ask questions and gain more insight into how technology can help people," Liz Kinville, fourth grade teacher at SEA, said. "At the end of the week, the students are doing a project where they are going to be designing their own prosthetic leg. So meeting Rob and Aaron will help them think about that."

The guest lecture on Tuesday is part of a series of speakers who will address ways technology impacts residents. A biomedical engineer and an executive from Medtronic were also scheduled to chat with students.

Throughout the hour-long lecture, Holm and Rieckenberg were in the hot seat, answering question after question from curious fourth-graders. "Do you miss your leg that was amputated?" one student asked. "Do you ever feel like a robot?" asked another. "How much does a prosthetic leg cost," asked many others.

When one child asked Rieckenburg if he ever felt sad about his limb-loss, he answered "yes," but added that some things are out of our control.

"When life throws you a curve ball, you have to hit it out of the park," Rieckenberg told the group. "Sometimes we have no control over certain things."

Wiggle Your Toes

One thing that both men admitted they have control of, however, is their attitudes.

In 2008, the drive to help other amputees overcome challenges caused Holm to create a non-profit called Wiggle Your Toes. Rieckenberg joined Holm in his endeavour and the two have been helping amputees ever since.

"Unlike any other organization, Wiggle Your Toes is working with the individual who suffered an amputation," Holm says in a video posted on the foundation's website. "What we're helping to do is prioritize the components that are needed for a successful recovery."

Holm challenged SEA students to visit his organization's website and learn more about people struggling with limb-loss and overcoming challenges. "We went through something that nobody can imagine," Holm told the group. "There is a need for an organization that can give back to the limbless community."

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To donate to Wiggle Your Toes, or to get support from the foundation, visit their website or call 952-221-0500.

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Cyndi Lee November 15, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Reminds of a brief impromptu talk with a group of 3rd graders. Here in Honolulu, the schools have a electronic/robotics comp and this group had decided to build a prosthetic from legos. Donned and doffed my leg, also demonstrated the Alter-G, zero gravity treadmill. I'm an LAKA...for a little over a year now.

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