(Photo Courtesy of Derrick Campana/Facebook.com)
Over 20,000 animals live their lives with prosthetic legs around the world all thanks to the services of Derrick Campana.
Derrick, an avid animal lover, graduated with his Bachelor’s in Kinesiology and Biomechanics from Penn State. Then went on to obtain his Master’s degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics from Northwestern University.
Campana learned the skills of prosthetics and orthotics in his school and soon after began practicing in the profession of human prosthetics. Meanwhile, a veterinarian brought a disabled dog to him. The pet owner asked for a prosthetic for his dog.
Campana says that when his first prosthetic leg turned out to be a great success in helping this animal to live a better life, he knew that that is what he wanted to do for the rest of his.
He is now the CEO of Bionic Pets in Sterling, Virginia which creates custom braces and artificial legs to improve the mobility and quality of life in animals.
While the company does work closely within the veterinary community and pet owners directly, it also puts a great deal of focus on helping rescue animals.
Regardless of where the animal comes from, they live by the company’s motto is “animals are born to run, we help them get there.”
Mobility For All
Campana has a long list of animals he has helped across many different animal groups including birds and mammals. He has helped dogs, cats, goats, horses, camels, sheep, gazelles, birds, and even the largest mammal in size - elephants.
An incredible example of his work was when two Asian elephants in Thailand were injured by explosives and lost their front limbs. Campana confidently created two huge casts for their broken limbs which has given them back the gift of mobility and ultimately survival.
The Importance of Animal Prosthetics
A report published by Washington Business Journal uncovers that there are just ten people in the world who are into the business of making prosthetic limbs for injured animals, and Campana is one of them.
The price difference between a prosthetic and a surgery compels pet owners and vets to make a customized prosthetic limb for the animal. Where a surgery may cost them about $3,300, a prosthetic, depending on the animal’s size, will get the job done for roughly $500 to $1,000.
Campana claims that by providing a prosthetic to a dog, the dog’s life improves for at least another two years. That may not sound like much but to their beloved owner that extra time together means everything.
"Seeing these dogs walk again, with their tails wagging and their eyes glittering again, it's just the happiest feeling in the world," Campana said. "It's a job I'll do till I die."
Furthermore, he explains, there are pet owners who say that their dog is doing just fine on three legs. However, since dogs are meant to have four legs and have to compensate by putting weight and pressure on the other legs if one is lost, the rest of the body can greatly suffer, causing it to malfunction very quickly.
The ultimate job of his prosthetics is to give mobility back to the innocent animal and reduce any suffering so that in return the pet owners and their pets can enjoy each other’s friendship for a long time.
How Does It Work?
Campana issues kits to pet owners and veterinarians who send him back the casting molds of their pets and patients. Using an accurate size and shape based on their molds, he makes a customized prosthetic leg or brace sculpture with a thermoplastic material.
Recent Innovation in Bionic Pets Prosthetics
Campana recently began manufacturing 3D-printed prosthetics. This technique allows for the custom pieces to be less expensive and more durable than the existing models.
It comes with low-temperature thermoplastic devices that can be adjusted at home with a hairdryer or other heating device by the owners. If any user complains that their prosthesis or brace is too thin and pushing in the wrong parts, they can heat it and somewhat reshape it into a more comfortable mold. It becomes firm again as it cools down.
Derrick’s Amazing Work in Action
Recently, he finished filming the second series of his show, Wizard of Paws. The series is broadcasted on BYU TV, owned by a department of Brigham Young University. Check it out here: www.byutv.org/wizardofpaws
You can also watch as Derrick gives life back to these animals by watching through the various formats here: Disney+, BYUTV, Animal Planet, and Nat Geo.