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On what would be Terry Fox's 60th birthday, a look at today's limb technology

Last Updated Jul 27, 2018 at 9:59 pm PDT

Summary

Fox ran with a prosthetic that was essentially strapped on, which contributed to that characteristic hop

Prosthetic limbs are now equipped with micro sensors and osteo-integration technology

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Hard to believe – Terry Fox would be turning 60 this weekend, if cancer hadn’t taken his life back in 1981.

His Marathon of Hope would have looked a lot different had it been launched today – because of high-tech advances in prosthetics.

“He used a suction-on-skin method, with a series of belts to hold his leg on. On top of that he used a knee joint that was essentially just a hinge. He used an elastic strap, strapped to his leg to create that motion to extend his knee out, which required that extra hop,” explains Chris Marshall with Limb Loss Manitoba.

Fast forward to 2018, and technology has advanced artificial legs.

Felicia Shafiq of the Amputee Coalition of BC Society says some amputees no longer hobble.

“Nowadays we have microprocessor knees and microprocessor ankles that do their best to simulate a natural gait,” she notes.

“I mean there’s things like osteo-integration that integrate the prosthetic with the limb itself. There are sensors. There’s so many things that are being developed right now, it’s amazing.”

In fact, Marshall believes Fox would have covered more ground if he launched his cross-country fundraiser today.

“If he had used components that are available today, there’s an estimate that instead of running 42 to 43 kilometres a day, he could have run maybe 65 kilometres a day.”

On the far end of the technology are running blades, used by Paralympic athletes who are amputated below the knee. Fox was amputated above the knee.

Fox still inspires athletes, generations after his attempt to run across Canada, which was cut short after doctors found the cancer that had claimed his leg had spread to his lungs.

“If you go back in time, and you talk to anybody nowadays, you’ll see the first person they ever thought of, or knew as an amputee, was Terry Fox. Thus he created an environment of raising awareness for amputees.”

It’s a sentiment Shafiq, who is a member of the National Women’s Sitting Volleyball team, shares.

“I work near BC Place, so I walk past his statues. They inspire me every time I pass by.”

With files from Xiaoli Li at CityNews Winnipeg