Prosthetist Scott Sabolich is the third-generation owner of Sabolich Prosthetics. An accomplished orthotist, Sabolich hopes to once again show off the latest technology in prosthetics on the world stage at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He discusses commitment to patients, advancements in the field and inspirational stories.
When you’re a prosthetist, you create prosthetics for people so they can go about their normal daily lives. That’s what we do, but it’s not what we’re about. We form a bond, a union, with these people, and we take care of them for life. Most patients need a new prosthesis every two to five years. We form a lifelong partnership with our patients.
My grandfather started the business in 1947, after World War II. Back then he made back braces and wooden legs. My dad got into it as a young child, so I grew up in the field. When I was little, everyone else wanted to be a policeman or fighter pilot; well, my dad was a prosthetist, and so that was what I wanted to do.
When I went through my residency in the early ‘90s, my passion was in racing. Racing was in my blood. I thought if I wasn’t going to be prosthetist, I was going to be a racer. What really turned me on was racing legs. I thought I can live vicariously through amputees by building racing prosthetics and being their virtual pit crew. In 2000, I picked up a couple Paralympic athletes, and we came back from Sydney with three medals; I also had athletes at the 2004 games in Greece. By the 2008 Beijing games, (Sabolich Prosthetics) had so many athletes that Team USA asked me to come as team prosthetist. In Beijing, Team USA won 48 medals, 10 of which were from this facility, three of which were gold. Team USA also had three world records. We’re hoping to have an even better turnout in London.
People say to me, “Wow, you must see a lot of veterans.” Yes and no. There are about six, seven to 8,000 amputees from the war so far over the last decade, more than 3,000 people in the United States lose a limb every week. If those soldiers hadn’t lost limbs over the past 10 years, those 3,000 people per week wouldn’t have such awesome prosthetics. When soldiers lose a limb, the country rallies around them. From this we get better prostheses, better knees, feet, ankles for everyone like the Genium knee and the Michelangelo hand.
My work with Wayman Tisdale was a powerful thing for me. I grew up watching him play basketball at the University of Oklahoma, and then seeing such a great man like that go through horrible cancer treatments and be able to get him up and going again and see that smile on his face. It’s sad that he’s gone now, but I’m glad we were able to affect his life while he was here.