Chris Casteel became an amputee after a motorcycle accident in 1988. He then worked in manufacturing until he was let go in 2002.
If that were the end of the story it would be pretty depressing.
After that he went to Eastern Michigan University and earned his master’s degree.
If that were the end of the story it would be happy, but a little dull.
The real story comes from Careel’s combining his two worlds.
With his degree in orthotics and prosthetics he has combined the two halves of his story and in 2012 created his business, Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics, which provides care for amputees from a place of understanding along with the prosthetics.
Casteel’s background in manufacturing also plays a role in his business. He is knowledgeable about the advances in computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing, which have become common place in the making of prosthetics.
From toes lost to diabetes to lost arms lost in accidents, Casteel’s business, at 6438 Woodward Ave. in the historic Albert Kahn building, helps them all. It also provides home and clinic visits for people unable to travel to the office and fabrication laboratory and has American with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility and compliance.
One of the most important things he brings is an intimate understanding of the issues those who have also lost limbs face. That understanding gives him the ability to encourage people to live their lives while still managing expectations, and knowing their limitations.
While you can do much of what you did before with the right prosthetic it isn’t a genie. “If you couldn’t salsa dance before, you won’t suddenly be able to,” he says.
This kind of intimate care is why, despite having a full staff, Casteel tries to meet as many clients as possible.
“It is amazing watching people go from a caterpillar to a butterfly,” he says.
One patient is Sean, a landscaper who lost his legs in a forklift accident. He still lugs fertilizer … among other heavy materials and marches up and down stairs at work.
There’s more to that story as well.
However, for amputees to do things they used to do, their prosthetics must fit properly. This is where the CAD and 3D printing comes in. While not all prosthetics and orthotics can be made or fitted this way, when they can be done it is very helpful.
That is especially important for kids who need prosthetics or orthotics. They are still growing and need to be fitted properly.
Insurance can also be an issue, and the staff at Anew Life is prepared to help people understand what is covered.
Casteel provides free orthotics to members of the homeless population who have lost their toes to facing down Michigan’s unforgiving weather. In the past he had difficulty finding them for check-ups and fittings, so now he takes a photo with them so he can find them for check-ups and fittings.
Providing for the homeless isn’t the only way he makes a difference.
Casteel has traveled to Haiti to assist in an orthotic and prosthetic department and to counsel amputees.
He also believes his advocacy to have those in his profession reclassified as medical practitioners will help many people live better lives.
Casteel says the prosthetic business made a mistake a few years ago when it classified those who provided the equipment as sellers of medical supplies, not medical practitioners. That means they are currently paid by the sale, not the time spent.
Currently, he says many providers of prosthetics and orthotics push out sales and move patients through quickly in order to sell the most product. In the worst cases, and too often, patients will not get the proper fitting or testing done for the best results.
Not wanting to go into personal detail, Casteel says his knowledge comes from personal experience, so he does not participate in such practices.
These experiences forged him into a man who is taking care of those whose struggles he most understands. What he advocates to all is that it is important to accept what happened, come to terms with it, and learn there is life after limb loss.
This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources visit: https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/business-financing.go.