Hanger Clinic Prosthetist Dan Hill Uses His Upper Limb Prosthesis To Pursues His Passions

Dan Hill
April 21, 2023
Hanger Clinic

Born without his left hand, Hanger Clinic prosthetist Dan Hill, CP, discovered his passion for baseball and later pursued a career as an upper limb specialist for Hanger Clinic thanks to the innovations in prosthetics that made his dreams possible.

Growing Up with Limb Loss

Dan was born without his left hand at the wrist, but that didn’t stop him from living an active life. Growing up on seven acres in West Virginia, his family had goats, chickens, sheep, and lots of chores to maintain the land. Dan’s parents expected him to be out there with his brother helping with the chores and, at the same time, encouraged them both to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities.

Dan found his passion in baseball, which led him to Shriners Children’s for prosthetic care. Every year, he would receive a new upper limb prosthesis designed to help him play baseball. As he grew older and began high school, he started to realize he wanted options for other activities like bike riding and weightlifting. He continued to work with his prosthetist to find prosthetic solutions that fit his lifestyle and goals.

After high school, Dan left home to attend college at West Virginia University. That was when he realized he wanted a prosthesis for more than just specific activities, he wanted one he could wear for daily use. He went to Hanger Clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia where he met Karl Fillauer, CPO, who introduced Dan to an upper limb myoelectric prosthesis.

I now wear my myoelectric prosthesis six days a week for 12 hours a day, and have done this for the past 17 years.

Dan Hill, CP

“College was a transitional time for me. The town I grew up in was a small and supportive community, and I didn’t really know any other people with a prosthesis. I was never treated any different. Then, when I went to college, I felt like people wanted to try to help me with things I had always done on my own. It triggered me to explore a prosthesis I could use throughout the day, every day. The myoelectric prosthesis was my answer. I can use it for various types of daily activities.

Think about picking up a coffee cup and then leaving your house. Before, if I was relying on one hand, I would have to set down and pick up the coffee cup in order to turn the door handle to open and shut the door. Now, I can grab my coffee cup in one hand, open and close the door with my other hand, and be on my way. I never have to set down and pick up the cup. It turns a five step process into a simple single step. Before my myoelectric prosthesis, I didn’t realize all the extra steps I was taking for simple tasks and how it slowed me down.

I can also complete many other tasks that are just easier with two hands, carrying items, sweeping, using tools, you name it. It has impacted many of my daily activities in a positive way, just making tasks less cumbersome or difficult than they would have been with only one hand.”

Life as a Prosthetist

Dan’s experience inspired him to become a prosthetist. As he completed his undergraduate degree, he spent several months shadowing clinicians once or twice a week at Hanger Clinic. Eventually, Dan became a prosthetist and later an upper limb specialist for Hanger Clinic.

“In my role as an upper limb specialist, I travel from clinic to clinic to meet with patients and to educate and collaborate with other Hanger Clinic clinicians. I love being able to share knowledge specific to upper limb prosthetic technology with other clinicians, and at the same time learning new things from them.

I am most passionate about sitting down with patients and their families to talk about how an upper limb prosthesis may help them in their daily activities, work, sports, and life in general. There are various forms of technology to best meet the needs of patients of all ages and activity levels. I find special joy in working with children and their families. They are in a similar place that my family and I were in years ago. I can talk through parents’ questions and help address their fears and concerns. Your children can develop friendships, participate in sports and extracurricular activities, graduate high school and college, go on to get married and have a career, all things I have done in my life.

Dan Hill Endeavor Games

Now that I have been working in the field of prosthetics for over 11 years, I have had the opportunity to see some of my pediatric patients grow with their changing technology. Their ability to adapt and meet their goals continues to inspire me every day.”

Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month

Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month is a great opportunity to share information and resources with the community. When I was growing up with limb difference, I didn’t know any other people like me. Now there are so many great in-person and online resources, support groups, and camps bringing together a community of like-minded people with similar experiences. If you experience limb loss or limb difference, reach out to connect with others and get the tips and resources you may need.”

Final Thoughts

“People with an upper limb amputation sometimes wonder if they need a prosthesis. When I chat with them, I ask them about their daily struggles and goals. I know I wouldn’t have experienced the same level of activity during childhood and now into adulthood without my prostheses. I also notice a decrease in neck and back pain and posture issues with my prosthesis. It helps to keep me more balanced throughout my daily activities. You may not know what you are missing out on until you try it.”

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