Posts Tagged ‘Walking Free’

 Story by Jeannie Dortch.

“My dad exemplified the philanthropic effort of volunteering. He always worked in some capacity to help others through his church service as a deacon, on mission trips, or in his community. And always without sacrificing time with family and friends who needed him. When you grow up with that, it becomes part of you too!”    —David Lawrence, physical therapist and amputee specialist

A serious foot injury while in college on a basketball scholarship changed David’s career goals to health and physical education with a certification in athletic training. But his desire to work with people rather than on them sent him back to school for a masters in physical therapy, earned in 1990.

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceDavid began using high-tech prosthetic devices with youths who had lost limbs. With this knowledge he created an amputee clinical education program for physiatrists (physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation) while working at McGuire Veteran’s Hospital in the early ’90s. Soon he was hired by Sheltering Arms Physical Rehabilitation Center as their prosthetic and sports medicine specialist. While there, he helped create an amputee clinic system they still use today. Working for At Home Care during the next six years, David developed a program to train home health care therapists to work with patients who had complex treatment needs.

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceIn 2000, David learned there was a world-wide epidemic of young amputees with no access to care; due to a civil war, there were 40,000 in Turkey alone. Under the auspices of Physicians For Peace, David made his first volunteer trip alongside other physicians. He created a triage system, determining protocol as he worked. Initially, they attempted to use prosthetics brought from the U.S., but learned that creating a prosthetic center in Turkey would be more efficient. The curriculum David wrote for how to administer pre- and post-care to patients receiving a prosthetic limb is called Walking Free. This initiative was so successful in Turkey that it is now being used at nine locations in six countries. The process has taken 17 years to develop, and David still gives continuing education courses when he visits countries, keeping in touch online with therapists afterwards.

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceLawrence Rehabilitation Specialists, Inc., also known as The Gait Center, opened in 2006 and is the only center of its kind in the United States. Unlike typical therapy centers, Lawrence Rehabilitation works primarily with patients whose issues limit their ability to walk, whether it be from orthopedic or neurological causes. Local prosthetic and orthotic companies work with The Gait Center, making molds, casts, braces, prosthetic limbs, knee units, feet, and shoes specifically tailored for the complex care administered by David and his team. “Most cities can provide good surgery,” commented David, “but the best care to teach a patient to walk again is in Richmond at The Gait Center.”

Steppin' Out with David LawrenceThough David travels the globe to help amputees in other countries, he has wanted to find a way to help more U.S. patients. In 2017, he plans to bring to Richmond a youth for whom doctors have been struggling to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. After treatment at The Gait Center is completed, David will take the patient back to his hometown. There he will be used as the model to teach doctors and therapists how he was rehabilitated to peak performance. This will be David’s first official outreach project under Mission Gait, his foundation that became a public charity in 2016.

One key to this process will be the technological piece. After a hands-on workshop, a self-directed online certification program for U.S. therapists will be available on the Mission Gait website where practitioners may become certified in The Gait Center’s level of complex care. Finally, professionals will work directly with David’s patients at The Gait Center and take exams to become certified providers for specialized care in their states.

Steppin' Out with David Lawrence

Carolyn and David Lawrence

David was asked to define success. Wanting an answer that could be fully implemented into his life, he decided, “Success is an ongoing process of making the most of the gifts, abilities, skills, and opportunities that God has put in front of me.”



Author’s note: David’s wife, Carolyn, is the Director of Human Resources, Office Manager and Facility Designer of Lawrence Rehabilitation Specialists.

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