How modern prosthetics are changing Canadians' lives
Published Thursday, September 28, 2017 10:48PM EDT
Even though she was born without fully-developed limbs, Schmitt just assumed she would do everything her peers did.
So when she was told that she couldn't attend a regular school because of her disability, Schmitt and her mother convinced the principal to let her try attending class for a week. Thanks to prosthetics, Schmitt proved that she could be just as independent if not more as other kids her age.
As an adult, Schmitt took full advantage of the ever-evolving world of prosthetics. She is now an accomplished athlete who has competed in downhill para-skiing, world cup sailing, deep sea diving and mountain climbing, according to her website.
"I kayak, I scuba dive, I've flown an airplane," she said. "I've been able to live the life I love."
As the "Unstoppable Tracy Schmitt," she is also a motivational speaker who has travelled the world.
"I was very lucky from a very young age to just believe that I was meant to be involved in everything," Schmitt told CTV News.
"Prosthetics have enabled me to do anything I dream of doing. The only limits I have are my own limits up here," she said, pointing to her head.
Schmitt is among the Canadian amputees who say a new generation of prosthetics is helping them enjoy sports and recreational activities more than ever.
The remarkable benefits of modern prosthetics are also on display at the Invictus Games in Toronto, where former soldiers are taking part in various athletic events. Many wounded veterans are doing so thanks to prosthetic limbs.
The quality, versatility and endurance of prosthetics have "improved tremendously over the years," Schmitt said.
"I have never had the same pair of legs twice. They've gotten lighter, they've gotten more functional, they've gotten faster, they've gotten sexier," she said with a laugh.
"Prosthetics have just increased my world tremendously."
At West Park Healthcare in Toronto, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Steven Dilkas said his mission is to use state-of-the-art prosthetics to help amputees regain the life they once had.
He said the Invictus Games, founded by Prince Harry, give rehab specialists like him a chance to highlight the advances in prosthetics technology.
"We now have computerized legs, knees, ankles and upper extremities, and we have devices that are specifically made to help facilitate individuals' participation in sport," he said.
Dr. Dilkas said advanced prosthetics now have sensors that can provide constant feedback so that the artificial limb can adjust to the activity being performed, whether it's walking, running or playing sports.
The new prosthetics are also lightweight, durable, and waterproof, he added.
But even traditional prosthetics are helping people like Irene Sharon, a former ballet dancer who lost both legs to frost bite in 2013.
"Losing my legs was just not something I wasn't willing to accept," she told CTV News. "But it was either my legs or my life."
Sharon said prosthetic legs helped alleviate her fears of not being able to walk or hike again.
"They've changed my outlook completely," she said. "Being able to walk out of (West Park rehab) without a cane and get out hiking and swimming again…a whole other world opened up for me."
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip