Custom Prosthetics for Leukemia Battle Wounds

Heels are wonderful…

Except when you have a hole in your foot…

Kate and I have been best friends since elementary school.  When we were 16 years old, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  It goes without saying that it was life changing for Kate.  Watching her go through it was the hardest thing I have ever done.

Her two and a half year roller coaster in and out of hospitals was punctuated by close calls: seizures that put her in a coma, liver failure that turned her completely yellow, and life-threatening infections that permanently claimed chunks of her flesh.  One of those infections was osteomyelitis in her foot.  Part of the bone and plantar fascia was completely deteriorated when they operated.  When it first happened, she had a 2 x 2″ hole there. Over time, it healed and became smaller.

Nevermind the detached plantar fascia, the hole, probably better described as a crater, is constantly irritated by shoes that rub along the edge.  Blisters concentrate around the crater rendering most heels unbearably uncomfortable after a short period of wear.

A while ago we talked about possible solutions for this ailment.  We decided we would make a prosthetic part that could fill in the hole and provide a buffer between the crater and her shoes.  We finally made a prototype!

We picked up LIFERITE Skin-Safe Silicone Rubber.  It’s a body-safe silicone for making molds of body parts.  For this project, we applied the Silicone directly to the skin to make the part instead of making a mold.  We might decide to make a mold at a later date, but for now, we wanted to test out its effectiveness.

(By the way, these kinds of silicones are often used in prototyping soft robotics, making cosmetic prosthetics, and making molds for casting.)

An alternative to LIFERITE is Smooth-on’s body safe products.  Some of these products will be available at your local art supply stores like Blick and Utrecht.

The first piece we made had a massive air pocket at the bottom.  The next time around we used a thinner loli-pop stick to apply the silicone in the deepest part of the hole first.  By the way, I believe it is equally as important to document the failures or challenges as it is to document successes.  There is learning in both.

Despite the irony, a passerby was rather jealous of the activity and decided to join in.

After peeling the part from the skin, we trimmed the edges.

The last step was to add an adhesive.  We used medical tape to position the prosthetic.


The tape and the prosthetic piece show a little bit with shoes.

We switched to a clear medical adhesive called V.A.C. drape.  This is the adhesive they use to hold the post-surgical vacuum pump.  It’s highly adhesive, low irritation, flexible, and comfortable.  It can be hard to come by unless you order a case from a medical supplier.  However, it does sometimes become available on ebay/other online retailers.

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Thanks Kate for enduring being my guinea pig!