Sep
14
2017

Terry Fox inspired his career – and his latest creation

QEH prosthetic technician Paul Hoar and certified prosthetist Gabe Arsenault

Paul Hoar says it is Terry Fox who inspired him to learn how to build prosthetic limbs for people who have had amputations and accidents.

So, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s (QEH) prosthetic technician believed it was fitting that he recreate the leg that Fox used in his iconic Marathon of Hope in 1980. It is also a testament to the skill of Hoar, who has made more than 1,000 prosthetic limbs in his 30-year career.

“This is more than a replica, it’s a clone,” Hoar said as he unlocked the QEH lobby showcase displaying his creation at the hospital as a tribute to Fox in advance of this weekend’s Terry Fox Run. “You can’t call it a Terry Fox leg if it’s not exactly right.”

With meticulous attention to detail and a laborious hunt for parts, Hoar spent weeks rebuilding the replica of Fox’s leg. He used parts from five different prosthetics, even soaking white belts in a bucket of tea to make them look authentically aged.

It is displayed next to a modern-day running prosthetic demonstrating just how far the technology has advanced in 37 years. Terry Fox’s actual prosthetic leg is at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.

“What Terry Fox did was amazing enough, but to do it on that technology,” Hoar said. “I wanted the comparison so people can see and realize ‘he ran on that?’”

The idea to recreate the famous leg came to Hoar during spring cleaning of the hospital’s physical medicine department. He found an old knee joint and recognized it as the same kind used in the leg made for Fox.

Together, Hoar and Gabe Arsenault – a certified prosthetist in the QEH’s physical medicine department – have helped get Islanders golfing, swimming, and even running again with their prosthetics. They recently made a new leg for a five-year-old girl who had outgrown hers. They even custom-made a cover to match a pair of leggings she liked.

Arsenault does the clinical work and Hoar does the technical. As colleagues, the two also have a personal connection. Arsenault decided to pursue his line of work in 2001 after meeting Hoar and seeing how he helped Arsenault’s father who lost a leg in a workplace accident.

In a business where inspirations like that are everywhere, Hoar said that Terry Fox remains his greatest.

“His journey would have been so different today, with a leg with the right fit and a natural stride,” he said. “People don’t realize how much pain he was really going through.”

The display can be seen in the QEH lobby until the end of September.

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