A Journey To Africa, Part 1: Back To The Beginning

With the use of the next two hours in this gait session, L.E.G.S., or LeTourneau Engineering Global Solutions, will obtain data that will show just how successful their ground-breaking project will be. The team's test subject is 12-year-old Devante Cox. "I'm going have you walk up and down a little bit we're just going do it while they're gone and collect a couple motion trials," says Bio-Medical Engineering Senior and L.E.G.S. Project Manager Kristin Ness. 
The goal here is this: design a prosthetic for amputees in developing nations who could not otherwise afford to buy, what normally is a $20,000 to $30,000 prosthetic. The L.E.G.S. version will cost less than a hundred dollars. At the lab, infrared cameras are in place to begin. "We're going compare his current U.S. prosthetic with our prosthetic design and it lets me look at the way he's walking. I can compare the three scenarios looking at his stride length, how quickly he's walking, his cadence," says Ness. Over and over again test subject, Devante, walks back and forth in the student-made prosthetic. The team looks on observing his every step. "So we're going to measure how much oxygen your body is using ok," says L.E.G.S. Faculty Director Dr. Roger Gonzalez to Devante as he gets set-up for more tests on a treadmill. "I'm going to measure your heart rate ok," Ness adds.

It sounds like extra work for this soon-to-be teenager, but for Devante, and his mother Terry Lilly looking on, wearing a prosthetic has been a way of life. "This is our life, this is our amputation, this is our surgery, this is our pain, this is our life, this is what we go through," explains Lilly. Devante was born without a tibia bone. His umbilical cord was wrapped around his foot and his leg was amputated at only 10 months old. "I did a lot of praying," says Lilly. "And trusted in what my surgeon was telling me. And he asked me what I want and I said I want to see him run one day, ride a bike, play football, just like all little boys do. And he said if you trust me you will see that and so much more. I never thought me deciding to have the leg amputated--because I did have to make that decision, the hardest decision of my life of course--but I never thought making that hard decision would turn out to be a blessing you know. Because this is going to help somebody else, somebody else's child. Maybe one day him and one of these kids can invent a leg that is going to be perfect for someone you know. We are blessed to have this opportunity, truly blessed. Somebody is going to be helped you know that's why we're doing it," says Lilly crying. As a team they started with just an idea and engineered it into a working prosthetic. In less than three weeks, more prayers will be answered, when the leg of this African journey is complete.

In Part 2 see how Kenyan amputees, between the ages of 10-13, go from barely being mobile to walking in a matter of days thanks to the L.E.G.S. prosthetic. Plus, hear their personal stories of survival. Part 2 airs Wednesday night on KLTV 7 News at 10.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com