Thursday 26 July 2018

When a design becomes even better.

As usual I have neglected my blog for quite sometime. Oh sure there have been things going on, but unlike people who like to tell you on Facebook they are on to their 3rd Jaffa Cake  I figured I would contain myself until I had something of interest to share.

I have been off work, almost all of this month after being rear ended in Tango my Smart car and suffering from a spot of whiplash, so that hasn't been great. Especially as I just thought I had turned a corner health wise. The
respiratory consultant I visited, appears to have done the trick with a combination of anti-acid tablets and a nasal steroid spray which makes me sneeze. I guess a cough is a fair trade for a sneeze. I think what has really helped me of course is knowing I am clear of requiring further treatments for the Non Hodgkin's. Back to watch and wait.

Anyhoo rather than bore you with why I have not been around, here is some news and info that I know a few people will be excited to read, well those missing legs, for the rest of you....Err did I happen to tell you I am on to my 4th Jaffa Cake LoL

Some of you may recall that last year I was blown away when Fabtech Systems announced, without my prior knowledge that I would be one of the first people to receive the new BTK Crossover Integrated Cams. It came totally out of the blue. I just happened to pop Facebook on and that is when I found out. Well that was well over 6 months or so ago. Greg Mattson the founder and CEO of Fabtech Systems had been keeping me up to date alongside the designer Brian Bartlett of the situation with the new design.

Bartlett Tendon Cams
BTK Crossover Integrated Cams

 Now I don't think Brian would mind me saying this, but he is a bit of a perfectionist, especially where design and how something works is concerned. For Brian it is no good letting something just go out of the door if it is "Just Ok". So as Greg explained the Integrated Cam design was delayed some what as Brian wanted to get it just right.

Moving on has Brian alongside Fabtech Sytems got the new Cam right?

Well before I answer that let me explain what the Integrated Cam's are. So for anyone not knowing what the BTK Crossover is and what the hell I am talking about. Here is the description of the BTK Crossover as shown on Fabtech's web site.

"The Crossover™ knee is the worlds’ first hybrid prosthetic knee that can be used for everyday walking and — with simple additions / adjustments—can be used for low and high activity sports".

BTK Crossover Integrated Cams
New Cams are AWESOME


Now a couple of important words there are with "simple additions" and this is where the new Integrated Cam's come in. Previously the knee worked using a system where the dual tendons were attached via receivers placed upon the socket and also attached via a clamp to the pylon of the prosthesis. They ran over cams which could be adjusted for how much resistance you wanted for your desired activity. Now however with the new system of Integrated Cams, everything is contained under the socket. So no more taught tendons going from above your knee fastened onto your socket. I love my BTK Crossover, however have to admit one of my bug bears was when the tendons became dry and dusty on a long ride out they would start squeaking as they ran over my socket. Also even though the knee works really well there is always going to be a pull on the socket where the tendons are attached there. With the new Integrated Cams that has all gone.

BTK Crossover Integrated Cams
Beautiful day for a ride, a tad hot like

Now I have been off my bike for about a month now, due to being stiff following my accident. So yesterday was my first go riding using my BTK Crossover and with the new cams. Obviously I can say a lot more than "WoW" and I am going to, but that was my first reaction. 

This knee the BTK Crossover alongside the new Integrated Cams have changed the dynamics totally. It feels like a whole new experience riding a bike. The first thing I noticed is when I went to get on my bike, as I put a bit weight through the knee in order to help flex it, followed by grabbing my pylon to place my foot on my pedal and clip in was that at the top end of the bend the knee was real easy to flex. However as I went to increase the bend in order to get my leg over the frame I did not expect the knee to become so resistant. As soon as you are on the bike and up and riding the way the new tendons work quickly becomes evident. At the top end of flexion the knee is light and easy to bend, however as you increase flexion the knee increases resistance. This is brilliant. It allows you to cycle easily without wasting energy, yet if you want to get out of the saddle and lean over the rear end to take in bumps or jumps the knee is so supportive and fills you with confidence. The new BTK Crossover unlike it's predecessor, depends more on the Rock Shox Monnarch RT3 and now with the combination of the new Integrated Cams feels even more fluid. Not only that with the cams you are now able to release the tension on the smaller tendons without having to physically remove them. This is fantastic for when you are out on the trail or what ever activity you want to do where you just want to walk normally. It is so easy to now add or release the tension of the tendons. This is done by flicking a small in built lever upon each cam.

BTK Crossover Integrated Cams
Levers flicked and in the open position, less resistance
BTK Crossover Integrated Cams
Cam flicked shut more tension on cams
I have been lucky enough to have be riding on the Bartlett Tendon and it's associated releases since 2009. When I originally received the first Bartlett Tendon. I can remember being so frustrated at not being able to get up and out of the saddle on my first days practice. I then got to grips with it and as Brian researched and designed I went on to receive the BTK Crossover some years later. I noticed a little bit of a difference between the first production Bartlett Tendon and the Crossover, as like I mentioned earlier the set up was more shock dependant rather than depending on stiffer tendons.

The reason I mentioned my frustration at not getting the hang of the Bartlett Tendon very early on in my use of it is important. Because it relates so much to the newer design. I think this newer design makes riding easier, it feels more fluid, more supportive throughout the revolution of your cranks and hence adds confidence to your ability. Not only that I swear I am not having to lean quite so far forward to get my amputated side hip over the prosthetic knee. So in essence my body position has changed upon my bike. I am interested in looking into this further and will report back. Off course everything I  write about here is bike related, the BTK Crossover can be used in any amount of different sporting activities and set up to accommodate not only the sport but the user.

Now you will remember earlier I asked the question "has Brian alongside Fabtech Systems got the new Cam right?". I can answer unequivocally YES. 

The new Integrated Cams are pure genius. The 3 holes that were previously in the Crossover Cams are now gone, there is no adjustment on the new Integrated Cams. There is just one hole for one pin either side. Thing is you don't need anything else as the smaller tendons which are beefed up on one end to create that extra tension in progressive flexion do the job very well.

BTK Crossover Integrated Cams
Resting ath the bottom of the trail
So what do  you get with the new set up? Well to be honest when the small rectangular box arrived I didn't think there could be much. Upon opening the box there were 2 Cams, with smaller tendons attached and the Cams had one retaining pin in each. And then there were two rubber covers, which I like very much. Gone is the harder plastic cover, a few of which I had managed to break previously. Now you are provided with a front and rear, in a kind of a matt black colour. Oh and  after spending some 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get the rear cover on alongside the new cams I eventually figured out it only needs to go on when the knee is in what is known as ambulatory mode. Yeah that's walking around in layman's terms. You also get 4 bolts that attach your new cams and jobs a good'un as they say. Of course I was also lucky enough to get a nice shiny Leftside Inc sticker and a handy Crossover Sharpie pen in my box I think it's because I am special LoL

Greg had also asked me would I mind heading out for a walk using the Crossover. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the walking side of things. Isn't it weird I have more balance on my bike than I do walking around. 

BTK Crossover
Doing some walking around

You see for sometime now I have been using a NHS prescribed Ossur Rheo XC. This is a micro-processed knee and although it doesn't walk for you as I have discovered, man does it makes you lazy. May be lazy is not the right word. I just think the Rheo is very good at what it does it fills you with confidence as you know it is almost always there in the event of a trip or stumble. I also discovered that when using a hydraulic knee compared to a micro-processed, you do not work your muscles quite as hard so at first it can be quite tiring.

BTK Crossover
Off down the trail
Now it doesn't really matter who you are once you go from one leg to another it takes practice to adapt and learn to walk in that particular bit of kit. So after my bike ride I removed the new cams, placed the protective rear cover on my Crossover and got changed as I was sweaty off the bike. I then went for a walk with my partner in crime and hero my dad, Ern. We drove up on to Chapman's Well, which is a beautiful nature reserve and we just went for a nice relaxing stroll, taking in a few video clips and pictures and having an very enjoyable afternoon. 

BTK Crossover
Trying to look cool on a Hot day
BTK Crossover
Agggghhhh I'm Melting
BTK Crossover
That moment when you loose balance and forget how high that gate is
I admit I wasn't walking great in the Crossover, more practice needed, however I wasn't exactly on flat ground and the more I walked and learnt the leg over again the better I got. To be fair I am not entirely sure I had the knee set up right following my bike ride, my foot was definitely  turned out, as I had moved it to avoid rubbing on my bikes chain stay.

BTK Crossover
Over at the pond
BTK Crossover
Beautiful day and my BTK got me there
Anyhoo I managed to get there and back and thoroughly enjoyed what was a beautiful day, with one of my favourite people in the world.

Mission accomplished - to head out and use my BTK Crossover alongside the integrated cams just to do ordinary everyday stuff.

A huge thank you goes out to everyone at Fabtech Systems, Brian Bartlett and Pace Rehabilitation who have continued to support me on my adventures.

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