Case Study #1

 
Personal/Family Background
At age 51, this married farmer incurred a traumatic injury to his left (non-dominant) hand as a result of entanglement in a corn picker. Following amputation, ensuing rehabilitation requirements evolved as this individual returned to his farm work wearing a prosthesis with a dorrence hook.

Farming Operation
A small dairy and grain farm in northwestern Illinois with about 360 acres of tillable ground in corn, beans and some hay. The dairy herd consisted of 15-20 head of milking cows and 50-75 head of calves being fed out in preparation for marketing.

Physical Limitation
Adjustment to farm work requirements using a prosthesis and hook. While individual was not adverse to wearing the device, he experienced difficulty in performing certain everyday tasks.

Priority Needs
A top concern for this farmer was to make changes to allow for him to be able to operate his skid steer loader. In the tight-fitting operator’s compartment of this small piece of equipment, a set of T-handle controls provided the means by which the operator makes the implement move and turn, as well as the bucket arm raise, lower and tilt. To operate the control levers, one must be able to push, pull, and twist each lever independently as needed.

For this person, the position of the handle, which he was grabbing with the dorrence hook, and the small enclosure of the cab, left him no room to maneuver when attempting to twist the handle. Since this was an essential piece of equipment for his dairy operation, it was an immediate priority.

Solution/Resolution
Without a lot of financial resources, trading the older implement for a newer one with better controls was going to be a “last resort” option. Besides, the machine was still in good shape and fit the person’s needs. His desire was to keep what he had if at all possible.

After getting the make, model and associated information regarding the loader, contact was made with an implement dealer who handled that brand of equipment. In talking with the service manager, copies of the owner’s manual illustrations were obtained that showed how the control levers actuated specific functions.

An on-the-farm meeting was then scheduled with the farmer to physically look at the controls and discuss options. While considering some more complex modifications, like converting certain functions of the left lever to a foot-operated pedal, the end result was to try the most direct and least complicated approach; that being to add an adaptor which allows for his hook to be inserted into a U-shaped channel bolted on top of the handle of the lever. Adjustable, it can be set to the angle which best enables him to twist the handle within his range of arm movement, allowed by the space of the cab area. An added advantage is that when the loader is eventually traded, the device can be removed easily and used on another implement if needed.

Safety Considerations
Initially, most concern was centered on his being able to operate the control without having to contort his arm into an awkward position to make the lever respond. In actuality, very little twisting movement was necessary to engage the action. Consequently, that concern was nullified.

A second consideration was to make the device effective without having his hook actually “locked” into a modification. In the event of some emergency, being able to disengage the hook quickly was a necessity. The final design allowed for that possibility.

Thirdly, the device was not intrusive, in the sense of making the implement useable only by this individual. With it in place, anyone else could operate the loader without undo problems or compromising their safety.

Since having the device in place and using it regularly, it was found to work “very well” with little or no problems associated with its use. Follow-up conversations with the farmer indicated no secondary elbow or shoulder complications related to operating this implement.