Department of Physics and Engineering
West Virginia Wesleyan College
Wesley Hughes's Internship
at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Wesley Hughes had a summer internship in prosthetics design at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Wesley reports, “I learned many of the skills for designing prosthetics.
“The anatomical shape of the arms and legs vary from person to person, which complicates the process of constructing a socket that fits well.
"For an above-the-knee amputee such as me, the socket must support the sitting bone in a way that is not painful and allows the user to walk in a normal way.
“Initially, a patient wears a test socket made of duraplex/vivac plastic. Once a decent fit is obtained, a temporary socket is made. After several months of walking in the temporary socket, the patient is ready for a carbon-fiber socket frame with a flexible inner lining.
“The components that make up each individual’s leg vary greatly from person to person. When the time had come to make my own prosthetic socket and leg, I chose to make a running leg.
"The components I used were the Total Knee 2100 and the Flex-Run foot, both by Ossur, an Icelandic company. Here’s a photo the running leg I designed for myself.”
Student uses life-changing injury to help others
It has often been said that “life can change in the blink of an eye.” Meet Wesley Hughes, one of Wesleyan’s most inspiring and persistent students whose story has been featured in various media outlets throughout the D.C. beltway area.
On January 11, 2009, the Wesleyan Ski Club member was practicing before his giant slalom race at the Wisp Ski Resort in Maryland. As Wesley took a practice run at a speedof about 30 miles perhour, he failed to make a turn.
Fortunately, the first person on the scene was Davis and Elkins coach and experienced ski patroller, Lew Fowler, who saw that Wesley had suffered a catastrophic injury. Fowler’s quick assessment would prove to become a life-saving moment.
Wesley had suffered a severe compound fracture and severed an artery. He was rushed to Garrett County Memorial Hospital and then transferred to WVU’s Ruby Memorial Hospital. Wesley endured five surgeries in nine days. Despite all of the doctors’ best efforts, Wesley’s leg was amputated on January 20.
Seven days after the amputation, Wesley was transferred to Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland. He learned to maneuver—first in a wheelchair, then on crutches, waiting for his wound to heal enough to be fitted for a prosthesis. Then he received his new leg, and within five days he was walking on a treadmill.
Wesley returned to Wesleyan in April to win the “Inspirational Award.” He found time to return to the rehabilitation center to spend time with other amputees. The self-taught guitar player entertained residents in the dining room and offered encouragement. He has also become a hit on YouTube. His self-produced video clip, “How My Prosthesis Works,” has attracted more than 40,000 viewers.
Wesley’s return to Wesleyan this fall was greeted by a standing ovation by fellow students at the annual Great Gathering. He plans to use his physics degree to pursue a career in a prosthetic-related medical field.