Welcome to the first installment of a new series on our breakthrough Harmony family of products for vacuum socket technology. Not only will you begin learning more about Ottobock socket technology and Harmony pumps, but we’ll be sharing real stories from people whose lives are being changed across the country once they are able to experience the unmatched level of fit and support these solutions provide.
Helping us tell the story of Harmony is Ottobock Senior Sales Specialist Gary Hooks, who travels four days out of the week around the country meeting with prosthetists and clinicians to assist with socket design and help advance the understanding and use of vacuum technology.
“Good socket fit is fundamental, and some amputees have gone their whole lives without feeling secure in their socket,” Gary said. “What the Harmony system makes possible for people is truly life-changing, and not just for athletes or young people but for folks who are 50 or 80 and want true quality of life.”
Vacuum socket solutions have been available for below-knee transtibial amputees since the late 1990s, with options for above-knee patients available from Ottobock as of this year. They are ideal for people with limb volume fluctuation, atypical limb shape, limb wounds that have difficulty healing, or persistent discomfort using traditional sockets and liners.
Elevated vacuum technology is similar to suction sockets in that both use a difference in atmospheric pressure to keep a socket attached to the limb, but the pressure in a vacuum system uses an active pump to consistently maintain stability, instead of relying on the movement of the patient’s limb to push air out of the socket.
Its this consistent vacuum pressure that also helps maintain a steady volume in a residual limb.
“Below knee amputees can lose up to 12 to 14 percent of volume per day in a standard socket,” according to Gary. “With vacuum, that number goes down to less than one percent.”
About Gary Hooks
Not only is Gary a specialist in Harmony, he is also the first person we’ll meet whose life has been changed by the technology. Losing his leg below the knee in 1969 at the age of 16, Gary adapted to his new circumstances better than most. Despite a hard socket with cumbersome socks and a waist-belt, he was playing baseball and golf for his high school within a year.
It was through playing golf decades later that he would get his introduction to vacuum technology. While he’d kept the sport as a hobby, he started playing more seriously in 1994, and by 1998 won the National Amputee Golf Championship and got his first sponsorship from a prosthetics company. Representing the company at an industry trade show, Gary met Carl Caspers, CPO, the founder of TEC Interface Systems and the inventor of elevated vacuum socket technology. Caspers invited Gary to Minnesota to be fitted for an early vacuum socket and pump, and he accepted.
“It was almost like having my own original leg back,” Gary said. “I was able to walk the full golf course, while the other players were in their carts asking how I could do it.”
Gary was so impressed that he sold his North Carolina restaurant to travel and work for Caspers full time as a sales representative, using golf as a platform to meet with other amputees at 20 to 25 tournaments per year, as well as meeting with prosthetists and their patients around the country.
Since Ottobock acquired TEC in 2003, Gary has continued his advocacy as the Harmony platform has matured into a comprehensive vacuum system, from mechanical and electronic pumps to sockets, mechanical knees for above-knee amputees, and prosthetic feet.
Gary feels his role in helping prosthetists learn to work with vacuum technology is more important than ever.
“At the end of the day it’s all about the patients. Not a week goes by that we don’t change people’s lives,” Gary said.