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Composite Splints Keep Former Carbon Fibre Man on His Feet

11 February 2008

Carbon and glass fibre reinforced splints from Trulife UK are helping former Courtaulds carbon fibres specialist, Ed Trewin, to keep walking and counteract the progressive effects of Motor Neurone Disease.

Ed, who was diagnosed with MND/ALS in August last year, had the special orthotic splints fitted at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham in November 2007.

Ed explains: “As my illness progressed I noticed I was developing a tendency to catch my feet as I walked. The medical term is ‘foot drop’ which happens through muscle wastage in the lower limbs. The splints are specifically designed to help support the ankle and lift the foot through the spring action of the carbon/epoxy composite sole plate. Walking action is improved and the tendency to drag the foot is reduced with much less risk of tripping. I found the splints really helped me stay on my feet and most importantly enabled me to walk ‘down the aisle’ to give my daughter, Michelle, away when she got married recently.”

“When I started with Grafil carbon fibres at Courtaulds in the early 1970s one of first applications I looked at was the use of high modulus composites in orthotics and prostheses working with Chailey Heritage Hospital and Blatchfords, who pioneered the early work in this area. Never could I have imagined then that things would turn full circle. The splints are designed and manufactured in the UK by Trulife, at their facilities in Sheffield. According to Trulife’s Dr Shane Nickson, who designed and developed the splints, materials and techniques have advanced considerably since the early days and the Matrix MAX product I am using incorporates the very latest high performance epoxy prepregs based on Toray T700 tapes and T400 fabrics, supplied by Amber Composites. I had hoped the carbon fibres might have had a connection back to my Courtaulds Grafil ‘alma mater’ via Mitsubishi Rayon. Sadly they don’t, but nevertheless the Toray fibres are doing a great job. Obviously MND has had a big effect on my life and my family but support from friends and colleagues has been tremendous.”

MND is a neurological disorder causing progressive muscle wasting and severe spasticity. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. The disease is particularly unforgiving, usually proving fatal within two to five years. A good friend of Ed’s and fellow magistrate at Solihull, Rob Turner, is planning to cycle from Lands End to John o’ Groats later this year in May to help raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association’s programme to find a cure and bring an end to MND. Anyone interested in sponsoring Rob and giving to the cause can find details of his challenge and a sponsorship form at the following address.