An amateur ballerina in Brazil, whose lower left leg was amputated after a road accident, has spoken of her joy after becoming among the first people to receive a pointe foot prosthesis allowing her to dance classical ballet again.
The breakthrough design opens up the possibilities for other amputees across the world who may have enjoyed amateur ballet dancing before losing a limb. The carbon fibre and gypsum mould was manufactured for Melina Reis by São Paulo prosthetic specialist Dr José André Carvalho, director of the Campinas Institute of Prosthesis and Orthosis.
An ecstatic Ms Reis, 31, who returned to the bar for the first time this month after a 13-year absence, said: “It has always been my dream to go back to using pointe shoes. To be able to dance again is an inexplicable feeling of joy and deep satisfaction.
“When I asked Dr Carvalho to make the foot for me, he accepted the challenge even though he could find nothing in medical literature to help him.”
Ms Reis’s leg was amputated below the knee in 2014 after more than 30 operations to save her leg, following the car accident in 2002.
Dr Carvalho said: “The challenge was to get Melina to balance on the prosthesis that has only one centimetre square area of support.
“I had to innovate using applied concepts of biomechanics and mathematical calculations as the prosthesis also needed to capture the posture and beauty of the ballerina while carrying her weight.”
The base of the foot is made from the back of the ankle, which serves as the support for the pylon rod mounted onto the knee.
A plaster cast was made of her right foot and the mould, which weighs around 250kg, took four weeks to produce. The artificial limb was made without charge as a case-study experiment.
Ms Reis, who works as a multi-media designer, tested the foot in a series of sessions and said the tip-toed limb is now “near perfect”.
“We are in the process of stabilising my knee,” explained Ms Reis, who admits the prosthesis hurts as she gets accustomed to dancing with it.
“I need to do more training. This has given me a quality of life that was beyond my expectations,” she said. She hopes to perform without the bar before an audience in two years.
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