Peter's customer really counts
IF EVER a business required exceptional customer relations, it would be Peter Farrand's Northern Prosthetics.
Mr Farrand is the only full-time prosthetist between the Queensland border and Newcastle and works with 300 amputees here on the Northern Rivers.
He sees up to 15 patients at Murwillumbah Hospital and 30 patients at Lismore hospital every fortnight.
Not only does he counsel some of these vulnerable people before their amputations, he then builds them a new limb and often goes on to have a lifelong relationship with them, adjusting their limb as their stump changes and shrinks or as they grow up and get bigger.
"I have learnt over the years that they just have to like you otherwise you can make a great leg and they will reject it," he said.
"Sometimes they come to me before the operation to remove a limb to get the heads-up on what they are in for.
"I often see people who have been in a traumatic accident who may have been suffering for five years trying to save a leg
"It can be a really tough call to advise them to amputate, but you see them 12 months down the track and they are so happy because their quality of life has improved."
Mr Farrand made the state-of-the-art prosthetics that helped Byron Bay Paralympian Marty Mayberry win a silver medal at the Vancouver Paralympics in 2010.
Mr Mayberry lost both legs below the knee after contracting meningococcal disease while on a school skiing trip as a teenager.
"One of the highlights of my career was travelling to Whistler with Marty's family to watch him compete," said Mr Farrand.
"It's great to help someone like Marty but it's also pretty stressful getting everything just right for people.
"There can be serious ramifications if the leg is not right because a person's physical ability has so much to do with how they feel as a human being."
Mr Farrand measures and takes a cast of their stump then builds their new leg using fittings imported from the US and Europe.
He said most patients can receive a basic limb under the Enable NSW Scheme.
"If you are involved in an accident and it's not your fault you are covered by government insurance so you can get all the top-end components," he said.
"An average limb available under the current state scheme costs between $3500 and $4000, depending on whether it is above or below the knee.
"The latest legs with microprocessor in the knee joint such as the Genium will cost you around $150,000."
Mr Farrand began in the industry at the suggestion of his father after a couple of career false starts in fibreglass and reinforced plastic and as a shipwright.
In 1982, he started work at the Repatriation, Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre for the Veterans Affairs Department.
David Wiseman joined Mr Farrand's Northern Prosthetics in late 2010 and began a reorganisation and reorientation of the business.
As well as taking on the role of general manager, Mr Wiseman also gets on the tools to help with the construction of some limbs.
"We are aiming to improve the service to our patients, expand the operation and invest in new technologies," he said.
"I am also working hard to organise our relationship with the Northern New South Wales Local Health District."
Mr Farrand said the forecast is for the amputee population to triple over the next 10 years because of diabetes and vascular disease.
He said that 80-90% of limb losses are the result of circulation-related disease and most of this usually comes down to cigarette smoking.
"This is a figure that blows people away when they find out, especially if they are young and smoking a packet a day."