One Leg at a Time (OLAAT) began with a friendship between co-founders Joe Johnson and Pastor James Spahn and is enriched by the experience of co-founder Craig DeMartino. OLAAT's mission is to provide high-quality prosthetics to amputees around the world, one leg at a time.
Joe is the CEO of Quorum Prosthetics, a company located in Windsor, CO, that has revolutionized the building of prosthetics. The traditional method of creating prosthetic sockets, the part of the device that interfaces with the patient’s residual limb, involves plaster casting, hours of work, along with a high-degree of finesse and experience. Quorum's innovative technique uses high-tech scanners, 3-D printing, and telecommunication to create one-of-a-kind pieces that are custom-fitted to each amputee.
With more than 185,000 lower limb amputations every year in the US alone, and over 1 million carried out worldwide, prosthetics specialists struggle to keep up with the rising demand for their services. Since 1998, Quorum Prosthetics has provided dozens of prosthetics for free to those in need in the US. Unfortunately in many cases, insurance providers don’t consider an amputee disabled unless they are a bilateral amputee – an amputee missing both arms or both legs. Craig got involved after speaking with Joe on numerous occasions about the disparity in people getting quality prosthetic limbs. Craig says, "It seemed pretty lopsided to me and through this non-profit, we can create a way to level that somewhat."
Each time Quorum donates a prosthetic leg, it’s giving away a product that is worth up to $70,000 dollars. “For each socket, we sell in America, we’re going to have some kind of donation system where we fund people’s limbs around the world,” Johnson said.
Joe’s longstanding friendship with Pastor James started almost 20 years ago when Joe’s family began attending Pastor James’s church. For years, they talked about providing prosthetics to a village in Northern Tanzania, called Nyantakubwa, where Pastor James has worked with the local Catholic parish to raise funds for the construction of a girl’s high school and grade school. Their dream has now become a reality.
Many people in Tanzania face amputation due to a high volume of motor vehicle accidents and the lack of access to high-quality medical care amongst poorer populations. Providing them with comfortable prosthetics will improve their quality of life so they can continue to live more productive lives.
Joseph “Joe” Johnson is the CEO of Quorum Prosthetics, a company that designs and builds prosthetic limbs in Windsor, Colorado. Johnson wears a prosthetic leg himself, having his leg amputated below the knee after a dirt biking crash when he was just 12 years old. The complexity and location of his amputation forced him to adapt pre-configured prosthetics to fit his needs. “Every prosthetist is an inventor in their own right. But necessity is the mother of all inventions. Since I am both a prosthetist and amputee and because of my amputation is in a unique location… located right beneath my knee, my prosthetics were uncomfortable. It’s a lot harder for me to work with that short of an amputation…I’m a misfit prosthetist. I enjoy going to work every day, inventing, and helping people. I really hope this venture goes well... I am more of an inventor than anything… I have 10 patents pending right now…We are working on projects outside of prosthetics.”
PASTOR JAMES SPAHN
Pastor James studied Zoology at CSU in 1982 and had a special interest in African Wildlife. After transferring schools and programs several times, he found a seminary program. He has never lost his love and connection with wildlife. “God sent me this pastor from Africa out of the blue and wanted me to help him with a fundraiser to help this community 11 years ago. I did fundraising to start a high school for girls, and am now just finishing a grade school. We’ve also raised money for an orphanage for mostly AIDs orphans.”
As Joe Johnson’s pastor and friend for the past twenty years, he’s always had an interest in seeing if Joe’s innovation could be taken to Tanzania. His interest in Joe makes sense. “I’m not an amputee. I have no history there, other than my dad who lost his leg. My dad had the exact same amputation as Joe, but he was always in pain and struggled, it was quite difficult. Growing up with my dad, and all the time that I spend with Joe, inspired this. There, they primarily need legs, but arms as well. There is a great need for legs, as motorcycle accidents happen all the time in the larger cities, like Arusha.”
Craig DeMartino has been an amputee since 2003 after surviving a 100 foot ground fall in CO while climbing in Rocky Mountain National park. He returned to climbing 4 months after the amputation, which happened after 18 months of surgeries to try and salvage the limb. After returning he became the First Amputee to climb Yosemite's El Capitan in under 24 hours, Lead the First All Disabled Ascent of El Capitan, is a Two Time Paraclimbing Champion and Two Time Bronze Medal Winner in Adaptive Worlds.
He began to teach people with physical disabilities how to climb after seeing the value climbing and the natural world had on his life and has been part of the technology to help bring climbing to amputees with the design and release of the Evolv Adaptive Foot.
He currently teaches climbing clinics in partnership with the VA and Adaptive Adventures, a 501c3 based in Colorado.