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W.Va. man wins award for work with prosthetics

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Jeff G. Seager Daniel Hill adjusts the alignment of an above-knee prosthesis at Hanger Clinic.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Jeff G. Seager
Daniel Hill adjusts the alignment of an above-knee prosthesis at Hanger Clinic.

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Daniel Hill has a passion for helping amputees.

He understands the challenges people who lose arms and legs face in today’s world.

Hill, a Parkersburg native, was born without a left arm below the elbow.

For his work with amputees as a certified prosthetist at Hanger Clinic, Hill recently received the district and state Ability Works Award from the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services.

Karen Empfield, a certified rehabilitation counselor with West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services in Parkersburg, nominated Hill for the award. She started working with Hill when he was a junior and senior at Parkersburg South High School, where he graduated from in 2005.

“His (Hill) story is one of strength and growth in the understanding of his limitations once he was faced with the world of work,” Empfield, who also won an Ability Works Award, said in an email.

“Daniel continues to pay (it) forward helping other amputees and his efforts to bring awareness to the need and rights for health coverage of prosthetics,” Empfield said, noting she has worked with Hill for about nine years.

Hill and Empfield received the Ability Works Award on Oct. 22 at a recognition ceremony for the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services in Charleston. After attending the event, Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke, invited Hill and his friends and family to tour the Capitol.

Hill, 27, attended West Virginia University at Parkersburg for two years and graduated from WVU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology. In 2012, he earned a master’s in prosthetics and orthotics from the University of Pittsburgh.

He split his one-year residency working for Hanger Clinic at its offices in Parkersburg and Bridgeport, and joined Hanger full time in July 2013 in Bridgeport.

Hill said he realized at WVU that he wanted to work in the field of prosthetics, helping amputees.

“I knew I was meant for it,” he said. “I have a passion for the field.”

Hill believes he can relate to other amputees because of his own experiences with a prosthetic arm.

Prosthetics and orthotics is a rapidly growing field, with new products appearing often, Hill said.

Prosthetic arms and legs are lighter and more durable than they were several years ago, Hill said.

Hill is making prosthetic limbs for veterans at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg who have lost their legs and arms fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also works with children who are amputees.

He said it is gratifying to see someone walk out of the clinic using a prosthesis after entering the building in a wheelchair.

Hill said he was thankful for the assistance he has received from Empfield and the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services, which has helped with college and prosthesis costs.

With their guidance, he can now give back and help others, he noted.

Hill built the prosthesis he now uses. It is a “myoelectric prosthetic device, an externally powered artificial limb that is controlled with the electrical signals generated naturally by his body.”

Hill has never let an amputated arm hold him back.

He played Little League baseball using a prosthetic arm, ran track, played basketball, has skied and participates in powerlifting.

“I can pretty much do anything,” he said. “You adapt. I don’t know any other way. I’ve always been active.”

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