Shannon O’Shea, an artist with a biology background, uses her dual skills in creativity and medicine to work as a licensed orthopedic instrument maker and prosthetist. Basically, she makes braces for patients, usually children, to help them recover from illness and injury.
O’Shea works for Hanger Clinic, a nationwide company named after James Edward Hanger, reportedly the first amputee of the American Civil War. O’Shea works at the Ability KC location in Kansas City, Missouri. Much of her work is collaborating with Children’s Mercy, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists on solutions for patients.
Growing up on a family farm near Blaine, Kansas, she planned to attend an art school at Fort Hays State University. She later switched and received her undergrad in cellular and molecular biology. But she was still looking for a creative outlet, so she found orthotics and prosthetics.
O’Shea received her postgraduate certification in orthotics from a school affiliated with the University of Hartford in Newington, Connecticut. She lives in Roeland Park with her wife, Clint Stueve. They are expecting their first child in September.
She enjoys marathons (she has run 13 so far), visiting local restaurants, and supporting BoysGrow, a local nonprofit that helps teenage boys acquire soft skills in entrepreneurship, agriculture, business and the culinary arts. Before her pregnancy, local craft breweries, especially Sandhills Brewing Company in downtown Mission.
Many people cannot say that they really love their job. And I can truly say that I love my career.
As an orthopedic instrument maker / prosthetist I can fulfill the needs of a patient. And unfortunately most of these patients are not happy to ever see us. You know nothing about orthotics and prostheses until you find yourself in a situation where you need to be in our clinics.
So for me the reason I love what I do is because no matter how a patient comes in, I can probably make their experience that much better and fulfill something that may have been lost or some unfortunate event in their life where they don’t what they could ever do.
Or from a pediatric standpoint, a child is not walking on the time frame where it should be. Well, our devices can help with that, so they can learn and train and work from home with their therapist and their parents and then fully function. And that would be the goal.
But sometimes I see patients all their lives. So you see them grow before your very eyes, which is fantastic, and get to know those families. So, unlike some doctors where they might see them as visiting a special clinic, they might only see them once, I get to see them multiple times and throughout, possibly, their lifetime, which is just a fantastic experience for both myself and for, hopefully, the patients who come into our office.
And finally, feeling like working with referring doctors and being able to be a part of the medical community is definitely something that I strive for and just really enjoy, especially being in the facilities that I am. I have close ties with those referring doctors, which is great.
One of my patients’ success stories, it’s a wonderful story of an 18-year-old who unfortunately contracted a spinal cord injury and developed a spinal cord injury, meaning she couldn’t use her leg muscles anymore.
And she was also a top athlete. She went from being a top athlete to unfortunately no longer able to run. But her goal was to walk the stage at graduation, so she came to some of our offices for her bracing needs and at one point ended up with me where I made her a set of braces for both of her legs, so she could. stand and walk across the stage at graduation.
She got to use the braces I made for her and walked across the stage which was her goal and she achieved it, and she’s just a great woman right now, and she keeps seeing us because she still needs us has. services for her invigorating.
She ended up in a situation where this was unfortunately detrimental to her life story. But just having an incredible attitude and pursuing goals can be a part of her success in a small way, so it’s just an incredible feeling of joy and satisfaction in these amazing patient outcomes that you can be a part of. to make.
From a baby’s perspective, I see babies who have been diagnosed with craniosynostosis. This means that one of the sutures, which should be open at birth, of the skull, has fused prematurely. What happens is a resulting head shape which, unfortunately, is not ideal.
One of the surgical approaches involves removing those sutures that have prematurely melted, and then they go into a helmet, which is called a cranial remolding orthosis.
The helmet is custom made as each head shape is different that lives under the helmet. And after the suture is released, they go into a helmet that I made for them, and they form into the right shape. So visually all their appearances that happened before the surgery are completely corrected, and you wouldn’t even know they had this major skull surgery before they are 4 months old.
Another one I’ll probably never involve in a case like this again: I had a patient who was unfortunately in the Joplin tornado (in 2011). This patient was ripped from a vehicle during the tornado, so he stayed in the air for a while and then landed many feet from his vehicle. He was a teenager.
And so unfortunately when he got out of the vehicle his chest got ripped off, down to essentially his heart cavity, so by the time I got to see him they were grafting his skin back over his chest wall, but he had no ribs that enclosed vital organs.
So I was asked to basically make ribs for him, and so I was asked to make a brace for him, think of it as a catcher’s kit like in softball or baseball, I made a protective vest for him that had been used to essentially protect his lungs for it, which is just so cool.
And I’ll never see that again, probably never again, but because of the creative nature of what I do, a doctor will come to us, hey, can you make something like that, and they just throw ideas away, and I’m as sure, yeah , no problem. What do you want? What are the goals of the device and how can we achieve it based on what we know from our training? And then we custom fabricate it for them.
So he was able to use my device until the skin was properly healed and protected, and he was clearly old enough to know what activities he could and could not do, and able to live just fine for the rest of his life.
No matter why you are here, our goal is to, hopefully, make your life that much better. Our patient care centers, whether treating adults or pediatrics, or anyone in between, we have you covered. You may not want to be here in our office, but our positivity, our creative nature, is what will help us come up with a solution to, again, make your life better.