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Jefferson man gets fitted for high-tech prosthetic leg
Older Power Knee used Bluetooth technology
Cieplinski’s new Power Knee is a motor-driven prosthetic that uses a microcomputer to calculate how much power is needed for movement. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

A Jefferson man has traded up for a new and improved artificial limb.

Mario Cieplinski was at Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics in Gainesville Tuesday getting fitted for the second-generation Power Knee.

Like the old limb, the new one can "think" for itself, making the appropriate movements at the right moment.

Sensor technology "can recognize where his leg is in space and knows how fast that leg is moving and when he has weight on the prosthesis and when he doesn't," said Kurt N. Gruben of Össur Americas.

"And it can tell when he's trying to bend the prosthesis or not."

The entire leg assembly, including thigh socket, Power Knee and foot, was created in a partnership between Hanger and Össur, an Iceland-based company with offices in California.

The old Power Knee used Bluetooth wireless technology to communicate with a device worn on the ankle of the person's opposite leg.

With Power Knee 2, the additional equipment is no longer needed, "as we have changed how the sensors work," Gruben said. "There's a few more on board that can tell what's going on."

Also, "we've gone through a redesign, pretty much an overhaul," he said.

Those change are largely cosmetic, with the leg shorter and less bulky.

"We are essentially in a limited launch," Gruben said of the prosthesis. "We have fit (limbs) in the 30-plus range for the Department of Defense at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.). As far as the private sector, we're in the first 10 across the country.

"Mario is the first in Georgia to be fitted with Power Knee 2."

Cieplinski, demonstrating how he walks with the new leg, said he is satisfied so far with the upgrade.

"It's new to me, but I'll get used to it in the next couple of days," he said. "From there, it's no telling what I can do."

In 2000, Cieplinski's left leg was severed above the knee in a conveyor-belt accident while he was working at the Grove River Mills poultry feed plant in Pendergrass.

Hanger billed worker's compensation for the initial fitting, "but with this (limb), there is no billing going on," said Nancy S. Kaselak, prosthetist/orthotist with Hanger, which has an office at 425 Spring St., Gainesville.

"We're replacing this out because we made the decision to stop supporting Power Knee 1," Gruben said.

Cieplinski, who has been on disability, faces another challenge in life.

After going through schooling in another field — computer repair and networking — he is looking for a job, and "that's been tough," he said.