Friday, August 9, 2019

From family setback to career inspiration

Isaac Yoder
You never know what – or who – will inspire a kid’s career choice.

At age 14, Isaac Yoder learned that his mother, Robin, would need a leg amputated due to cancer.

“Honestly, I don’t remember much about the day itself,” he recalls. “I was going into the first year of varsity football so my mind was in a lot of other places. At 14 I was trying to grasp life changes you can’t prepare for.”

Robin adds: “It was either give up your leg or you will not survive cancer,. He told me, ‘Mom, amputate your leg so you can have the best chance to see me grow up.’”

Thanks to the inspiration of his mother and the team at Powell, Yoder, now 23, is on track to become an orthotist or prosthetist so he can help others improve their lives.

Yoder studied exercise science at Lenoir-Rhyne University and is about to begin the Master of
Science program in prosthetics and orthotics at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health
and Rehabilitation Sciences.

It’s a journey that started with an office visit to Powell with his mother, an athletic and goal-
minded social worker who participated in triathlons and running races.

“We were in Joe (Sullivan’s) office and with Scotty (Poindexter),” Robin says. “We spent two
and a half hours at the office and they showed him prosthetics and talked to him and explained
the journey to get mom back to functioning. It planted the seeds of giving us hope.”

For Isaac, it also inspired a career.

An early influence

Six weeks after the first visit, the family was back at Powell for Robin’s first prosthetic. Isaac was
present to see the process and how Robin’s new leg was made.

“That early influence started by being comforted by a team of people,” Robin recalls. “Isaac saw
me getting on track with the best possible team who knew how to work with me. He began to
get influenced when Scotty took his own prosthetic leg off and put it in Isaac’s arms. He said,
‘This is will be what it’s like.’” It set a different tone. Joe and Scotty had a positive, hopeful
attitude and made us part of it and put us at ease.”

After initial interest in physical therapy, Isaac realized he enjoyed making and fixing things and
working with his hands. The combination of his desire to help others and build something
turned his focus to orthotics and prosthetics. An internship in North Carolina, where he worked with a patient to get a prosthetic casted and molded in one day, as well as ongoing visits to
Powell, including recently being involved in a casting process to create a new socket for his
mother, sealed the deal.

“What led him down the path was Joe and the clinic and it opened his mind to be helpful to
people,” Robin says. “Isaac took it all in. He will be an earth angel to someone who needs the

Isaac now is preparing to start graduate school. He’s looking forward to bringing a positive
attitude to those in need and making a difference.

“I could take my personal experience as a family member and apply that to people,” he says. “I
can now talk to kids and tell them, ‘I was in your shoes.’”

Isaac prefers working in a setting similar to Powell thanks to Sullivan’s encouragement: “He
didn’t have to do it for me but he’s making me a better practitioner.”

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