Every great comeback story originates from an obstacle or a challenge. An event that wasn’t expected. Or a tragedy that alters your perspective. But in these moments when the future feels uncertain, sometimes we find an opportunity to go down a life-changing path. Lake Trust members Chris and Kim C. understand that the journey to creating a brighter future sometimes starts unconventionally.
Years ago, Chris survived an accident that resulted in the loss of his left leg at the knee. But through time, recovery, and the use of a prosthetic, Chris was able to regain the freedom and mobility that many of us take for granted. Through his experience, he understands not only what the recovery process can look like, but the importance of having a comfortable artificial limb to return to the activities he enjoyed before the accident.
Chris used this personal experience to the benefit of others. Using his personal triumph over adversity, he pivoted out of his career in manufacturing to establish Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics in 2011. His wife Kim joined him on this journey, and together, they’re helping limb loss survivors find a positive outlook on life after amputation.
Making Detroit Their Home
Kim and Chris fell in love with the City of Detroit when their story as a couple was just beginning. Years later, they knew they’d call Detroit home for their business, which was outgrowing its mobile operation. Some people would have considered this a risky move in 2011 when the city was recovering from the Great Recession. But Chris and Kim were excited to contribute to the revitalization of Downtown Detroit.
When they found their current location at 6438 Woodward Ave., home of a former Detroit Savings Bank branch, they were captivated by the charm of the building, which was complete with the original bank vault. But after years of being used for different purposes, the space needed extensive repairs.
However, the renovation was just one of the many challenges they’d face in their first few years of business. One of the biggest obstacles happened soon after buying the building. Woodward Avenue shut down for the installation of the new M-1 Rail/QLINE and it was difficult for clients to visit Anew Life.
But overcoming these challenges was worth it for the impact they’ve made in the lives of their patients.
A Little Sprinkle of Magic
A little sprinkle of magic happens each time Kim and Chris help fit a patient with a new prosthetic or orthotic brace. Because this new limb is more than just an object; it represents a new chapter of freedom on the road to recovery.
“Our goal is to help people look forward and start thinking about the future,” says Chris. “It’s such a magical feeling to see a person light up when they realize that life isn’t over, and they can return to their normal activities.”
This little bit of magic first sparked the idea of Anew Life. After his accident, Chris volunteered at the health system that fitted him with his first artificial leg. One day, a 6-year-old boy who had recently lost a leg to cancer walked into the hospital on crutches. Chris helped fit the boy with a new prosthetic. Then the boy jumped off the table … and started running. He ran around the room. And down the hall. The look of pure joy on his face fueled each step as he ran and enjoyed the sudden freedom from the confines of his crutches.
That night, Chris went home and told Kim that he knew what he wanted to do next in life. Soon after, he returned to school and obtained his master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics.
Taking the First Step
The work performed at Anew Life each day is as much of an art as it is a science. With their small but mighty team of five, the caring staff at Anew Life work with their patients through the entire recovery process. A typical first appointment starts with a patient evaluation to learn more about their lifestyle, expectations, and needs. Next, a prototype is created through hand casting or a digital scan and 3-D model. After a test fit and the creation of the final product, the team works with the patient to help them adjust to using their new artificial limb.
“When you have a positive outcome, when you’ve taken the pain away or helped them [the patient] become more mobile, that’s an awesome feeling,” says Chris.
Knowing that personalization can aid in confidence, patients can have the look of their prosthetic created to their preference. Or an artist on staff can paint a custom piece of art on it.
As part of their mission at Anew Life, Kim and Chris encourage people to show their pride and be an inspiration to help others through the recovery process. To do this, they put patients in touch with a mentor through the Amputee Coalition of America – a pay-it-forward program to support amputees and limb loss survivors through their recovery. Chris and Kim hope their patients will pay the experience forward and help another person during their recovery journey.
Providing a Caring Experience
When working with a traditional healthcare system for a prosthetic or orthotic, patients often experience a very structured, impersonal process. This can include several visits to a doctor’s office or hospital, the hassle of dealing with parking that’s far from the building, and hours of waiting in a waiting room. And since most healthcare systems rely on a central fabrication facility to create prosthetics and orthotics, there’s always room for miscommunication and errors.
Kim, Chris, and their team at Anew Life work diligently to provide a thoughtful experience for each patient. They schedule an appropriate time for each one-on-one appointment, so there’s no waiting in a stuffy waiting room. Kim and Chris even advocated for free handicapped parking directly outside of their building for easy patient access.
Chris and Kim understand that it’s hard to think about the future when a person struggles to get through each day. So, it usually only takes about a week for an artificial limb to be fabricated, precious time that’s essential for a patient working their way back to recovery.
The Power of Giving Back
Kim and Chris’s heart for giving back doesn’t stop with their patients. Keeping with their philosophy of paying it forward, they offer unused space in their building to support a local nonprofit that needed space to store donations.
They also donate their time to Street Medicine Detroit, a nonprofit dedicated to providing essential medical care to Detroit’s underserved population. If a patient passes away, their spouse or family often donates their artificial limb to Anew Life. The team can often retrofit the prosthetic to donate to a homeless or underserved individual in need.
As Lake Trust members for over thirty years, Chris and Kim understand what it means to share the power in all of us. Their strength as a couple and as business owners has helped other people find their strength too. Together, they’re helping limb loss survivors and amputees discover a new life.