Quite the heroic deed, get to know the guy who has helped thousands of animals with mobility issues get back on their feet.
Meet this Virginia animal prosthetics specialist who provides animals with restricted mobility a second chance at life by developing unique mechanical limbs—giving them the chance to walk again.
Through his charity, Bionic Pets, Derrick Campana, 43, has improved the lives of approximately 35,000 animals, including dogs, goats, cows, camels, raccoons and elephants.
“All animals deserve to walk and enjoy a beautiful life, just like people,” Campana, who appears in the television series “The Wizard of Paws,” told The Epoch Times. “All these technology, all these things that we have, animals should have.”
Campana’s aim to aid animals in distress began roughly 18 years ago. One day, the owner of a black Labrador retriever arrived into her workplace, where she builds prosthetics for people, and told her that she wanted a prosthesis for her dog, Charles. At that time, Campana did not know or had seen an animal with a prosthesis, for which she was amused.
Rather than ditch the concept totally, though, Campana took a week and built it from scratch.
“It took me a long time to construct my first device since it was so strange to me, I didn’t know what I was doing,” he added. “While I had all the skills to create human prosthetics, it was extremely different.”
“In a manner I had to develop the whole process and figure out what would work good for an animal,” he continued.
While it was something he had never done before, fitting Charles with a prosthesis brought Campana enormous satisfaction since it functioned wonderfully for him.
After the success of the initial device he made, Campana proceeded to study more to see if anybody else in the world was doing this and discovered that no one else was producing prosthetics for animals at the time. Consequently he instantly began a firm, which developed to become an international concern.
“Everything I learned on the human side, I wanted to offer to the veterinary side, and it was simply this fully open market,” he added. “I am also an entrepreneur at heart, and I adore making things with my hands.”
Believing he had a “talent for this,” Campana worked more with Charles’s owner, a veterinarian who comes across numerous damaged dogs and brings him these diverse cases.
Owing to this, Campana was able to steadily strengthen his talents. But, it was not wholly straightforward, and in some cases it was so tough for him that he had to manufacture the device or prosthesis again and over again.
For example, Campana recounts that there was once a dog named Evany that had a rather high front limb amputation. With no prior experience creating such a prosthesis, he attempted it 8-10 times.
“When I finally got it to work, to get it upright, and the dog to walk, I was really thrilled because I found out that there are many more dogs in the world who require precisely the same sort of treatment,” he added. “I recognized that I had just extended my patient base.”
Having found out the recipe over all these years, Campana’s operation is currently functioning as smoothly as possible. Everything is made on site in Sterling, Virginia. Owners that live closer to home bring their animals to be shaped, or if they are further away, the firm gives them a molding kit. A mold is then formed with the aid of instructional films or with the expertise of a veterinarian.
Campana, who loves to use his hands, sculpts all the molds himself. Animals are fitted with the prosthesis at the shop or sent to the opposite side.
According to Campana, there is a misperception that prosthetics are for the privileged. He underlines that it is precisely the reverse.
“It can truly substitute surgery and make animals recuperate in another way without going under the knife or under the knife,” he says. “For example, a dog ruptures its anterior cruciate ligament and has to have knee surgery for $5,000. But, that is not always necessary: we may place a knee pad on the dog. And after a few months the knee brace may be removed and they mend without the need for surgery.”
He points out that the process is also lot easier and people can save more money in the long run.
“The most important thing I want people to grasp is that compared to surgery, the cost of our prosthetics and orthotics is far lower, and they are just as effective, if not even better,” Campana said.
Thus far, the largest animal that Campana has helped by fitting a prosthetic limb is a male elephant. By now, she has helped several elephants, since she has lately returned from Thailand after aiding these animals.
But, Campana clarifies a very crucial topic. He said that most people expect that it will be a miracle every time. But, it is not.
“Like people, animals require time to acclimate to braces and prosthetics,” Campana remarked. “Whenever they finally grasp it and get acclimated to it, that’s the miracle.”
Once everything works properly, observing the emotions of the animal, the carer and the family is wonderful, Campana added.
“I adore it,” he said. “[It’s] absolutely the nicest thing to behold.”
“The Wizard of Paws,” meantime, has become a wonderful initiative as people across the world get the chance to watch Campana, accompanied by his dog, Henry, travel around the nation in a “ mobile limb lab, helping animals in need. This has also been a lot of fun for Campana’s eldest son.
“He is 9 years old and he loves coming with me to the different sanctuaries,” adds Campana. “My youngest kid is still 3 years old, so he doesn’t comprehend anything, but he loves to watch my program. He’s usually watching TV and commenting, ‘Well, Daddy saves the animals. He is making legs for the animals.’”
And what’s next for this busy businessman? He is now working on developing a non-profit company called the Bionic Barn: a facility that will allow pet owners to travel with their animals, large or little, and remain on site while their prosthetics are being built.
“People will be able to observe what we do and experience the full process,” discloses Campana. “We’re also going to have some robot animals.”
He also wants to form an accrediting agency to standardize the business, as there aren’t many standards at the present, he stated.
“This is extremely, very important,” adds Campana. “A lot of people simply want to do this, but there’s no standard and then you end up hurting the animals, and I don’t want that to happen.”
For Campana, helping animals in need has become her heart’s vocation.
“It’s such an intoxicating sensation… to watch these animals walk again,” he remarked. “You’re not only helping the animal, you’re helping the whole family.”
The father of two adds that sometimes it is the first time he has helped a given species, but he knows that by providing care to one animal, he will end up helping others.
The emotion of helping is so ineffable that he wants to do it again and over again.
“That’s why I keep doing it, and that’s why I’ll keep doing it for the rest of my life,” Campana added.