After years of creating prosthetic devices for humans, Derrick Campana came to discover that there were animals who needed them just as much. So, he began outfitting pets in his area with the braces and prostheses they desperately needed. Today, he’s helped thousands of animals across the world walk — and run — again!
Creating Prosthetics for Animals
“You want me to do what? ” Derrick Campana asked the woman standing before him, stroking her chocolate Labrador, Charles.
“I want you to make a prosthesis for his front leg,” the woman responded with a simple smile, her pup panting happily beside her. “You do it for human people … why not dogs?”
Derrick, an ABC certified orthotist who had been making orthotics and prosthetic devices for humans throughout his career, smiled at the duo, intrigued. The woman was right, after all: There was no reason, after years of making them for people, that he couldn’t make a prosthesis for her furry friend. And seeing how Charles struggled to walk without one, Derrick readily agreed to try.
Weeks later, when the pup appeared at Derrick ’s office, prancing happily on his new prosthetic leg with his beaming owner at his side, Derrick felt a jolt of joy in his heart that he had never known before. Suddenly, a light bulb flashed on. Firing up his computer he wondered, How many other animals need this kind of help … and is there anyone out there giving it to them?
Wizard of Paws
To his surprise, Derrick found that not only was there a significant need for prosthetic devices for animals — as injuries or genetic anomalies often mean certain death for even household pets — but also that there were very few people really answering that need.
Maybe I could be the one to do it, he mused excitedly.
As it turned out, Charles’ owner was a holistic veterinarian who had many other patients in need of prosthetic devices, and soon, other vets and surgeons across Virginia were getting wind of Derrick’s new business, Animal Ortho Care and Bionic Pets (visit them on Instagram and Facebook), and reaching out to him for help.
Then, when a pup named Derby came into Derrick ’s life, everything changed once more. A Husky mix, Derby, had been born with two deformed front legs, and as a result, his mobility was greatly impaired. His foster mom, who worked in 3D printing, had gotten Derby a cart, but he was still too limited to really enjoy his life.
“We need your help designing prosthetic legs for him,” Derby’s foster mom told Derrick as the two collaborated to 3D print them. And in no time, Derby was up on his own four feet — and running!
Once Derrick posted a video of his work with Derby online, it was clear that the pup wasn’t the only one off to the races. Derrick immediately went viral, with production companies on his doorstep, looking to give him his own show.
This is incredible, Derrick thought signing on with The Dodo (a media brand focused on telling animals’ stories) to do his own TV show, The Wizard of Paws. The heartwarming series is on on BYU-TV, where he and his “wing dog,” Henry, travel across the US to get animals back on their feet.
I’m doing what I love and helping so many animals in the process, he said to himself.
A New ‘Leash’ on Life
Since Derrick started creating braces and artificial limbs for animals in 2004, he has helped more than 25,000 animals get their lives back and has created custom mobility devices for creatures as small as a guinea pig and as large as six-ton African elephant, named Jabu.
With his office shipping more than 200 orthotics and prosthetics to animals each month, Derrick says his new goal is to create his own nonprofit, Bionic Barn, so people can bring their animals to one central location for help and others can learn to do the work he has been doing to help even more.
“I’m always excited about everything I do — from flying around the world to creating new products,” Derrick says. “But the best part of my job is seeing these animals walk again for the first time, and the joy that brings to them and their owners. What most don’t know is that this is affordable to anyone and we can treat any animal, anywhere. Limb differences are no longer a death sentence — and every animal deserves a second chance to live their best life!”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.