Cyr makes prosthetics in Altamont

The Enterprise – Sean Mulkerrin

A steady, skillful hand: Dennis Cyr, owner of Mountainview Prosthetics, has moved his business, which he had been running from his home in Knox for the past 12 years, into the former home of the Altamont Fire Department on Maple Avenue.

ALTAMONT – Coincidence led Dennis Cyr to his career making prosthetics, which he now pursues with a passion. He just opened a shop in Altamont.

Cyr did not want to leave the Navy when he did, in 1990. It was a great way to see the world, he said. He had been stationed in Hawaii for two years, and then Japan for another two; his ship was an independent steamer that navigated throughout the Asian Pacific.

He wanted to stay and become a Seabee, a member of the Navy’s Construction Battalion, but, he said, no one ever leaves the unit; the only time a spot opens up is if somebody retires, dies, or is kicked out. A month after he was discharged, Cyr received a letter from the Navy, saying that he had been accepted into the Seabee training program.

But he had become a civilian again, he said, and re-started his life.

He kicked around his home state of Connecticut for a short time, doing odd jobs, before being hired as a custodian at what is now Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, in Hartford.

In the waiting room of the hospital, Cyr said, there was a television that ran a constant scroll of the various departments and what each did; that’s when he first became aware of the prosthetics department, the hospital’s in-house artificial-limb manufacturer. “I looked at it and that looked pretty cool,” he said.

Cyr had never worked in that area of the hospital, he said, but a co-worker had called in sick so, the day after he had seen the department scroll by on the television in the waiting room, Cyr was sent to the prosthetics department to cover for him.

He had been working in the hospital for about a year at that point, he said, on second shift. He asked if he could volunteer during first shift to learn how to build prosthetics, hoping that he would set himself up for a job should a position open. But, Cyr said, the hospital’s human-resources department would not let him work a full 40-hour week and then volunteer on his own time in the prosthetics department.

“Pediatrics was so cool”

Two weeks later, the head of the department told Cyr that an opening would soon be posted. When he began, the department was specializing in pediatric prosthetics.

It felt good to be a part the department. “Pediatrics was so cool,” he said.

“They don’t see themselves as any different,” Cyr said of the children he made prosthetics for. “They don’t complain; someone who has had their leg for a long time and then loses it, for them, the most important thing is about keeping up their motivation and morale — but kids don’t have that problem.”

“You make a leg for them, they pop it off and beat their sister or brother with with it,” he said with a laugh.

He recalled one little girl who had been born without arms and legs: “She was always happy; always smiling,” Cyr said. “Because that is how she was born, she never knew anything different; her spirit was awesome.”

Moving up

Within two years of being hired, Cyr was a nationally-certified technician. Within three years, he was the supervisor of the prosthetics department, and, within five years, he was manager of the orthotics and prosthetics department of Hanger Inc., which had bought the department from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

He oversaw 22 technicians from Maine to Connecticut in addition to being a technical instructor. That’s how Cyr ended up living in Knox. His now-wife, Darcy, was a student of his and he followed her home.

About 12 years ago, Cyr started his own business, Mountainview Prosthetics, in a building on his Knox property. Five years ago, he bought the former home of the Altamont Fire Department on Maple Avenue, and, in May, he began working in the new shop.

Former Altamont mayor, James Gaughan, was very supportive of Cyr moving his business to the village, he said. “Actually, I can thank him for helping me get down here.”

Cyr made the move to Altamont for several reasons, he said. One was to separate his work from his home and personal life. More space was another and, to be more efficient in the use of that space, the layout of his new shop is much more conducive to work. He now has a more organized set up.

He makes some prosthetics in just a couple of hours, Cyr said; making an upper extremity could take an entire eight-hour day. But, he said, he works on several jobs at a time. He made over 800 prosthetics last year.

The majority of his clients, Cyr said, are diabetics.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded a study by the Amputee Coalition that estimated 1.9 million Americans were living with limb loss; by 2050, according to a separate CDC-funded study, it will be 3.6 million.

Fifty-four percent of limb loss is due to vascular disease, including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease, and 45 percent is caused by trauma.

The ratio of upper-limb to lower-limb amputation is 1 to 4, according to Industrial Safety and Hygiene News.

What is difficult to determine is the use of prosthetic limbs.

“Documented rates of prosthesis use vary from 27 to 56 percent for upper-limb amputation (ULA) and from 49 to 95 percent for lower-limb amputation (LLA). A number of studies have attempted to identify variables that explain inconsistent use rates and identify persons less likely to wear and benefit from a prosthesis. Unfortunately, the existing literature is equivocal and limited by a number of factors,” according to a study from the National Institutes of Health.

Cyr tries to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but his kids are home for the summer, he said, so he will sometimes make up the time later in the evening. Cyr works by himself; he would like to hire someone to help, he said. In the meantime, he is kept company by his shop dog, Molly.

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