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GUEST COMMENTARY

Exciting changes at Science Cafe; events move to new location

Science Cafe New Hampshire is pleased to announce that we’re moving to DOWNTOWN Nashua! Starting Tuesday, we will be hosting Science Cafe Nashua at The Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar, 35 Railroad Square. We’re excited to bring science conversations to such an awesome venue and offer this unique opportunity to talk with the experts – and each other – about science. Thanks also to the Holiday Inn for years of supporting Science Cafe events.

For those unfamiliar, Science Cafe is a free, two-hour monthly gathering where scientists, industry and other experts come to share what they know, what they’ve learned and where they see things going. It’s a chance to explore topics we should know more about with a beer in hand, and not only become better informed, but also better connected. It’s a chance to ask questions of some really smart and interesting people. It’s a chance to understand more.

This month, Science Cafe will be addressing the topic of “Prosthetics and Adaptive Technologies” with a panel who will explain not only the clinical and technical perspectives of disability, but also the realities of life in an incomplete body. One panelist, Dr. Mike Kneeland of UMass Worcester and also New England Disabled Sports at Loon Mountain, works with a wide range of medical conditions and disabilities including, amputations – often in children – and focuses on adaptation in a wide range of sports activities.

“Everyone at NEDS is inspirational.” he said. Another panelist, Matt Albuquerque, is the founder of Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics. Albuquerque works directly with patients who have lost a limb to disease, injury or the genetics of birth to develop, fits and integrate prosthetics for individuals. I recently had the privilege of visiting Next Step and touring the facility with Albuquerque. It was eye opener to see racks of ‘stumps’ and learn about the subtle differences that make each one unique. It was impressive to see the level of detail, precision and technology that goes into the creation of a custom artificial limb. And with the advent of bionics, prosthetics can literally put a spring in your step and behave much more like natural appendages (the downside is now you could have to charge your leg!).

Albuquerque shared that people often have separate limbs for running, walking, swimming and a host of specialized activities – and that every advance in the technology really represents increased freedom and a higher quality of life for those in need. Especially for some veterans returning from war, advanced prosthetics are critical to successful reintegration, their ability to heal and feel ‘whole’ again, and to create a renewed desire to get on with life. Albuquerque convinced me that adaptive devices not only unlock a functional future for people, they unlock the ability to dream again, too.

And we’re all just one car crash away from needing them. In fact, that’s what happened to panelist Wendy Katsekas of Manchester. Her ankle was destroyed when she was hit by a car that was stolen and trying to escape an umarked police car – no sirens, no warning. Just like that, her life changed forever.

But Katsekas didn’t let that accident stop her from serving for more than 38 years as an elementary school teacher and an assistant principal in Manchester. Today, she is into skiing, indoor rock climbing and recently, kayaking.

“Most people have no clue when I meet them, and I have known people for years before they figure out I am an amputee.” she said.

But what is really striking is her unwaveringly positive attitude. Indeed, several people with disabilities I spoke with shared boundless optimism, enthusiasm and a resolute unwillingness to let the loss of a limb cheat them of what life has to offer. Eric, a one-armed boatyard worker I know (which is amazing in itself), amazed me with his detailed plan for creating a custom arm for riding his new motorcycle so that the machine would not need to be modified at all. He was totally jazzed by the thought of this new freedom to ride.

So please, feel free to join the conversation at Science Cafe this week! As always, Science Cafe is a FREE monthly gathering, now at The Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar.

Learn more about Science Cafe New Hampshire at www. ScienceCafeNH.org.

Dan Marcek is co-founder of Science Cafe New Hampshire and can be reached at dan@vetflix.org.

DAN MARCEK

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