After landing a scholarship to study at Central Connecticut State University in the USA and play elite level soccer at the same time, Erin Herd learnt the art of making prosthetics through her Biomedical Engineering Degree. We spoke to Erin about her soccer career and her work as a prosthetist, and how she got to where she is today.
Hi Erin. Can you tell us about your relationship with the Coffs Coast?
I grew up in Coffs Harbour and moved away after I finished high school. I think I spent the next 13 years trying to find “Coffs” somewhere else. I’m a keen surfer and love the small town feel, so I moved back home mid last year – and it’s been the best decision yet.
Can you tell us a bit about your role as a prosthetist?
I work with all types of amputees, so I see people who have lost anything from part of their foot to their entire arm. I make and fit custom made prostheses to replace their missing limb. I can provide different prostheses for use in different situations, such as for everyday use, as well as specific sporting or work prostheses.
As I am also an orthotist, I also see clients who need custom made supportive braces to help with their mobility. We work with physios, doctors, and occupational therapists to rehabilitate our clients from when they first lose their limb, right through to getting back to what they were able to do before the amputation.
At Northern Prosthetics, we cover the entire North Coast from Coffs Harbour all the way to the Gold Coast. We have local clinics in Coffs, Grafton, Maclean, Ballina, Lismore, Murwillumbah, and Palm Beach.
We believe you began learning the art of making prosthetics when you were in the USA. What was it that initially took you over to the States?
I was a keen soccer player and when I finished high school, I didn’t like the idea of giving away my sporting career to focus on university. Going to the US gave me the opportunity to pursue both. I landed a full scholarship to Central Connecticut State University to study for four years and at the same time, play soccer at an elite level.
Can you tell us about your career as a soccer player?
I starting playing when I was four, because my big brother signed up and I didn’t like sitting on the sidelines. At that time there weren’t many girls playing, so I progressed through the representative levels quite quickly. As a 17 year old I played in the WNSL, which has since become the W-League, and then was selected to play for the Australia School Girls.
I moved to the States and played Division 1 college soccer for four years and then came back to Australia to be part of the newly rebranded women’s professional league, the W-League, with Sydney FC. I finished up my career at Melbourne City in 2016.
Now that you’re back here on the Coffs Coast, do you still play or coach locally?
I’ve hung up the gloves (as I was a goalkeeper) but I’ve recently started my own coaching business and I’m coaching goalkeepers throughout the Coffs Coast. I’m really passionate about goalkeeping and would love to see the area have a stronger representation.
What motivated you to get into the field of prosthetics? And can you tell us a bit about the training that was involved?
I first took an interest in prosthetics after watching Sydney 2000 Paralympics, but it wasn’t until I was at college that I actually looked into studying prosthetics and orthotics. I completed my Bachelors Degree in Biomedical Engineering and then moved to Melbourne to specialise in prosthetics and orthotics through a Masters Degree at LaTrobe University. It wasn’t until I landed my first job that the real hands-on training began, because of the practical nature of the job.
Making prosthetics seems like quite a specialised field and a very interesting mix of technology, sculpting and functionality. Can you tell us a bit about how this all comes together and the process of making the prosthetics?
There’s a clinical side and also a technical side to the job. Clinically, we’re responsible for assessing patients, taking a cast or a scan and then fitting a prosthetic or orthotic device.
But in between the casting and fitting stages, we also make the device. At Northern Prosthetics I work with a team of clinical and technical staff who work together to create a unique solution for each client.
What are some of the challenges you face when making custom prosthetics?
Everyone is unique! Not only their bodies, but their personalities too. My job is as much about the rapport I have with my patients, as it is about fitting the prosthesis/orthosis. Making someone’s artificial limb is a very personal thing, and it’s essential to treat each person individually.
How rewarding is it for you to see clients receiving their prosthetics for the first time?
It’s what makes the job worthwhile. I feel very lucky that I can provide something that can change someone’s life in such a significant way, and I get to call it my job.
You can contact me via email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0476 660 300 if you’d like more information, or find us online at www.northernprosthetics.com.au