Q&A with Limb Lab’s Brandon Sampson

Brandon Sampson (right) with a Limb Lab patient
Brandon Sampson (right) with Limb Lab patient

The mission of the Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative is to attract people, investment, and jobs to America’s City for Health and support the economic growth of Minnesota, its bioscience sector, and beyond. Local musician, prosthetist, and owner/founder of Limb Lab, Brandon Sampson sits down with DMC to answer some questions about his passion for helping people with prosthetic devices return to living life and embracing their “wearable art.” His story is just one of many in our community that align with the DMC vision to provide the ideal patient, companion, visitor, and community member experience.

DMC: The field of medicine you’ve chosen is quite unique, Brandon. What led you to a career in prosthetics?

Sampson: When I was a kid, I almost lost my hand in a farming accident, and spent a lot of time with surgeons and therapists as they worked to fix my hand. Two things came out of that experience that changed my life: my life as a musician [Brandon played guitar to rehabilitate his hand] and my interest in orthopedic medicine and rehabilitation. When my college advisor introduced me to the world of prosthetics and orthotics, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

DMC: The location and design of Limb Lab (at the corner of Broadway and 4th Street SE in the Riverside Building) is also very unique – and clearly very intentional. What prompted you to design the space so openly and transparently?

Sampson: The design and approach of Limb Lab reinforce our mission: improving the function, health, and quality of life for people with limb loss. Our open design – actually doing the work of building limbs in the windows – takes the secret out of what we do, which is connecting people to parts. We invite people to join us in the lab as we build their limb. Our walking and fitting rooms are private, but they draw light in from the outside and cast shadows of people walking into the lobby, making them feel more alive.

DMC: I imagine you get a lot of double-takes from passersby on the sidewalk. How do people respond to the publicly visible office space?

Sampson: People walk by our office every day and smile at us working in the lab. Some of them walk in and ask for a tour. By showcasing mannequins in our windows wearing prosthetic limbs, we hope to take the stigma away and do our part to bring prosthetics – wearable art – to the public eye. We are happy to share what we do and why we do it to anyone that is interested.

DMC: I would assume patients have a choice about where they go to receive a prosthesis or an orthotic device. How are they ending up at Limb Lab?

Sampson: We have worked hard to create an environment to encourage collaboration among those who need our services, the physicians that prescribe prosthetic limbs and orthotic devices to their patients, and our skilled clinicians at Limb Lab.

We work with people from all over the world. People have been very receptive of our creative team approach to helping them solve their specific functional goals. We’ve created our business to be able to take care of people while they are in Rochester for other medical appointments or visiting loved ones.

DMC: Where are the prosthetics and orthotics actually built?

Sampson: We build all the devices right here in our windows, so we can develop a plan and fit a prototype device sometimes within the same day. This flexibility of scheduling and turnaround time allows us to work around the patient’s other medical appointments while we fabricate a device; it allows us to focus on individualized care and success during their stay in town.

DMC: Your patient-centered vision exemplifies what will make Rochester “America’s City for Health.” How do you feel Limb Lab is contributing to making this community a destination medical center?

Sampson: Limb Lab strives to improve the function, health, and quality of life for people with limb loss. Our inclusion in the DMC community is a perfect match to help create a place for people to feel welcome, a place for hope, a place for people to learn about the future of prosthetics and orthotics, and a place to connect people who need our services with a world class team approach to achieving their functional goals.

DMC: The work of your team literally changes the lives of Limb Lab patients. How do they respond to you once they are fitted and functional with their new device(s)?

Sampson: We received this letter from a gentleman we helped a few months ago. It pretty much sums up why we do what we do!

“To the Limb Lab Team,

Since being injured in combat in 2004, my prosthetic leg needs have been taken care of by the US Army. As you know, I recently retired from active duty in Sept 2014. Then I was faced with new challenges, how do I find the proper prosthetic care for my complicated fit? How do I trust a new prosthetist? I tried local prosthetic shops in my area but none had the expertise and experience my leg required. A few weeks back I made a phone call to a great friend of mine, I asked him for his help, I needed a new prosthetic socket so that I could once again be active in my daily life, and He said two words “Limb Lab”.

I am truly in awe by the fact, I crutched into Limb Lab on a late Sunday evening and after a short five days was walking on a laminated carbon fiber vacuum/suction assisted double wall socket. Not only was it the most comfortable socket I have ever walked in, but it was the most supportive as well. I know you all could tell by the smile on my face, that I was extremely happy with how the socket fit, but it is so much more, it is that feeling of freedom, freedom from disability, freedom from pain, freedom to live an active life! 

Through those windows at Limb Lab, as pedestrians walk by and stop to observe, they will watch as Limb Lab team members build prosthetic sockets, braces being constructed or even arms and legs being assembled. As I left Friday morning to return home 1800 miles away, I took the time to look through those windows, this time from the outside, I saw life and the freedom to live being made behind those windows.

I thank you all!

Daniel Metzdorf, SFC, USA (ret)”

DMC: Wow. What a moving tribute to the incredibly important work you and your team do, Brandon! Thanks for taking the time to introduce us to your special kind of “art” and for the difference you make in the lives of your patients and their families.