Ms Adversity, let’s go for a walk
In line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (#3, #9, #10), and in the month of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we talked to Christopher Hutchison - a great ambassador for the three objectives
9 Dec 2020

The story has globally become known, not only for the episode that happened –the cause– but also for the impact –the consequence–. Not so long ago; I have had the opportunity – and the privilege– to vibrate as rarely in my life when I listened to it, face to face, by the main protagonist. It was an extreme experience, recommended for those who are weak –for whatever circumstance–, for those who are strong –and need to remain strong– and for those who need to realize where they stand at this precise moment. 

In 2009 Chris had graduated from the International School of Geneva. He was publicly recognized –among students and teachers– for his unique intelligence, his extraordinary ability to learn quickly, and for studying with peers who were more advanced than his age.

Son of parents who were outstanding in their professional activities, Chris had much more than just a good life. He had a university future and an almost anticipated professional success – both accompanied by a permanent, perceptive and contagious joy.

Chris and his father presenting at TED Sofia.

In July 2009, at Nyon train station, he went to say goodbye to his group of friends and was casually leaning against the open window of the train that they were sitting inside – believing the environment to be a safe one. The train suddenly started, Chris fell and the same inertia led to his body being run over by the wheels, causing amputation of his two legs, provoking a before and after in his life and in his family’s.

Just remembering Chris telling me about the development of his accident gives me chills every time I’m about to get on a train. It’s impossible not to look at the wheels and imagine the extreme pain and how unfeasible it would have been for me to recover from such an experience. I imagine that something similar must happen to you –reader– just by reading it. 

It is not necessary –since it is not the purpose of this article– to go into the details of everything Chris and his family had to go through. In a nutshell; he lost both his legs, his parents had to take care of all the treatment, and all this led them not only to reformulate their residence in Switzerland, but also –and mainly– to shake hands with adversity and to take it, slowly, for a walk in the street of the years to come.

Chris receiving one of the many awards to his start-up.

Shortly afterwards they moved to Sofia, Bulgaria; and it was there where father and son exploited all the learning about the consequences of the accident, and added to the range of skills and experience they both already had, they found an opportunity: to develop solutions so that –through software and 3D printing– anyone anywhere in the world could have access to comfortable prosthetic legs.

This idea, which began as a programming code behind a computer, is today called ProsFit, and it is nothing more and nothing less than this brilliant initiative taken to the field of reality. 

ProsFit has an office with 7 employees –and many partners–, who develop solutions to access prosthetic legs – regulated medical devices that are tested and certified to ISO standards. ProsFit has won the 2020 Toyota Award for the Best StartUp, was shortlisted among the Transformational Business Awards given by the Financial Times, is part of the Industry Advisory Group of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO), and has participated in congresses in Korea, Japan, San Diego and Africa – in addition to conferences at WHO and UNICEF in Geneva. 

Chris’ father, Alan Hutchison; a graduate of Oxford University with an MBA from IMD in Switzerland represents –as Chief Executive Officer–, the voice and expansion of the company. Chris, the user, the inventor and the implementer represents –as Chief Technology Officer–, the design and technological architecture that ProsFit carries behind. 

Since both are constantly innovating, I thought it was a good idea to contact Chris again to get the latest update on this enormous challenge.

Chris giving an interview in Sofia.

Chris, what is it like to be in permanent interaction with your father?

It’s a privilege to be in a position to work together, and to learn and gain from all the lifelong experiences that have brought him to today. We are lucky to always have had a good relationship; and this is always to be appreciated when you have parents who can love and provide for you growing up – something that clearly doesn’t stop at 18!

Working together is an extension of this, and it is an incredible opportunity to learn –first hand– from someone you deeply trust and share values with, someone who is willing and able to share openly with you. We also bring different perspectives in a way that is complementary and brings resonant new value.

Sadly, in the modern world with the invention of the “teenager” concept we have often made it seem “uncool” to work with, learn from or even appreciate your parents, and it is a tragedy that this is the case – as in the process we risk sacrificing the notion of family values, and the inter-generational passage of knowledge, experience and morality that is so critical to wider human development.

What is your message to those who, without having gone through a similar accident to yours, find themselves in a similar situation today?

As humans on this earth we all have to deal with some level of suffering and adversity – and that is par for the course. It is on us and our collective shared responsibility to help each other and to help ourselves to overcome the great difficulties in life, and to experience the greater ‘love & joy’ that also come with being alive.

In this regard, I have no particular claim to be able to answer this question, but it is thanks to the love and care of family, friends, medical teams –respect your doctors and nurses!–, and shared human interaction that has enabled me to deal with these challenges.

This gives a practice in resilience and determination that proves incredibly valuable for dealing with life. We all carry this inside ourselves, and face these challenges and opportunities for lessons on a daily basis. Today is always the next step to a brighter future. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but you can do it!

In terms of innovation, what is the latest thing you have developed and would like to share?

Innovation comes in many forms, and yes I can tell you about our automated processes, adjustable sockets, and sensor-driven algorithmic wave-form analysis to detect patterns of movement. This is all only technology until it changes lives.

The real innovation that I would like to share is called “PandoScale”. This is the full end-to- end solution to scale up prosthetic service provision in a given country or region. This includes full implementation with policy development, appropriate training and distribution of light-weight medical/prosthetic centres –PandoPoints– that can deliver high-quality care.

This holds the key to provide widespread and sustainable access to prosthetics across all urban, rural and remote settings, to all in need of prosthetics – whether this be in so-called ‘developed’ or ‘developing’ countries.

What is the challenge for 2021?

To scale up what we have achieved so far; i.e. we have a beautifully working system that now must find its wings to deliver the greatest impact possible in the world. We know full well that we will need significant partners to achieve this.

What resources do you need to get ProsFit where you want it to go?

We understand that there are over 20 million persons with amputations and limb differences, the vast majority of whom would benefit from prosthetics to be mobile and live their lives – but it is estimated that 9/10 do not have any access today. Of those who do have access to prosthetics, there is currently an estimated 50% success rate in providing something that is suitable and comfortable for use. There is a lot to be done.

As ProsFit we can continue to grow and work hard to chip away at this issue, but we also understand that there are more effective ways to do this – we are currently seeking for significant public and private partners who are in a position to correctly resource and aid the scaling up of prosthetic service provision around the world and share a mutual interest to making it happen.

If today you had a microphone that reaches all of humanity, what would you like to say?

Stay strong, we are all in this together. We all carry a deep and rich ‘flame’ inside of all us, and it is our collective responsibility to nurture this and grow it to shine bright lights on the world. Share, be open, be resilient, support your fellow beings, feel love and joy in yourself and share this with everyone around you. Smile and appreciate every moment.

* Julián Ginzo is a member of the Editorial Board of UN Today.
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