PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- When Cory LaPlante was just 15 years old, he lost his left leg to bone cancer, but it wasn't until he was faced with the challenge of getting an emergency adjustment done to his prosthesis that he discovered his calling.
"Two days before my prom, my prosthesis broke, and I was faced with having to drive down to New Hampshire," LaPlante recalled. "I drive back that eight hour drive up the 95 back to Van Buren, and in that moment I kind of said to myself driving back up as a high school student, I said 'this is ridiculous."
"I was thinking, you know we pay the same amount of money for our healthcare as people who live right next to Maine Med, there is no reason why we should have to travel eight hours just to receive quality care," he continued. "So I kind of made it my mission in that moment to go to school and to open up my own practice up here to serve the local patients here in Aroostook County."
What started as a one-man operation in a small office has grown into a staff of ten working out of the brand new Northern Prosthetics building near The Aroostook Medical Center.
"A great deal of the population that we are dealing with are the geriatric population," he explained. "Many of our patients have peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, or they have other comorbidities that really kind of prohibit them from making those long rides."
LaPlante says it wasn't just the inconvenience that made him want to help provide services to his friends and neighbors.
"It makes a huge difference in their quality of outcome, and also financially for them," he said. "You know if they can get the services close to home without having to travel, pay gas, overnight expenses, it is a huge weight of their shoulders."
It also helps their family members who want to be there to assist a loved one, or are their only source of transportation.
Now LaPlante is a certified prosthetist, and estimates they can create about ninety percent of the orthotics and prosthetics their patients need in-house.
"We do everything from the foot to the head," stated LaPlante.
He doesn't hang his hat on being an amputee, as his disability does not define him, but it does help provide perspective.
"Whether I like it or not, there is a level of complete understanding. You know you really understand what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night to put this thing on to go to the restroom," he said with a chuckle.
"Patients really kind of gravitate to somebody who has been in their position."
LaPlante says a lot fo the work they do is problem solving, as finding the proper fit for someone's needs is as much art as it is science.
"When it works, it works and that is a beautiful thing," he stated. "When you see it all come together it is pretty heart-warming. It is humbling to watch it and it is very, very rewarding."