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Story #78Powell Orthotics & ProstheticsRichmond, VA

Growing up I always looked at it as ‘why me,’ and now I look back at it, and I can’t even imagine having a leg, because it has given me so many pathways in life that I love.

When six-month-old Joe Sullivan became a below-the-knee amputee due to cancer, his first prosthetist was Tommy Powell Jr., of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics. Located in Richmond, Va., Powell is a company that has been providing artificial limbs and braces to people in need since 1932. Beyond the technical elements of their work, Powell seeks to mentor and raise awareness for amputees by showing that they’re capable of doing everything able-bodied people can do – if not more.

Over his years of visiting Powell as a patient, Sullivan fell in love with the field of prosthetics and began working for the company, creating and building prosthetics before becoming a certified prosthetist in 1998. When the Powell family was looking for an exit strategy, it made perfect sense for Sullivan, with his lifetime of experience and knowledge, to take over.

When Sullivan was growing up, there was no Internet and a general lack of awareness or publicity around amputees. For him, “being able to build a mentoring program in Richmond, and use Powell’s as a hub for that,” was a big a-ha moment. There, the former Paralympian can take his personal and professional experience to help people who are going through the same thing he did, and show them that they can still do the things they love, whether that be sports, work, or otherwise.

For Sullivan, it’s important that Powell maintains a small business feel– a place where patients are treated like family. “I also want them to know that everything we’re doing is state-of-the-art, and trying to mesh those two has been the biggest challenge.”

 Looking to the future, Sullivan says, “Awareness is my biggest goal. Awareness in the sporting community, awareness in the amputee community, awareness for those people that life is not over when this occurs; sometimes it’s just beginning again.”

 

Photos by Nadav Neuhaus

  • Powell employee Scott Poindexter poses with a prosthetic he specially made for himself, with a skull design embedded into the fiberglass. Having employees who are also amputees helps Powell bring a level of understanding and knowledge to their work and patient approach.

  • Co-owners of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics, Joe Sullivan and Michael Montero. “I’ve always been a team oriented person,” says Sullivan. “Whether it’s with work or sports, and we just make a good team, where we both see things differently.”

  • Michael Montero, co-owner of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics, works on a prosthetic arm.

  • Joe Sullivan, co-owner of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics, helps a patient fit a prosthetic. Sullivan was originally drawn to the technical aspects of making prosthetics, but also loves the opportunity to interact with fellow amputees face-to-face and help them through the process using his own personal experience and knowledge.

  • A patient at Powell puts on his prosthetics. Education and awareness is a big part of the work that Powell does, helping people adapt to the change and realize that their life is not over, but beginning anew.

  • Prosthetics being worked on at Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics in Richmond, Va.

  • Joe Sullivan, co-owner of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics, holds his first prosthetic. Sullivan was an amputee at six months old, and Powell made his first ever prosthetic. Over the next 45 years, the former Paralympian would go from patient to technician to co-owner of Powell.

  • Michael Montero, co-owner of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics, works with a patient who has been fitted with a new prosthetic. Montero and co-owner Joe Sullivan have been business partners for more than 20 years, each bringing different interests and skills to the table.

  • Michael Montero, co-owner of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics, helps a patient fit a prosthetic.

  • Scott Poindexter and Michael Montero work on prosthetics at Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics in Richmond, Va. Powell hopes to maintain its small family-run feel, while also using state of the art technology.

  • Scott Poindexter of Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics works on a prosthetic leg.

  • An employee at Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics works on building a prosthetic leg.

  • A patient at Powell Orthotics & Prosthetics practices walking with his new prosthetics. In addition to providing artificial limbs and braces to people in need, Powell seeks to mentor and raise awareness for amputees by showing that they’re capable of doing whatever they put their mind to.

Business Details

Proprietor: Joe Sullivan
2034 Dabney Road, Ste C Richmond, VA 23230
PH: 804-649-9043 / Website
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