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Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month Patient Highlight: Gunnar Zellman

Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness

At Tillges we are proud to support Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month during the month of April and beyond. We are honored to be a part of the story of many individuals as they begin their process of limb loss and limb difference and those who are further along in their journey. In this story, we are going to feature one of our patients, Gunnar. Here at Tillges, we are proud to provide Gunnar with prosthetic care while we are also very thankful to have him working at Team Tillges as a prosthetic technician. Gunnar has worked in many areas of our orthotic and prosthetic lab, fabricating devices for individuals with limb loss and limb difference as he prepares to become a clinician to care for others.  

Gunnars’s Amputee Journey  

Gunnar began his journey with limb loss when he was just 3 years old. He had an unfortunate accident with a lawn mower resulting in the amputation of his foot below the ankle. Following his accident and about 6 months after his amputation, Gunnar received his first prosthesis from Shriners Hospital, proud of the Scooby Doo design he would wear daily. With the amputation being so early in his life, Gunnar does not remember much about the incident, and has found this to be a blessing as he did not have to re-learn his activities. With his prosthetics provided through Shriners Hospital, he kept active playing soccer, basketball, and competing in track & field. In addition to being involved in those sports, Gunnar has traveled the world with his prosthesis for missions to areas including Australia, Germany, South Africa, Hawaii, and Egypt.

Finding his impact through experience

Gunnar began his occupational journey working in many areas of construction. As he continued searching for his next role, he thought back to his days working with Shriners for his prostheses and the impact they had on his life. He saw working in the prosthetic industry as an opportunity to impact individuals who have had an amputation, as he has been through some of the same challenges. Gunnar was already a patient of Tillges when he decided that working as an orthotic and prosthetic technician was a good way to get his foot in the door (pun intended).

When asked what advice he has for individuals who are starting this journey of limb loss, Gunnar says to know that you are a whole person. He feels that he has been blessed to find the many individuals and groups who are willing to help in this process. One organization he noted was Wiggle Your Toes which donated a running blade for Gunnar to use for higher activity sports. He encourages each individual to find their new normal through use of their prosthesis and to not let it stop you from doing what you love.

Forward motion with education

As you walk through the fabrication lab at Tillges, you can find Gunnar working in the prosthetic area, or helping in other areas of the lab as needed. He is starting the Masters in O&P Program this fall at Concordia University and will finish the summer of 2026. He is very excited to begin working with patients as a clinician helping them find their new normal.

We are so grateful to Gunnar for sharing his story with us. At Tillges, we are honored to support individuals with limb loss and limb difference and are happy to help with each step of their journey. Please reach out to speak with our experienced staff about how we can best help you or your patients on this journey.

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RESOURCES 

  1. Wiggle Your Toes: https://wiggleyourtoes.org/
  2. Amputee Coalition: https://www.amputee-coalition.org/

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