Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 14, 2013

Oct. 14, 2013: Letters to the editor

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Company had hand in making hardware

I read with much interest Ed Vasicek’s weekly column in the Oct. 6 Kokomo Tribune, “Hospital or hardware store”.

Sorry to say we have not met or conversed on the above subject, but his analogy is somewhat true.

Let me tell you of my personal experience. We at Tate Model & Engineering Inc., here in Kokomo, had the pleasure of being one of the first to work with the orthopedic industry in design and making of many of the present orthopedic prosthesis used today.

In the 1960s, I was presented with a human tibia and femur and asked if I could duplicate the knee joint. My experience as a master model maker and engineer caused me to view the specimen carefully for a few minutes, then I said, “I don’t know. God made that one, but I will do the best I can.” We agreed to a cost, and I proceeded with the project of making the first successful orthopedic prosthesis for the knee joint for one of the companies in Warsaw, Ind.

This company at that time had just five or six engineers in its employment. Since that time, this company has grown multiple times into one of the largest in the orthopedic industry. I am proud to say this replacement knee joint had a big part in the growth of the orthopedic industry. I have had the pleasure of working with several of the orthopedic companies, seeing some grow from a small, garage-size business to a worldwide, multibillion-dollar business.

This original knee is still being manufactured today and has been very successful. In fact, my wife still has two (one in each leg) since 1999.

Because of this knee joint I had the pleasure of working with many other orthopedic companies, helping them develop many other replacement implants for hips, fingers, ankles, toes, etc. We at Tate Model & Engineering were involved in the making of prototypes for surgical clinical trials for many of the orthopedic industry.

Now back to the original interest about “Hospital or hardware store”.

During the 1980s, the city of Indianapolis hosted a convention of hospital personnel from India. Because of my involvement with the orthopedic industry, I was asked if I would place and supply a booth to display various implants and tools for placement of these prosthesis, which included bone saws, mallets, chisels, gouges, files, gages, etc., all of which are necessary for the surgeons to replace these body parts.

As I stood patiently by my display, the group of about 80 visitors walked by, just giving me a glance or two. One of the group did dwell a second and made a gesture with his hand and said, “Carpenter tools.” Another person did dwell a moment, and I stated to him there doesn’t seem to be very much interest in this kind of surgery. He said, “Oh, this group is only hospital administrators, not surgeons.”

So much for the carpenter tools.

Of course there are many stories I could tell, some amusing, some sad, of happenings in and out of the hospital rooms, but one I will share.

A sales person stopped by my office and saw many of the items in our display cabinet. He noticed a special cutter, of which we were involved in the design and manufacturing. This cutter is for the skin grafting procedure.

The salesman said, “Oh yes, I am familiar with skin grafting. My wife was in a car accident and got burned on her face. In searching for matching skin, they found it on her mother. A portion of skin was removed from her mother’s setting side and grafted to the wife’s burned area on the cheek. Everything went fine and healed perfectly.

“But now when I kiss my wife on her cheek, my mother-in-law comes to mind.”

Ted Tate, P.E.