When a person loses a limb from illness or injury, Roy Rice III helps them get back in action.
The third-generation prosthetist is owner and president of Augusta Orthotics & Prosthetics Inc., an American Board-certified center with locations at 2068 Wrightsboro Road in Augusta; Milledgeville, Ga.; and Columbia.
After working for his father for years, Rice started the business in 1999.
“It’s a fun business. It’s very rewarding. We have lots of high-profile amputees,” Rice said. “I have a passion for it. If I didn’t do prosthetics and orthotics, I don’t know what I’d do. I love it.”
His patients include Don Vickery, the only double amputee in the world to be a professional on the PGA Tour, and Paralympic track star Casey Tibbs, who ranks third in the world in the long jump and will compete in London this summer, Rice said.
Other patients include police officers, firefighters and children. Diabetes and vascular clients make up 75 percent of the business, Rice said.
The center custom-fits patients for upper extremity, lower limb and sports prosthetics and orthotics.
Workers build all the limbs and braces in the fabrication lab on Wrightsboro Road.
Rice has 13 employees, who are skilled in crafting prosthetics from plaster.
“Everything is done by hand or computer here,” he said.
Technology has enabled the company to use microprocessors and battery-powered devices for prosthetics.
Patients can even get custom designs. The business has made University of Georgia, Dora the Explorer and camouflage prosthetics.
Rice said his grandfather, Roy Rice, lost his leg in a hunting accident in his teens and started Atlanta Artificial Limb Co. in 1948.
His father, Roy Rice II, two uncles and an aunt ran Atlanta Prosthetics Inc., which had six offices in Georgia until they sold the company in 1998.
Rice worked for the corporation for a year before branching out on his own. He disagreed with how corporations handled patients’
cases, saying it was mostly dictated by insurance companies.
“There’s a lot of people out there who can’t help their circumstances,” he said. “Nobody tells us what we can and cannot do. If we have somebody that comes in with no insurance, we can fit them.
“That’s what it’s all about. You put it in your heart, not in your pocket.”
The business has the freedom to try out different devices, such as a new rotating foot.
“We get the option to fit them with multiple things to find out what might be the perfect prosthetic device for them. That’s crucial because people are active,” he said.
He said his father still comes to work three days a week.
Rice is remodeling the facility and will soon offer a lab with a gait analysis machine, which records data as a patient walks.
To improve the fit and success rate of prosthetics, Rice’s staff uses diagnostic test sockets. The staff also works to prevent amputations with orthotics,
such as shoes for diabetic patients.
“I think awareness is the biggest thing. We don’t like for people to come in missing limbs,” Rice said. “If your doctors have labeled you a diabetic, take good care of your feet because it usually starts from there. A lot of it is preventive.”