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Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013
'Therapy putty' is same as my childhood toyPosted Monday, September 17, 2012, at 2:44 PM
I'm amazed with all of the new medical advances these days and my aging body is good evidence that there are plenty of wonders in science.
I have been rebuilt, re-treaded, refurbished, tweaked, rehabilitated, adjusted, manipulated, injected, and have an ankle that is being held together by the placement of a very expensive little screw by a variety of talented surgeons over the years.
I have three essential walking parts (knees) replaced with some version of titanium metal that is able to withstand a blast from a Star Wars futuristic kind of weapon.
I think I know more than my share of surgeries and recovery.
Most recently, I underwent a carpal tunnel revision surgery on my right hand. It's been a rougher road than I ever anticipated.
First, there was the soft-cast like dressing and sling for about two weeks out from surgery. I then progressed to a hard split-like Velcro wrap for about four weeks.
This past week, I graduated to a new thing.
Well, the medical name is "therapy putty," but to me it looked like the old Silly Putty from my childhood.
When the physical therapist handed me the small, circular container that held the glob of yellow-colored putty I thought, "Is this some kind of a joke?"
But he shook his head and said this is therapy putty and is ideal for developing hand-muscle strength and increasing endurance. It increases range of motion and reduces stiffness to help regain normal dexterity and use of the hand.
Hummmmm. I thought.
My thoughts raced back to a few years ago when after a knee replacement, the therapist used a skateboard as part of my rehab process.
This putty stuff sounded like another unconventional idea, but if it's part of the therapy and will make this throbbing hand with occasional bursts of electrical like shocks running through it, and will ease my numbness, then I'll give it a serious try.
I have four assigned exercises that I am to do with my putty ---- the finger press, thumb dig, finger pinch and my favorite mass finger extension, which is nothing more than rolling the putty on a hard surface into a snake-like shape.
Do you remember rolling out a snake in the old days with the real Silly Putty?
In the late 1950s, I remember watching Silly Putty television commercials during The Howdy Doody Show and the Captain Kangaroo Show and bugging my mother until she reluctantly agreed to buy me some.
By doing a little recent research I learned that Silly Putty, one of the most popular toys of the 20th century, was invented accidentally.
In 1943, engineer James Wright was attempting to discover a synthetic rubber while working in General Electric's laboratory in New Haven, Conn., when he discovered something unusual. In a test tube, Wright had combined boric acid and silicone oil, producing a gob of goo.
Wright conducted tests on the substance and discovered it could bounce when dropped, stretch farther than regular rubber, didn't collect mold, and had a very high melting temperature. Unfortunately, it didn't contain the properties needed to replace rubber, which was in short supply because of World War II, according to Ask.com .
Wright sent samples of the putty to scientists around the world. However, none of them found a use for the substance either.
In 1949, the ball of goo found its way to Ruth Fallgatter, an owner of a toy store, who regularly produced a catalog of toys.
Advertising consultant Peter Hodgson convinced Fallgatter to place globs of the goo in plastic cases and add it to her catalog. Selling for $2 each, the "bouncing putty" outsold everything else in the catalog except for a set of 50-cent crayons.
After a year of strong sales, Fallgatter decided to drop the bouncing putty from her catalog.
Hodgson saw an opportunity. He borrowed $147 and bought a large quantity of the putty in 1950 and placed one-ounce pieces of putty into small egg shaped plastic containers.
Silly Putty was first considered a novelty for adults. However, by 1955 the market shifted and the $1 toy became a huge success with children. Added to bouncing, stretching, and molding, kids could spend hours using the putty to copy images from comics and the newspaper and then distort the images by bending and stretching.
Eventually, as time passed others have come up with other practical uses for Silly Putty, including as a balance for a wobbly piece of furniture, lint remover, hole stopper and a stress reliever.
And, for me, it's now a means to strengthen a repaired hand after surgery -- another medical advancement that I appreciate.
Nick is assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter @GCDWSchneider.
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