It’s been one week since we departed from Newark Airport and arrived in Hong Kong. So far it’s been filled with adventures and misadventures, humidity and rain, public transportation with an octopus card, Ferry rides, dim sum, but more importantly patient measurements, assessments, and the fabrication process.
Thus began our second, even busier day of working in the lab. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the student canteen, then headed over to meet the rest of the students by 9 AM. Work started right away as the next steps in the fabrication process were the most complicated and perhaps the most tedious.
Today, most of the teams worked on modifying their positive molds. After letting the molds dry completely, we removed the negative molds from their thermoplastic sheets. The PolyU students then demonstrated how to smooth all of the rough areas of the mold by filing it down.
We made sure that the areas surrounding the ankle joints (lateral and medial malleolus), the metatarsals (bones of the foot), and the arch of the plantar side of the foot were clearly marked.
After filing it down, we then proceeded to reshape the mold to obtain the original shape of the patient’s foot. We first added nails to the front of the molds for more reinforcement before adding more wet plaster to the dry mold. The bandages were shaped around the toes and plaster was then poured onto the front. We used wooden wedges to stand the modified molds upright against the wall to wait for them to dry before removing the bandages.
This part of the drying process took about an hour. After removing the bandages from the front, we noticed that the concentration of wet plaster made it dry unevenly. We continued the modifying process by building up more wet plaster over the bony prominences and to the uneven areas, using water to smoothen after each layer of plaster.
We alternated from smoothing to building up plaster for the next two hours, gently hammering in nails to the ankle joints to make the ankle more prominent for the casts. We labeled everything and made sure that our final mold was ready for the next step.
Our group stopped at around 1 PM for a lunch break. Alex and I joined the PolyU students from our team (Hin, Athena, Louisse, and Charis) for a nice meal at a Chinese restaurant at the mall near our hotel. We had a fun time teaching and laughing at Alex’s attempts to speak Cantonese phrases. We shared our social media information with the PolyU students and told them about our plans to go to the Peak tonight.
After lunch, we went back to the lab to finish the modification process. The PolyU students helped us with casting the actual plastic orthotics using the positive plaster molds. After making sure our orthotics were the correct measurements, we cut and cleaned the plastic sheets before putting them into the oven.
While the plastic was in the oven, we prepared our finals molds by first covering them with Saran Wrap and two stocking layers and then connecting it to a vacuum pump. After the plastic was heated, we brought the sheet out and quickly placed it onto the plaster molds over the stocking. We stretched the plastic to seal the openings. The plastic orthotic over the positive plaster mold is shown below.
Overall our second day in the lab was quite long, but very hands-on and interactive. We learned more on the job than we could ever learn during a lecture. After we finished, we went back to the hotel to prepare for dinner. Each of us ordered food at the mall. We ended up getting Pepper Lunch, which served us with a choice of meat along with rice, corn, and scallions on a sizzling, hot plate. After adding soy sauce, we mixed everything together.
After dinner, we made the trip to go to the the top of the Peak, taking the tram to get to the top. The panoramic view of Hong Kong from this famous vantage point was absolutely breathtaking. The skyline and the Harbour is so exquisite and brilliant and vast that New York City’s skyline pales in comparison. We had a photo shoot at the top as the wind was blowing powerfully. Being there felt so surreal, and I’m grateful that I get to experience this with everyone on this trip.
Special shout out to Alex Kee for being incredibly patient and kind and for making sure none of us gets left behind. Looking forward to another adventure tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Til then, Cindy Luo