Dwight Putnam being interview by WFAA, Channel 8.

May 24, 2018 / Spotlight

WFAA: Artist finds his calling making prosthetic limbs for children

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Dwight Putnam always knew he wanted to be an artist. In fact his ambitions were somewhat of a sticking point between himself and his father.

"He wanted me to get into medicine," Putnam said.

Putnam eventually became a successful commercial sculptor, creating large installations for businesses all over. But the artist in him was still searching for his masterpiece and then he found it in an unexpected place.

"I think Scottish Rite saw the potential in me before I did," Putnam said.

More than a decade ago Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas approached the young sculptor about working in their prosthetic limb department. The orthopedic hospital is known across the world for state of the art care for children including amputees.

"My background in design and structure worked perfectly for this," Putnam said.

Patients say the mild mannered Putnam has a gift for listening to the young men and women and identifying their gifts. Over the years he has created specialized prosthetic limbs that have allowed children to pursue dreams that many would have scoffed at.

One of Putnam's first creations was a single finger that allowed a young boy to play and master clarinet. Since then he has created arms for horse back riding, legs for cheerleaders, and a specially positioned foot for a ballerina just to name a few.

"I always say the devices aren't amazing, it's what the kids do with them that's incredible," Putnam said.

One of his most recent creations belongs to Tyler Sampson, a 17-year-old pitching prodigy in Denton who is already fielding college offers despite missing one arm from the elbow down. Sampson is tall and lanky and is focused on putting on weight so he and Putnam got together to create a prosthetic arm that will allow him to hit the gym even harder.

"It's amazing I've gained so much strength in just the few weeks I've had it," Sampson said.

Sampson has always been determined to achieve his dreams and is supported by a family who sees his potential every day. But he says having someone like Putnam makes those dreams that much closer to becoming reality.

"He just has this charisma and he really listens," Sampson said.

As for Putnam, he never dreamed be in a workshop in a hospital, but he says there is no place he'd rather be.

"It's crazy I've come full circle. That medical dream my dad had and the artist idea I had are pretty much one," Putnam said.

And with more patients flying into Dallas for treatment from around the world Putnam says his masterpiece project is far from done.