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Vital Signs:
Orthopaedic surgeon Michael Mayor finds that his Segway is just what the doctor ordered

Michael Mayor-future orthopaedic surgeon and bioengineer-was a junior at Deerfield Academy when he was diagnosed with a rare malignancy in his right femur. Efforts at treatment failed. In the winter of his senior year, his leg was amputated above the knee. A few months later, with a prosthesis "that was functional, but never really comfortable," he was off to college and then medical school.

Over the years, Mayor, a longtime professor of surgery at Dartmouth, pushed both legs to their limits with an active lifestyle-skiing, playing tennis, cycling, and even climbing trees to perform arboreal surgery. Eventually, he tore the cartilage in his good knee. Arthroscopic surgery helped, but the joint kept deteriorating. It was time for knee-replacement surgery.

Photo by Mark Austin-Washburn
This is a common sight on the DHMC mall, as orthopaedic surgeon Mike Mayor glides from place to place on his Segway "human transporter."

A world-renowned expert at improving as well as implanting replacement joints, Mayor was slated to get one of the cutting-edge polymer implants that he had spent so many years helping to design. Dr. Thomas Shirreffs, a Dartmouth colleague, would perform the surgery. He had, of course, done many such operations during his career, but never on such a patient. Probably no one in the world is better qualified than Mayor to critique that kind of surgery or device. But to Shirreffs's great relief, Mayor pronounced himself eminently satisfied.

But Mayor's schedule requires him to cover vast distances within DHMC, and he didn't want to wear out the new joint. He started looking at alternatives to walking. He first tried the sleek Razor, a machine that did for scooters what in-lines did for roller skates. Razor makes a nifty self-propelled model, which worked well . . . until the batteries proved to be unreliable.

But the Razor was a segue in more ways than one. While it was still running, Mayor was stopped one day by a patient whose husband works for Dean Kamen, a New Hampshire engineer who invented a "human transporter" called the Segway. Mayor was smitten. It not only worked like a charm indoors, it could even negotiate ice and snow outdoors in the winter.

The DHMC mall is a busy place-bustling with wheelchairs, patients pulling IV poles, and small children darting about. But Mayor negotiates them all with aplomb. He's now back on track, doing all the things he loves to.


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