Changing Lives with Custom Prosthetics


Some say that art imitates life. Others say life imitates art. And some give life a new meaning with their art, especially in the world of custom prosthetics.

From ears, to eyes and everything in between, Jay McClennen, Chief Certified Clinical Anaplastologist at The Anaplastology Clinic in Durham, North Carolina takes what he learned in his 17-year career making prosthetics for the big screen, and he's brought his talents off screen to real life.

McClennen told Ivanhoe, "You meet fascinating people that have been through a lot, strong people, strong characters."

Like Diane Stokes. Eleven years ago, she found out she had breast cancer.

Stokes said, "Anytime you hear that C word, you think, well this is the end of the world."

She had a lumpectomy and was cancer free for six years, then a more aggressive type struck.

Stokes told Ivanhoe, "I made up my mind immediately that day that I would have a double mastectomy."

Because of her history and age, breast reconstruction was not an option.

"There's about 20-percent on average that aren't good candidates for reconstruction" McClennen explained.

In years past, breast prosthetics have been heavy and uncomfortable, prompting McClennen to invent his own custom silicone breast prosthesis.

"It's a hollow air bladder so it's like a balloon almost. One of the important things about a breast prosthesis is that it be light weight" he said.

Once the mold's been made and the silicone cast, the details that make each of us unique can be added.

McClennen exclaimed, "We have different colors we can mix in to get the opacity of the skin."

Diane is thrilled with her new breasts.

"I do everything. Even put on a swimsuit" she said. Just like she did before cancer.

The custom fit prosthetic breasts are removed every night and washed with an antibacterial soap. Diane likens it to putting in and taking out her contacts each day. The custom breast prosthetics last about three years.