County Faces: Cory LaPlante of Presque Isle
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In both his personal and professional life, Cory LaPlante has seen what people can achieve when they are determined to make their lives better.
As the owner of Northern Prosthetics and Orthotics in Presque Isle, LaPlante works with many amputee patients who feel as if they are at the lowest point of their lives. He encourages all his patients to not give up on themselves despite the struggles and setbacks that they will face along the way.
LaPlante started Northern Prosthetics and Orthotics in 2007 after receiving certification as a prosthetist from the University of Connecticut and completing his residency requirements at Maine Artificial Limb in Portland. He also has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Northern Prosthetics and Orthotics is a fully-functioning prosthetic facility, which means that LaPlante and his staff can make any upper or lower limb prosthetics on-site. They also provide orthotic devices, cranial helmets for infants, diabetic footwear and post-mastectomy services.
At a young age, LaPlante knew that he wanted to provide prosthetic and orthotic services to his community. He became an above-knee amputee when he was 14 years old as the result of osteosarcoma, a bone cancer. He received his first prosthetic leg on his 15th birthday. LaPlante travelled seven hours to Bedford, New Hampshire to see his prosthetist for fitting and repairs. After living and working outside of Aroostook County for many years, he wanted to move back and start his business in the part of the state where he grew up.
“I knew there were more people like me who were living up here who needed the prosthetic services,” LaPlante says. “I felt that there was a need and it wasn’t being met.”
LaPlante went through many of the same challenges that his patients face. He had to learn how to walk in his new prosthesis and work through setbacks such as when his prosthesis broke in half during his senior year of high school. But he has never wanted the fact that he is an amputee to define who he is.
While he was a student at Van Buren High School, LaPlante got involved in many clubs and organizations. He credits the support of his classmates and teachers for helping him see his full potential. Today Cory enjoys hiking, fishing and hunting and has even gone bungee jumping and skydiving.
“I never wanted it to be my identity,” LaPlante says, about his prosthesis. “I don’t allow it to restrict from what I want to do in life.”
LaPlante remembers a time when a future employer did not share that same attitude. Years before pursuing a career as a prosthetist, LaPlante applied for a job at a warehouse in Portland. The job required him to walk six to eight miles every day and lift 60 to 80,000 pounds per day. The employer hired LaPlante, but not before saying that he had little faith in his work skills because he was an amputee. Within a year, LaPlante became the warehouse foreman.
“Some of the guys said, ‘Oh, you just feel bad for him because he’s got one leg,’” LaPlante says.
Then his boss brought the workers into his office. He showed them records that said LaPlante had not missed a day of work in the past five months, was never late for work, had no injuries and put 100 percent effort into his job. LaPlante’s boss told everyone, “He’s not getting a promotion because I feel bad for him. He’s getting a promotion because he deserves it.”
LaPlante knows that achieving success as a prosthetics user is not easy for anyone. But he considers all his patients’ long- and short-term goals to be valuable whether they want to have better work opportunities or simply drive themselves to get groceries or meet up with friends. He considers it part of his job to help nurture patients’ determination and guide them through every hurdle.
“I’ve experienced all the human emotions that go along with goals, setbacks and trauma,” LaPlante says, about his daily work with patients. “And you see on the other side the inspiration that comes out of that. It’s extremely humbling.”