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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Diana Nyad's Face Mask By Aesthetic Prosthetics

"They do important artistic work that helps people with burns and injuries," said Diana Nyad about Stefan Knauss and Gina Cohen of Aesthetic Prosthetics.

"After my experience with the box jellyfish in 2013, I never would have gone back [to attempt the Cuba-to-Florida swim] if I had not been aided by this nth degree of innovation. Stefan, Gina, and Mason stuck with it week after week, creating prototype after prototype. These prosthetists were intrigued by the science [of trying to protect my face and mouth from the box jellyfish]. I would have never done it with their innovations and expertise."

Knauss explains, "Diana came in to see us and wanted something that would completely cover her face and protect her against box jellyfish. We recognized any kind of face mask was a burden. Despite this extra burden, she did it with a face mask that we made from different types of silicon rubber.

We normally see 5-8 patients a week, from soldiers to people who were born without body parts.

We make artificial body parts out of silicon rubber. We made mold after mold for Diana to get it just right. Initially, she came into our office not knowing what is possible. But we have capabilities in silicon rubber that makes things possible. We listened to her and her needs and then applied a silicon cream over her face. This began the process that forms the basis of the mask. We needed something rigid and stiff enough to hold her goggles in place. She also wanted her nose plugged so we ended up pinching the nose and making a piece that went into her nose about half an inch. Ultimately, we made six test pieces.

Around her eyes, we used a harder silicon. Below her eyes, we went with a softer silicon on the face. Then we had to incorporate a mouth piece and retainer as well as the spandex hoodie that we had to integrate in the rubber.

She also never felt that she got enough air. This was a design problem that we solved

But even with all her training with the customized face mask, 13 hours in the Straits of Florida in turgid seas with the mask on during the first night made Nyad feel claustrophobic and seasick. "I couldn't tell the direction of the waves with the face mask. It was a much different feeling than when you swim normally. Because of this, I ended up swallowing a lot of sea water and got very seasick. But I kept the faith. No matter how bad it got, I had to get through it. I made it through the night and just keep focused on making it to daylight. But it all takes a team. We did it.."

Candace Hogan who has been with Nyad on all five of her attempts says, "The face mask gave Diana the confidence to do this fifth attempt."

In great thanks to the team at Aesthetics Prosthetics.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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