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Crutch invention born of necessity

Sunshine Coast entrepreneur finds new ways to access all terrain



It's like going from high stiletto heels to the most comfortable runners you can find. In other words, you don't ever want to go back.

That's how Sarah Doherty describes her new sports crutch called Side Stix - a crutch with a shock absorbing system and interchangeable feet for walking or climbing on any kind of terrain.

"It was definitely born out of necessity and a strong desire to access beautiful places that I think we all have a right to access, especially in this part of the world," said Doherty, from her home on the Sunshine Coast where the mother of three works as a pediatric occupational therapist.

"I needed to invent something that was just unique to crutch walking."

Doherty is a natural athlete. That was before she was hit by a drunk driver at age 13, and lost her right leg, and she continued to be an athlete long after that accident.

She has always been exploring the mountains, from skiing with the U.S. Disabled Ski Team in the '80s to climbing Mt. Rainier and then Mt. McKinley - the first amputee on crutches to climb North America's highest mountain.

But her equipment was never really up to snuff.

In 2004, Doherty walked 720 kilometres on the "Camino de Santiago" pilgrimage in Northern Spain, testing an early prototype of the Side Stix.

Since then the crutch has been modified and refined.

After years of research, Doherty and her partner, Kerith Perreur-Lloyd, have now developed a crutch with a specially designed shock system.

It isn't just for getting into the high alpine or for long pilgrimages. It's good for just walking the dog, something Doherty also loves to do.

"It feels better for the joints," said Doherty. "It makes me want to go farther... It makes me want to be more active, and that's a good thing."

She points to Marilyn Hamilton who changed the way people in wheelchairs travel with her invention of the Quickie wheelchair.

Hamilton went on to become not only a wheelchair tennis champion but also a sit ski champion.

"It changed sports for people using wheelchairs for mobility," said Doherty of the Quickie wheelchair.

"I feel the same way about the Side Stix."

It's not just for sports, she added.

"I think it's really going to change the way people age," said Doherty.

"The time has come."



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