Derrick Campana has won the hearts of viewers everywhere with his philosophy of making every life count, especially when it comes to animals.
Campana travels the world helping animals of all kinds live the best lives they can. He does this by creating prosthetics designed specifically for individual animals in need. Recently Campana met with members of the media, virtually, to discuss his experiences and the show that airs on BYUtv.
Campana showed off his “office” where he manufactures these devices by using technology, including 3D printing, carbon fiber and thermoplastics. His patients range from small Chihuahuas to giant bull elephants.
“I don’t only make prosthetics for ‘The Wizard of Paws’ show,” he said. “I’m making about 75 to 100 almost every single week here in my shop in Sterling, Virginia. You can see what we go through, this process: knee braces for dogs, donkey legs, just a whole gamut of different animal species. We work on all different types of animals. It’s never, ever boring.”
His start in the animal prosthesis business was by accident.
“I went to school for human prosthetics. I went to Penn State for kinesiology biomechanics and then I went to Northwestern Medical School for human prosthetics. I started doing this field to help these people and one day a veterinarian actually brought her black Lab named Charles into my office.”
He had never seen any animal with prosthesis so he decided to try it. That was 17 years ago and he hasn’t looked back. Seeing the dog gain mobility gave him a joy he couldn’t describe. To date he has helped almost 30,000 patients.
Campana admitted it is hard not to cry when he sees an animal walk for the first time. He said he “kind of” gets used to it, however, it is evident his heart and soul is in his work and seeing the outcome of his diligence and the happiness in the eyes of the animals is overwhelming.
“There are so many animals that adapt to (prostheses) immediately, some never adapt to them, and everywhere in between, and that’s so hard to predict. I can’t tell these animals, ‘Put this leg down, use this leg,’ so it’s very challenging. You can’t force an animal to like something, so I never do, but you’ve got to give it a try. You’ve got to give these animals a chance, and whenever I can get something to work, I love it so much.”
If an animal isn’t secure with the prosthesis, he will try again and again hoping for a good outcome, but in some cases the animal simply isn’t a good match for anything artificial, although he gives it his best effort.
“The Wizard of Paws” is definitely a “feel good” show that melts viewers’ hearts. Season two premieres Wednesday.