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DigiSplint Story

My name is Derek Bakelaar. I am a gold/silver-smith, and previously owned and operated a jewellery store. I have dedicated all my extra time and efforts into building finger splints. For 6 years I ran both businesses but have decided to follow my heart and dedicate myself to one. In July of 2003, I sold the jewellery store and put all my working time into DIGISPLINT.

My Dad put a torch in my hand when I was ten years old in a jewellery repair shop and said “give it a try”. Since then, I could repair jewellery as well as create what people want. My greatest joy since Digisplint started in 1997, is that now I can take the trade my father taught me, and create what people need. Time and time again, I have been asked how I got into finger splint therapy and when I am done my story, I am asked to repeat it again. For those of you interested…

It was the evening of October 30, 1995, and I was playing volleyball with our local recreation league in the small gym of our high school when the ball ended up in the bleachers again. The bleachers are on top of a ten-foot wall that has no access to the gym floor. When the ball goes up there, you either leave the gym, go down the hall, up the stairs and find the door to the bleacher area or you monkey up the wall, grab the ball and toss it down. In the middle of a game, the latter is quicker and not hard to do. So, for the third time that game I volunteered to go up the wall to get the ball. I tossed it down, hung over the side to drop down myself when my wedding ring got snagged on a nail at the top or the wall. You hand therapists have probably seen the results of this before but for every one else…what was left of my finger is not for the weak stomach. My finger was partially de-gloved, the bone snapped between the DIP and the PIP and there was obvious tendon damage. A good friend of mine drove me to our emergency room and after the doctor looked at the x-rays, said that this break was beyond what could be repaired in our little hospital and to please go home and in the morning drive to the city emergency department for them to take care of it. They splinted it with an aluminum brace, gave me some Tylenol 3 and said “good luck”. I realize that this sounds silly, but in our part of the world, this is how things are done.

To back track a bit, I told you earlier that I have a jewellery store. I should explain that the Christmas season was set to start in a few days and in retail, this means that more than 60% of our annual business is done within the next two months. I am the only gold smith in the store and my workload is about to quadruple and now I have one silly finger broken and a whole sleepless night to think about my dilemma.
On the way to the city the next day, Sharon (one of God’s greatest gifts to me and my beautiful wife) drove and I told her flat out that I need this finger cut off because I have to get to work. If we don’t make it through the Christmas season, we may as well not be open for business in January. She didn’t say much because she knew I was serious and was not about to change my mind. We arrived at the emergency department and immediately were seen by a doctor (they knew we were coming). I explained to him my dilemma as he studied my hand and when I told him to cut it off…I’m sure he thought I was nuts. His response was to first look at Sharon who shrugged and said, “He’s serious” and then look at me and say “that’s not an option”.

The surgery took an hour or so, I had a plaster arm and wrist splint up to my elbow with my wrist and all my fingers fixed in a position that made my whole hand immobile. I had to stay in the hospital for two days attached to an I.V. pole and I missed Halloween that night with my kids. I was not happy.

A week or so later, I was extremely frustrated with my splint because I could not even change a watch battery. Seeing the work pile up on the gold bench drove me to call the OT department in the city and ask for an appointment to have a thermal plastic splint made to free up my first three fingers of my left hand so I could get back to work. The therapists were very obliging and soon after, I was diving into the piles of repairs at work. I was slow, but at least I was doing something.

The surgeon that put my finger back together did an excellent job and the therapist that got it working again was gifted. On one of my many hand therapy sessions, I told him I was a gold smith. He looked up at me and asked if I could build him a special finger splint for a client. After describing what he was trying to accomplish with this splint, I said “sure”.
The rest, my friends, is history. I looked into building more of these splints, in different variations to accomplish different goals with different fingers and from that point on, one thing after another fell into place. From a broken finger that I thought should have been cut off, a whole new career started in which I will no longer make and repair things people want, but things people need…and I love it!

To the therapists in Canada and around the world, I will not try to impress you with my degrees, because I have none. I will not tell you that hand therapy, occupational therapy or rheumatology was my chosen career, because it was not. But, if you can tell me about your clients finger or fingers, what it is doing and what you want to accomplish with it, then I can promise you that I will do everything I can to help you accomplish that goal. I do not quit easily and my record proves it.

To the people effected by hand disease and deformities, I promise that I will work with your therapist to make your life easier in some way, as best I can. I will make and remake splints for you until I get it right. You will be proud to wear your silver or gold splints and no longer will you feel the need to hide your hands.

I carry with me a “will” passed on from my mom, that is, almost nothing is impossible and if it is not impossible, then it can be done. I carry with me a “desire” from my dad, that is, I want to help, and if I can, I will.

VISION STATEMENT

Our Vision is “to set the standard in custom finger splint therapy, to break the barrier between the therapist and client for compliance in splint therapy and to be the number one choice for custom made splints.”

A lot to ask for? Not really. Our dedication to helping those affected by finger deformities is being proven day after day. Our encouragement comes from clients who wear our splints every day and from the therapists that prescribe them. Our desire comes from the heart.

MISSION STATEMENT

“DIGISPLINT Inc. is a Canadian company dedicated to improve the hand function of those affected by finger deformities and disease.”

A call was heard from hand therapists for an alternative to custom made finger splints for people with long term finger disabilities and we at Digisplint were more than happy to respond.

We’re here for you. Call us at 1-888-775-4687 or request an appointment online.

Happy clients talk about us

B.M. , Satisfied Digisplint User

I just wanted to give you some feedback on the Ring Splint that you made for me in December of 2012. I wear it all the time because it is very comfortable. In the past month I have been back at the gym using weights and doing

C.S. , Satisfied Digisplint User

My name is Cheryle Seguin and I am a huge fan of your products. After reading up on your company on your web site, I thought I would take a minute to congratulate you and thank you for your fantastic work. I am a 26 year old graduate student who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 16.

Anonymous, A Satisfied Digisplint User

Thanks for the nice work on Marie Tobin’s splint. I fitted it today–she will try it out for a week and call me with her comments. She was very pleased with it today–and it seemed to fit well–after I figured some photos of her using splint—there is on without splint to show the difference!

Anonymous, A Satisfied Digisplint User

Derek sorry it took so long… I don’t like my hands very much and I must admit I found it difficult to take pictures… (feeling mortal)…. Anyway I hope they are ok….

Deanna Krushinsky

I just wanted to say thank you! When I heard I needed finger splints, my heart sank. I envisioned plastic ugly and bulky splints with velcro. Was I ever surprised to see your beautiful splints.

Janis Tymofichuk

I just wanted to let you know that I LOVE my swan neck splint. I wear it all of the time. I have had many comments on it saying how nice it is, and how they would like to get one.

Tamara Andrews

Splints arrived in my mailbox today and they are all a perfect fit. Super comfortable and do exactly what they are meant to do whilst being a rather attractive new accessory. Thanks so much !!

Sandy McGinn

Thank you for the beautiful MPC thumb splint. Awesome custom and artistic work. I’m so happy to have physical support that is not ugly or dirty.

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