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Shauna Messing is making Eau Claire a better place through her work with orthotics and prosthetics

May 15, 2018

Even as a child growing up in the small town of Thorp, Wisconsin, Shauna Messing could easily see where she wanted the future to take her — she wanted to help the people around her in any way she could.

“I’m passionate about taking care of people,” Messing said, with a bright, genuine smile. “I really like helping people who can’t help themselves.”

The path Shauna would take towards realizing her dream became undeniably apparent as early as her time at Thorp High School, when she began babysitting in her neighborhood to earn some extra cash. Taking care of the children proved to be fulfilling for Messing, and she had a strong desire to further broaden her care-taking horizons.

During the summer after graduation, Messing began work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at a local nursing home, where she was able to form powerful bonds with the residents in her care that stuck with her long after she left her hometown to attend school at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; in fact, it was these bonds that inspired her to begin studying physical therapy in hopes that she could affect others in a similarly strong way.

Shauna Messing holds up a full leg prosthetic in one of Winkley’s work rooms. | © 2018, Claire Karges

After studying physical therapy for her first few semesters, Messing had what she described as an “epiphany” that led her to switch majors to kinesiology. She is presently pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology.

When she isn’t working towards her degree or enjoying the outdoors, Messing works at Winkley Orthotics & Prosthetics, a small family-owned company mere minutes from UW-Eau Claire’s upper campus. There, she works towards fulfilling her lifelong goal by helping doctors make improvements in the lives of patients with disabilities.

“I never leave work angry,” Messing said. “I think that’s a sign that I’ve picked the right career.”

On a day-to-day basis, Messing performs all sorts of tasks, including fitting diabetic patients for special shoes and inserts, assisting doctors with the crafting of ankle and foot orthotics, helping to fit helmets for babies with deformed skulls, and a variety of other prosthetic-related tasks. However, the best part of her job, Messing says, is talking to the patients — getting to know them, learning their stories, and making them feel more comfortable overall.

“I always take the time to get to know (the patients),” Messing said, “and that makes them feel at ease.”

Although Messing takes great joy in her work, one of her most notable long-term goals lies outside the realm of prosthetics; it’s her dream to someday start an athletics program for disabled children in the Eau Claire community.

“My heart has always been with disabled kids,” Messing said.

Once she finishes school, Messing plans to reach out to different members of the community who she believes will share her interest in the cause, and perhaps contact a nationwide organization, such as America’s Athletes with Disabilities or Disabled Sports USA, to open a chapter in the Eau Claire area.

Those who know Messing likely are not surprised by her strong desire to improve her community because of how open she is about her love for Eau Claire. She calls it “a big small town,” enjoying the wide variety of entertainment and other attractions the city offers, while still feeling comforted by the close-knit, small town atmosphere that reminds her of home. Outside of work and school, Messing loves to play volleyball with her friends, go for runs in Carson Park, and explore all that Eau Claire has to offer. She also loves the Chippewa River, one of the city’s most significant attractions, and enjoys floating down it with friends during the summer months.

“One of my favorite things about (Eau Claire) is that there’s so much to do in the city, but there’s still access to the outdoors,” Messing said.

Becoming a part of the Eau Claire community has allowed Messing to live out her childhood dream of helping the people around her, and she hopes that, through hard work and dedication, she will be able to give that positive energy back and return the favor.

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