Tuesday, December 2, 2008

KFG on "Call for Action" - NBC Action News Report

Kudos to Jenn Strathman for an excellent job of reporting. You can read or watch the video at this link. There are less than 2 weeks to change a policy that considers the standard of care to be a "deluxe" item. In response to our pressure, the policy makers made the 2009 contract even more exclusive. In 2009, even comfort and convenience will be considered a "luxury." Of course, there is nothing convenient about an artificial limb, just as there are no "deluxe" components. These are arbitrary designations used by policy makers to weasel out of having to cover prosthetics for amputees. As a lifetime amputee, I can see how ridiculous and outrageous this is, but imagine if you just lost your leg, or if your child lost their leg and you came across these barriers. On top of struggling to learn to walk with a prosthesis, you have to fight your insurance company for a leg to stand on.

Of course there is never enough time, even in an extended interview, to tell the whole story. Some comments to the effect of "well, the hydraulic knee is good enough for me" or "it's not easy" are all very true. That's not what this is about.

This is about getting what is prescribed for you. Microprocessor knees are not suited for every amputee. Some amputees don't like them. What we must always consider is the amputee and what meets their functional needs. The simple hydraulic knee works really well for some people. Unfortunately, it did not work well for me, probably due to my size. I've had an opportunity to use both the hydraulic knee and the C-leg and (for me) there is no comparison. I've regained a normal gait, strength, some proprioception and my muscle mass was restored in the residual limb. I can walk farther with less fatigue. I've regained confidence in walking without having to plan every single step, I can look up and talk to people when I walk instead of staring at my feet, gauging the tilt of the ground and spotting what might trip me up. I can step to the side without falling. I can step backwards without falling. I can hold an infant without wondering where my foot is and whether my knee is going to collapse. I can walk down inclines without having to worry about whether my foot is directly in front of me and my weight is aligned perfectly over the center of the knee so that the hydraulics are engaged. If not, then you fall down in a heap! Instead of thinking that life as I knew it is over, I feel like my old self again! No boundaries!

Was the hydraulic knee "good enough?" Well, yes, it's better than no prosthesis at all, but that's not the point. The point is that there are prosthetic options that are considered standard of care. Indeed, so standard, that Medicare, Medicaid and the VA provide these medical options to patients whose physicians prescribe the appropriate prosthesis for their patient's functional needs. It should be up to the amputee and their care team to determine what is the best fit - not policy makers and bean counters.

Many thanks to all of you - friends, relatives, people I've never met - it all started with the "Leg Up" campaign. It's not over - keep fighting!