Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Changes, Some Good - Some bad

In the good news department, TSA is making changes to airport screenings for children. Hopefully, changes are on the horizon for those of us with other "issues." Until then, it's still recommended that we check in 90 minutes before flight time for our "heightened" security screening.

In the bad news department, there were changes to our health care contract. Now, the same restrictions that have been applied to prosthetic devices has been applied to orthotics. One would think that the O&P industry would be up in arms over this (no pun intended!). When chatting with a prosthetist recently, he was as frustrated as I was. These people are well educated and trained to help us get on with a normal life. We have life-long relationships with these professionals and spend hours with them compared to a few minutes with our physicians. They want to provide the best care and offer the best prosthetic for their patients. When their care is limited by inadequate insurance coverage, they can only offer sub-par or "basic" prosthetics and now orthotics. "Basic" means that you can dress yourself and use the restroom unassisted. Anything else would be considered "enhanced performance."

I gave a motivational presentation to a group of parents of children with prosthetics this last weekend. These parents want their children to be able to do anything that they want to do, and almost anything is possible now with all the prosthetic advances, but not if they are underinsured and not if the prosthetics industry - I'm talking about the makers, not the middle men and women in the O&P industry - continue to price prosthetics in the range of a couple of luxury cars or a small home. 

I was also approached by a professional women, a grandmother of a little girl with a congenital arm malformation. This lovely woman was from another country and culture. Her questions to me were direct and made me reach into painful places that I didn't want to remember. "Why do so many amputees show their prosthesis instead of covering them up?" Ouch... as I stood there proudly showing off my C-leg in a pair of shorts. I explained to her that, in the past, I would have kept it covered, but now, people are more accepting.  "Are you married? How long have you been married?" Clearly she wanted to know if someone would love and marry her grand-daughter. When I told her that I married once, too young, only because I thought no one would marry me - a cripple - she seemed stunned. "But you are so beautiful," she said. That gave me pause. She perceived me as beautiful, yet she worried that her grand-daughter might not be seen in the same way. I wish I could have spent an hour with her, such a lovely woman with so many concerns. I only discovered in later years how much my mother struggled with these negative perceptions and how she had to fight to keep me in public school instead of a school for children with mental and physical disabilities. What would I have been had she caved in to societal pressure of the time?

I walked away from that meeting with a profound respect for the parents there and a renewed appreciation for my own. With their support, determination, love and persistence, they made me what I am today.

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