After 25 years of conducting the Amputee Walking School programs, the need for it's mission grows more than ever. I have never heard more than at any other other time in the history of the program from participants expressing heartfelt thanks. The inability to afford co-pays for outpatient physical therapy has left many amputees unable to reach their full potential.That is unacceptable.But in today's health care environment it is reality. I have never been more motivated to expand the AWS program to new territories. The programs frequency needs to be increased as well to help those not learning to master the use of their device. What good is it having a incredible yet expensive prosthesis if you are unable to control it properly.
Who's fault is this? It's not the prosthetic facilities fault. It's not the physical therapists fault. It's our health care environment.
Amputees have to accept some of the responsibility of wellness to reach functional levels now that were expected before. This is hard for us as amputees to accept. It is also a built in excuse to not want to get back to living. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel seems to have dimmed but it hasn't, it's just changed. The traditional care: amputation>sub-acute>SNF>homecare/outpatient rehabilitation now has a final destination>Amputee Walking School.
K2 level amputees are our everyday heroes. Every year the amount of everyday heroes grows. You may call them Mr. Jones or my patient. I call them somebody's grandmother or grandfather. And our everyday heroes don't care how many paralympic gold medals I have won. Or how fast I ran on my walking prosthesis back in the late 80's. All they really want to know is am I going to be able to walk again. And how am I going to do this when I get back to my home.
Family members are caretakers. They are counselors. They are chauffeurs. And in today's health care environment they are trainers. How many times in the last 25 years I have seen the holding of a TheraBand to execute a simple exercise bring a family together at the Amputee Walking School. Family members are needed more than ever to assist our everyday heroes in daily tasks. And I cherish their help. They understand the mantra I've been saying for years "One Step Forward....Is One Step Gained".
I will, through these articles, try to share what I have seen through my eyes over the last 25 years. I have learned a lot. You can never stop learning. I have met some truly incredible people over the last 25 years. When I ask the amputees that have come to the AWS programs what is the one thing or one exercise I showed them to help make their life a little better. They often say "HOPE".
HOPE isn't an exercise. It is the spark that lights that dimmed tunnel and says "I want my life back". I like turning on that light.
Todd Schaffhauser- AWS Network