Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Getting Schooled on Handicap Parking



A big thank you needs to go out to a little lady in the parking lot of  a Walmart Neighborhood Market in my hometown. I learned from her foul-mouthed rant about me parking in a handicap spot. (one of the 7 open spots near the door) First, she shouted across the parking lot saying "Hey! A**hole!!!" I turned to face her, and she stormed up to me wagging her finger in my face "YOU shouldn't be parking in this spot! This is for people with handicaps! "
I smiled and said, "Not all handicaps are visually obvious.Thank you for the concern, though." and I raised my pant leg a little bit to expose the bottom of my prosthetic device.
I was really shocked by her reaction. She seemed to get even madder at me, her face screwing up into a knot and I was momentarily afraid she would hit me. "NO NO NO!" she yelled "That doesn't count!! You have to have a cane or crutches or a, a, a wheelchair!! YOU walk perfectly fine, YOU don't need the parking spot!!" She was following me toward the door. "If you don't move your truck, I'm going to report you to the authorities!! They will yank that tag from you!!"  I was perplexed at why she was so angry about it. She didn't let up until I entered the store, and she stormed back to her car, got in and tore off.

I have this annoying tendency to want to prove I am right all the time. I know it irritates some people, but it was really bugging me. I mean a prosthetic device is an assistive means of allowing me to be mobile, and even though I really don't need to park in handicap places, I do. My reasoning is that if I step wrong, or the suction lets go and I slam back into my socket the wrong way, or maybe even slip a little and tweak my leg, it can be rather painful. I have been thankful not to have to walk back to my truck all the way on the back forty of some parking lot. I actually looked up the vehicle code for a handicap sticker in my home state to make sure I was right.
In Arkansas, drivers certified by licensed health personnel to have impaired mobility or a condition which substantially interferes with mobility may qualify for "Disabled" status. 
You are also considered a disabled driver if you:
* Are unable to walk 200 m without resting due to orthopedic, arthritic or neurological condition.
* Need to use another person, support, a prosthetic device or a wheelchair.
* Have a disabling cardiac condition as per the American Heart Association standards.
* Have a disabling lung disease or need to use portable oxygen.
Disabled persons can acquire a Disabled Person (DP) placard/ certificate or DP license plates. These entitle you to special parking privileges in areas designated for disabled persons, whenever you are the driver or a passenger of the vehicle. Misuse or abuse of these privileges is a Class A misdemeanor; offenders can have their vehicles impounded or fined up to $100-$1000 and/or have their license suspended for 6 months.
I think I understand where she was coming from - from a distance, I don't look like I need to park there, Some people would say even though I can, I shouldn't. From my perspective, most days I won't cruise the parking lot for a handicap space, however, when several are available, I have a tag, I might as well use one. Just because my assistive device is something that is tailor made to fit me perfectly and that it can be hidden from view by my pant leg, does not reduce the importance that it holds for me to remain mobile. There are several other conditions out there that do not show outward signs right away, or for that matter, ever. Chronic Neurological Conditions, like MS, CPS, and even PTSD can qualify if a doctor certifies them.

My main point in this post was to say, even though there are people out there that can be vulgar (I removed most of her language from this posting) Some people can be simply ignorant of the rules. I don't hold it against them, and often disengage if they don't want my explanation. I have even had threatening  notes put on my windshield, trying to shame me for parking there... In the end, I know I have the right to park there, and I will. Just don't hate the haters.

Friday, January 5, 2018

11 Things I wish I knew before I had an amputation

This isn't going to be one of those "If you think you have it hard" type of posts, or even one of those whiny "poor little me" posts. It is from the heart. If you are planning on having an amputation or are recently an amputee, perhaps my thoughts on this can help you pop over some of those hurdles I faced with ease, or at least with more confidence.

Stories are best when told from the beginning. I began this journey with a lawn mower, doing fall cleanup, mulching leaves in my back yard. It was a warm day, I was wearing shorts and a pair of Crocs. No, I didn't chop my leg off - I didn't throw a rock out and break my leg. I simply stepped on one of those metal landscaping borders and it cut through my foam rubber shoe and cut my foot to the bone. It healed over, slowly (I am a diabetic) and I thought everything was fine. It wasn't. I had apparently got an infection down at the bone level. Not a nice little infection, but a really bad bug called MRSA. I found out that MRSA is one of those slow building, but insidious and unrelenting infections that almost nothing can heal. Two years of treatment, including hyperbarics and IV antibiotics did nothing to slow the raging MRSA Osteomylitis. After many discussions with my surgeon, we decided to take my foot off, however by this time it had spread into my tibia. I wound up with a below knee amputation.

I had made my decision, followed through and was determined to make it a success. But, there were things I wish I had known prior to doing it. Things that, from a first person perspective, would have made the transition easier.


  • People stare because they are curious. I used to be bothered by people staring at me, I felt like I was being judged. Over time, I learned that most people are simply curious. For one, prosthetics are not the norm. A lot of people have never seen an amputee before. Many have questions but are too afraid to ask.  If someone stares, try to keep that in mind. I cannot tell you how many times people assume I lost my leg in the war and thank me for my service. I am a vet, but I didn't lose my leg that way. 
  • Your prosthetist can be your biggest obstacle. Sometimes the first prosthetist can be someone who is set in their ways and is unwilling to try out the new technologies. My first prosthetist had over 20 years experience. I did not have the knowledge of proper types of feet, suspension or even what the process was. He fitted me with what worked for him in the past. When I found that what I had was limiting me and wanted to change it, he resisted. You can read about my struggle to get a Rush™ foot in previous posts. Experience is good, but it can make them resistant to change. 
  • Look at as many inspiring stories as you want, but put it away if it starts to make you feel bad. I have always been active, but I have not been an athlete in ove 30 years. Not since high-school football. Stories about adaptive athletes always made me feel inadequate, Like I was not living up to my potential. I have found that you have to be YOU. You don’t have to be an athlete to be active. Get out there and walk around! Grab a friend and go hiking. Take an adaptive PIYO class. Heck, just jump up and dance a little. Get your blood moving!
  • Having a good sense of humor can help you when times get tough. I have to make being an amputee fun, You never forget that you are an amputee, and that there are serious challenges to doing simple things. But you can look at the lighter side of things. My daughters love it when i do the karate kick with my residual limb... keyaaaah!
  • Carry extra supplies... everywhere. Sometimes you just have to stop, take off your prosthetic and give the old stump a little love. Lotions, a sweat rag, a few flavors of socks... all can make your day better. I carry around a 4mm Allen wrench in my wallet just in case something gets loose. Nothing is worse than being caught out and not having what you need close at hand. 
  • Confidence and a Positive mental attitude go a long way Even when things go badly, put a positive spin on it. Avoid saying things like "It always is like this" or "I never catch a break" when you feel like this, remember that you can overcome anything. I remember the first hike I took, about 4 months post op. It was super hard, mostly because I was weak from being sick for 2 years. It hurt, I was hot. My stump was sweating like someone turned on a faucet. I felt like I would never be able to do anything, but I kept repeating to myself that I could do it. I adapted, I wiped up a bunch of sweat, got going. Oh, by the way, that's the day I learned about the previos point. And the one before that..
  • Phantom pain sucks. Especially when it comes out of nowhere. I have found that mine gets worse with inactivity. I have also found that pain medication doesn't work to take mine away. I guess I am one of the lucky ones that only experience this phenomenon occasionally. I am grateful for that, especially at 2 am when the bear trap is locked on my left ankle. 
  • Weirdos are everywhere. No one warned me about devotees. There are people that fetishize amputations. They tend to pop up on all sorts of social media. I have found that blocking them, ignoring them is the best policy. I do not engage with them at all. Lucky for me, I am old and fat and have a wicked sense of humor. SMH, they are who they are. 
  • Peer counselling is wonderful. A good peer is someone who has been there, or at least understands the challenges. I am lucky that I have a couple of good friends that are amputees. I have also met a few on line, including some that are relatively famous. I discuss things in twitter and have shared a lot of knowledge. Nothing beats having someone that truly understands what it is that we are facing.
  • Magazines are a good source of information. Many are free. Amplitude and InMotion are both free magazines. They highlight new technologies, have inspirational stories, highlight life hacks and notify you of upcoming events. I read mine cover to cover every month.
  • Life can be hard at times. There are times you will get depressed and down about things. Sometimes it seems as if the world is out to get you. You cannot be all Polyanna about everything every minute of every day. Life has never actually given me lemons. It has given me challenges. Challenges are there to be overcome. Muck through the bad times, keep your head up and fight back. You can do it, when you set your mind to.

Keep your sense of humor. It will save you in the hard times. Think about all the wonderful things you will do, the lives you will touch. Keep a journal, write a blog, engage with the world every chance you have. You will be an amputee for life, there is no escaping that fact. It will define you in certain ways, find a way to make it yours, own it and keep on going. 

I honestly believe that you need to remain active. Get out of the house, move doing something every single day Be proud to be a survivor, that you are who you are. It is easy to play the victim and say things like "poor little me" but in doing that you are not going to improve, you will not grow and  you will not get where you need to be. 

 Be proud of who you are,

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2 1/2 years on the Rush™ 87 foot


As I wrote in my first review of the Rush™ Foot (Early impressions of the RUSH™ Foot ) that a good review requires experience with a product. I had only had my Rush™ 87 for about a week when I wrote the original review. I was really impressed with it right from the beginning.

Now I have 2 and a half full years of working with the Rush 87. Doing every activity that I used to prior to my amputation, and more. The question is: How is it holding up? My answer: Amazingly well.

The basic foot, blade and return heel are all just perfect. The yellow color had darkened a bit but even the stickers and branding look brand new.The performance of the foot itself has been amazing. The return feels very much like my OEM foot. The flexibility of the ankle may be a little stiff at times especially when I step on a dog toy or some other unexpected object, but when I know the ground is a little rough I know to allow for that. The foot is waterproof and has been to pool almost every warm day.

My major complaint in the foot was that it has no way to get foot rotation. Rush has introduced a new product that allows for that in the Rush Rogue™. My plan is to push for this foot at my next upgrade. Apparently you cannot use the Rogue collar on the Rush™ 87



Now for the one thing that I feel could be improved... The foot shell. The color is cadaverous. The blade will wear through the bottom of the shell fairly quickly. I always wear some sort of foot wear (sandals when possible, Merrell loafers and hiking boot depending on what it is that I am doing. I even wear my Columbia outdoor waterproof sandals on my feet when I get in the pool. So this foot shell has not been walked on hard surfaces ... ever. Yet it wore through in the first 6 to 8 months. The cut in the bottom does not affect its overall performance, and overall it does hold my shoes on admirably.

Another complaint is that the shell is considered a medical device, so I cannot order one on my own. My insurance will not cover a new shell, so I have to pay the cost out of pocket. No surprise there. I just don't understand why I cannot order it directly from Rush. I have been buying shoes for myself for 50 years, and understand that I need to order the right size/ Is the issue that I would need my prostesitist to install it? I take my shell off and clean my foot almost every week. Silly rules I think.

My overall impression of the Rush 87™ foot is that it is an amazing piece of machinery. I have been able to return to a full life, hiking, biking, fishing and generally having a great time, As you can see from my blog and my twitter feed. The Rush™ 87 has made me as close to whole as is possible. I absolutely love this foot. I can't wait to try the Rush Rogue™ when I get a new foot... Maybe it will fix my golf swing!!

Thank you Ability Dynamics for this amazing product! 87! All the way!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A whole new year!

I was talking to someone recently who asked me why I haven't posted in a while. I figure I really need to get back to doing this, and I think that everyone needs to know why I haven't been living up to my ideal for sharing.

Harley waiting on his
Bailey to come home.

There are several reasons. As you can see it was near the end of February 2017 that I stopped posting. The root cause was that I was distracted by an event that rocked our house and took all of my attention for quite a while. My daughter, a bright 25 year old woman, who still lives with us, was stricken down with a sudden seizure. From the morning of March 8th to  the evening March 12th she was placed on a ventilator, and kept in a medically induced coma. The doctors were certain that it was a case of Meningitis. However, all the testing came back negative. Reluctantly, they admitted that she had a very serious case of Lupus Cerebritis which also affected both her kidneys and eventually her vocal chords. After nearly a month in the ICU, two surgeries to put in a tracheotomy, and to stop it from bleeding out, along with countless bags of plasma, whole blood and a myriad of medications, she was released. We spent the next two months caring and supporting her through the side effects of the illness. Namely the inter spacing of fluid in her body. Next came six months of Chemotherapy to beat the immune system back. Thankfully, she was young and healthy and has recovered well.

I was about to write something about 2 full years on my Rush Foot, but I had got out of the habit of sharing and my work kept getting in the way. The holidays and trucking don't really mix to well. A lot of work and no time to do it.

The bottom line is I am getting back to it. My motivation and activity level has decreased over the last year and I am going to do something about it. Time to get back on track. A lot of the social activism that I started will be resumed, especially since the government is bent on making life difficult for amputees, diabetics and other people with chronic conditions.

I began this blog as a way to deal with the changes in my life caused by my illness and amputation. It gave me a vent to share my feelings and show my motivation I have come a long way from when I was so sick that I could barely stand up until I achieved my goal. I need it again so that I can get back to a level of confidence and health. I invite you to continue to share my journey. Let's hope that 2018 is an amazing year for us all.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A visit to the prosthetist

The day that I got my
first prosthetic device
I have had my leg for nearly two years, and really for the last year I have not needed to have anything done. My leg has performed extremely well since I got the rush 87 foot, and the new socket. However I have noticed recently that I am beginning to wobble when I walk and it is bad enough that everyone seems to notice. I am notoriously hard headed and a bit of a do it yourself kind of guy. I hate to have to take a car to a mechanic to get it repaired and the same thing applies to my leg. 

One thing to remember is that there is a reason for the division of labor in a civilized society. There are things that some people specialize in. Trash collectors know how to properly dispose of waste, the people in the DMV know how to make people wait, Transportation Managers [me] know how to get the things we need from the manufacturer to the market. The guy that knows how to change my oil and properly store the used waste oil that comes out and darn it, the guy that works on my prosthesis, he knows how to make it work better.

The difference between my sockets after
six months was amazing. 
As an amputee progresses through the first years of an amputation, the residual limb changes shape. First, the swelling goes down as the blood vessels begin to function in their new environment, and then the muscle starts to atrophy a little. The young amputee has a better ability to keep their muscle mass, as does the active adult. In many cases, the amputee may not be as active and the progression of atrophy is very quick, requiring visits more often. In my case, I am active and the progression was pretty slow, and I did not notice it as much. As a matter of fact it took my wife asking me why I was limping to notice. One of my co-workers is a fitness coach, and she was adamant that I take the leg down to get it adjusted.

My normal prosthetist was not available yesterday, but Sean was more than willing to look at it. Turns out I had a 7/8 inch discrepancy between my leg length. Also the socket itself, was far too deep. he had to cut down the wings and drill out a couple of small spots on the front, to help alleviate a couple of rub spots. We talked about the new Rush Rogue foot, and he is going to check and see if I can get a trial to check it out. Not that I am dissatisfied with my Rush 87, but as technology gets better, I would like to be on the leading edge of it.  I am really excited about this new foot, and can't wait until I can get one. 



The bottom line is this: If you are in pain, or discomfort in any way, go back and see the people that know what they are doing. Your prosthetist will do everything they know how to make wearing it a good experience. I wear mine close to 18 hours a day, seldom with any adjustments to how it fits. Talk to them about everything you deal with. They are a great resource. They might tell you something you don't know that will radically change the way you think about it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

How do I remain active with an amputation?

I cannot speak for others. I can only speak for myself. I have chosen to remain active, rather than wallow in a pit of self-despair. Being an amputee can be challenging in so many different ways. There are days that simply wearing my prosthesis causes pain. Other days I have severe phantom sensations, ranging from the twisted ankle syndrome to leg melting into a pit of lava. One thing that I noticed early on was that these sensations got worse when I became less active.

My degree is in physical therapy, even though I abandoned that career path 30 years ago, and haven't kept up with my studies with anything more than a mild interest. Two years ago when amputation was looming ahead, I focused my interests in areas specifically attuned to advances in rehabilitation of below-knee amputations. In almost every case, the recommendation called for  the patient [me] to keep a pain log, along with an activity log. I noticed that in many of the case studies, the writer was focusing on the level of phantom pain decreasing with increased activity. This seemed counter-intuitive at first.

After my amputation, I hit the therapy hard. Attempting to do every exercise that I could as quickly as I could. I didn't have any "phantom" sensations at all. That lasted about a month or so. Then it started, my toes were back... they were getting pinched. My ankle was back and it felt like it was twisted. It always seemed to hit me during times that I was resting, especially at bed time. I dutifully wrote it all down in my log. Funny thing about the phantom pain, medication never seemed to help, in fact it seemed to make it worse. It took me a bit to figure out why. When I took the medication, my activity level decreased, the pain level seemed to get worse.

Once I realized that they were interlinked, I made a decision to push through any minor pain I might have and increase my activity level. Keep walking, hiking, biking and what ever else i could think of. Active massage of the residual limb, making sure that I had a clean liner and clean socks, ensuring that I didn't have any wrinkles or bubbles that might irritate my skin. I had to think about it all the time, and I invested my time in activity, to prove to myself that activity decreased the pain. From my point of view, that is what happened. As a case study, it makes sense. It might be something that someone could prove is normal for others as well. I have a field study of one [me].

So how do I remain active? The first thing I do is make sure that I have a good fit in my socket. Stump pain from a bad fit, or careless dressing is a very hard thing to overcome. My liner has to be dry and completely lint free. I wash it using a generic Hibeclense I get from Walgreens. I use a very standard 5 mil sock (I don't have much deviation in stump size any more) I carry both a 1 and a 3 mil sock everywhere I go, just in case anything changes. I can go up or down using one of each sock. I also take my kit with me (small lotion, 2 socks, a 4mm Allen wrench, a metal 14" shoe horn, water and a granola bar) Second, I get up off my butt and go do something. from yard work, to walking to the store or the ball field, maybe riding my bike, or working on some project.

The key ingredient is to find something you can do and do it. Start small and just get after it. Challenge yourself to do a little more every day. You will soon find that you are able to tolerate more and more.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Positive Attitude Matters - Seven Keys to remaining Positive

What we do and what we achieve in life is more often dependent on what we think than any other factor. I have explored this and have found some real nuggets of positive notions regarding what we can do as amputees to work toward a positive outcome. Remaining positive promotes healing according to the American Medical Association. These are all things that we can do to stay positive


Choose Happiness!
Do not wait for good things to happen to you. You need to work towards happiness. You need to create a happy environment around you today to remain happy tomorrow. As amputees we must focus on positive achievement rather than the negative of what we cannot do. If you adopt a positive attitude, life becomes a rewarding game instead of a challenge to ‘get through.’

Clarify and Prioritize
Learn to know what you want. If you know what you expect from yourself, your future becomes clear and your goals become attainable
• Clarify your purpose : A purpose is something you fulfill each moment when you are in balance with your life. (A purpose is a simple, positive statement of why you are here). A purpose isn’t a goal statement, which one can achieve.
• Discover your purpose: by identifying & prioritizing your most important roles in life (at home, at work, community etc) List the positive qualities that you aspire to possess: Honesty, Philanthropic, Accommodating, Tolerant etc.
• Visualize your future, with a clear picture in your mind of what you want to accomplish in your lifetime (you can become what you think you are and what you see). One of the most powerful techniques for achieving life goals is visualization (creating a mental image of something happening in future). Believing in and seeing your dreams can motivate you to become what you want to be.
• Set goals for yourself (To help your dreams for the future become a reality, you need to set short & long term goals) to stay on course.
To provide steady fuel for your energy, create a list of long term goals to be accomplished in life time & break them into several interim short term goals to help you chart your progress.

Be Resilient
Resilient people are those who face setbacks but ultimately, with perseverance, recover from them. Try and be strong and face life’s difficulties as challenges; respond accordingly with action, rather than with fear, self-pity, inferiority or blame. While life as an amputee can be very challenging, an important step in becoming more resilient is to develop the habit of positive self talk and to remind yourself that you are strong and can grow stronger and wiser as you handle life’s challenges.

Self Pep Talk
One’s inner dialogue is one’s biggest strength and critic. Listen to your inner self and talk to it. Motivate yourself rather than getting motivated by others. It is the inner voice that makes us critical of ourselves. Rule your inner voice!



Laugh!
Humor is the best medicine. Make laughter a part of your day. Laughter is known to be a mood elevator. When feeling low, read funny stories or go through a joke book. Allow yourself to open up. See the funny side of things and you will realize, life is a complex, yet funny game.

Carpe Diem!
Seize the day, as the proverb goes. Always enjoy the moment. Do not worry about your past or future. Live for the day. What has happened is irreversible and what will happen is unknown, so try and enjoy what you have. Like someone has rightly said:
“The past is history, the future is mystery. Today is a Gift, That is why we call it the Present”

Be an Optimist

This is the golden rule to maintaining a positive attitude. Always believe in yourself. Being an optimist does not only mean to see the brighter side of life. To be an optimist means to view the surroundings wherein you maximize your strengths and achievements and minimize your weaknesses and apprehensions.

It is difficult to change yourself in a day But at least give it a try. A positive attitude in life will help you go places. Just curb that fear in you and move towards the right path!!
Remember, I CAN and I WILL.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An open letter to my senators - updated


Once again, we need to address our country's health care system. First it was medicare reform and how that was going to affect the outcome and insurance standards that would effect the entire system, now it is the entire system is being revamped. We must get together with the powers that be and make our voices heard again. I encourage everyone that I know to contact their senators with a similar letter as the one I have posted below. I got this format from the Amp'd Podcast website. Thank you to Peggy Chenoweth and Dave McGill for taking the time to prepare this form of activism.



Dear Senators Boozman & Cotton
My name is Keith Allen, and in 2015 I lost my leg after fighting a yearlong battle with a MRSA infection. I am an active member of my community and enjoy hiking, fishing and working with my daughter’s softball team.
I am writing to you regarding the pending discussion regarding repealing and replacing The Affordable Care Act. Whatever the ultimate outcome of those discussions, there are two potential changes that could hurt people like me who rely on a prosthesis to live a healthy and productive life. I am therefore asking you to continue protecting amputees by (1) ensuring that prosthetics remain classified as an essential health benefit, and (2) prohibiting pre-existing condition exclusions.
As it stands today, virtually every state in the U.S. considers artificial limbs an essential health benefit. This means that insurers cannot set annual or lifetime limitations on the provision of these devices. If this were to change as part of a repeal of current federal law, things would return to the way they were before 2010: insurers will issue policies offering only 1 prosthesis per lifetime, or that have dollar limits on prosthetics so low that amputees like me would either have to try to pay for the entire cost out of pocket or forgo a prosthesis altogether.
Similarly, if repeal of the current law results in insurers being once again able to assert pre-existing condition exclusions, amputees like me will suffer. My need for prosthetic care and treatment is both regular and permanent. If, during a transition from one insurance plan to another, an insurer can refuse to cover any costs associated with my prosthesis, the results could be catastrophic. What happens if my prosthesis breaks? Or if I need modifications to it because I am suffering from pain and tissue breakdown as a result of compromised fit? If we are forced to bear those costs ourselves, I and hundreds of thousands of other amputees who rely on prostheses face the prospect of crippling medical debt or life without a prosthesis.
Thanks to the high-quality care of my prosthetist and modern prosthetic technology, I am able to live a full and complete life. But that can only continue if I have access to these qualified health professionals and the right prosthetic components. The only thing that makes that possible is an insurance industry that covers medically necessary prostheses without being able to assert completely arbitrary annual or lifetime limits and pre-existing condition exclusions.
As you grapple with the ongoing challenges of healthcare in the United States in the 21st century, I am asking that you protect amputees and allow us to continue to have access to the professionals and devices that allow us to live active, healthy and productive lives. Please make sure that prosthetics remain covered as an essential health benefit and that pre-existing condition exclusions cannot be asserted against amputees.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I will closely watch events in Washington over the coming weeks and months and will be extremely interested in your vote(s) on these matters.
Sincerely,
Keith Allen

One thing that we must remember is that no matter who is in office, their primary concern is to balance their spending while providing the best care to the public. Many other organizations have large lobbying groups that speak for them, people like ACLU, NAACP, the NRA, and others that have serious political clout. However, if we all stand up and fight, we can make our voice heard. I encourage each and every one of you to send your senator an email, a tweet, a facebook message, an instagram, what ever platform you use, and make your voice heard!  See other ways you can be active in the fight HERE


********** UPDATE **************
I received the following email from Senator Cotton. To say I am disappointed that he did not even read my email is an understatement.

[RESPONSE BY SEN TOM COTTON] January 11, 2017
Mr. Keith Allen
[address redacted]

Dear Keith:
Thank you for contacting me about Social Security. It's good to hear from you, as always. 

Like you, I believe in the important role that Medicare and Social Security play in protecting the elderly and the disabled from poverty. We must fulfill our promise to current retirees and those who are approaching retirement, while also strengthening these programs for future generations. 

While millions of Americans rely on these programs, unfortunately, politicians have put them on a path towards insolvency. The most recent report from the Social Security trustees confirmed that 2014 was the fifth consecutive year in which the program paid out more than it took in from with a $39 billion deficit for the year. Not to mention, our national debt is expected to grow nearly 50% to $27 trillion and consume more than 100% of our total economy. 

If we are to maintain our promises to both current and future retirees and save future generations from the crushing burden of repaying our debt, we must implement reforms that make Social Security and Medicare stronger and more affordable in the long term. 

We must reform these programs so current retirees can continue to receive the benefits on which they rely and so future beneficiaries can plan effectively for their retirement. As I evaluate proposals to change entitlement programs in the future, I will keep three principles in the forefront of my thinking: (1) opposition to tax increases; (2) changes should not impact those who are retired or approaching retirement; and (3) reforms should expand, not limit, patient choice in health care. Rather than ignore the problem now and face painful consequences down the road, I believe we must enact reforms now to guarantee the integrity of these programs.
I'm truly honored to serve as your Senator; please know that your interests and affairs have my unceasing attention. Always feel free to call my office at (202) 224-2353 or visit www.cotton.senate.gov.
Sincerely,

Tom Cotton 

United States Senator
*****************  UPDATE *******************

I just received a second letter from the Senior Senator from Arkansas, and while this is still not what I wanted to hear, at least it appears that the Senator or his staff actually read my letter before replying. This response was better than the last and hopefully, Senator Boozman will have a little more influence than his junior partner.
[Reply from Sen John Boozman (R) AR] 1/23/2017


Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts on the current state of healthcare in our country. It is good to hear from you. 
Like most Americans, I believe our healthcare system needs substantive reform. While there are well-intended goals that I support in President Obama's healthcare law, such as ensuring those with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, the fact remains that accessibility and affordability are still serious problems that elected officials, community health advocates, hospitals and providers must work hard to address.  
President Trump, Speaker Ryan and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions have all said that Congress should repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously. I agree with my colleagues in their commitment to a careful and orderly transition to a patient-centered health care system that truly is affordable, not just in name but in practice, and that actually works for the American people.  
I believe we must embrace market-based reforms that lower healthcare costs. From cross-state insurance purchases and healthcare co-operatives to medical malpractice reform and medical record modernization initiatives, it is critical that we implement responsible reforms. Moreover, we must preserve and protect the role of patients, providers and physicians as the principle healthcare decision-makers, not the federal government.  
It is time for us to come together and find commonsense solutions to our challenges. America functions best when we work through our differences and tackle our country's problems. Moving forward, I am committed to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reform our healthcare system so it makes sense for all Americans. Please be assured that I will take your thoughts into consideration as we continue this discussion.  
Again, thank you for contacting me to share your views. Please visit www.boozman.senate.gov to sign up for my e-newsletter, request assistance with a federal agency, or learn more about my efforts on behalf of the people of Arkansas. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.
Sincerely,
John Boozman
U.S. Senator




Monday, January 9, 2017

Assumptions and Ability

Some things came to me this weekend that got me thinking. First is that not all disabilities are easily discerned; the second would be that even with my disability, I am far more mobile than the average person.

I guess that having a blue tag gives me an advantage. Yes, I use it when parking at work, sometimes at the local stores and malls. I don't really need to, but I like to have the freedom to open my door completely to get out of my car without fear that I will bump the car next to me. But some of the scowls I get from other people are withering. I have been lectured, with fingers pointed squarely at my nose. Honestly, I cannot wait for summer when I can wear shorts again. I never get those looks when my disability is easily seen. Since I walk with a barely discernible limp, and can walk faster than a lot of people, owning to my 6 foot 6 inch frame, people tend to not notice that I have anything wrong with me.

The doctors gave me the blue tag about a year before my amputation, primarily to keep me from walking too much. I use it to garner extra space to open my doors. I have no problem walking in across the parking lot. I used to get upset when I would see someone that I did not expect to need a tag. This attitude changed when I saw a young, blond girl pop out of a nice new car and run into the store. I was pretty upset at first, and was planning on saying something. I assumed that she was simply using someone else's blue tag. Suddenly I realized who it was.

Her name is Patience Beard. She is an University of Arkansas cheerleader. Her story is amazing, Click the link on her name to read an article I found on her. She was wearing leggings that covered her leg and I suddenly got the whole picture of why people get so angry when they see me parking there. Not to say I am a beautiful young college student and athlete, but I am relatively young and healthy compared to many that need a blue tag. I can easily walk in from a regular parking spot.

As a matter of fact brings me about to my second point, I am a lot more active than many of my peers. Some of whom are 10-15 years younger than I am. I hike, I fish, I ride my bike. I walk for exercise and occasionally I can jog. i still don't like to run, but mostly because my prosthetic leg is so much lighter than my remaining limb, and that throws me off balance during the run. I am getting better at it and learning to trust my residual limb and prosthetic. One thing that makes this easy is the Rush™ Foot 87 that I have. It is rated out more than 100 lbs heavier than I am, I hop over mountain creeks, I can hop off short ledges and onto uneven terrain without thinking about it. It is still a bit stiff and does tend to want to push my leg into the resting position, but I can overcome this with little thought. I absolutely love my rush foot.

What really amazes me is how slow some people walk, Kind of like walking through a casting for the zombie apocalypse. I constantly pass people several times when grocery shopping. It might just be me being impatient, but I honestly believe that I am out here to have my second chance at life... I want to take it by the horns and get every last little bit of it. It helps me find my happy place.


Friday, January 6, 2017

A year and more on a Rush 87 foot

OK, a little over a year ago I wrote a couple of posts about my new Rush 87™ foot. As you remember, I was super jazzed that my insurance company paid for a new foot for me and I was amazed at how well it was working. You can see the post here.

Now, more than a year later, what do I have to say about it? Well, it is still here. I still use it, and overall I can not see any way to make it better (other than the fact that the foot shell is still rather pale) It resides at the bottom of my left leg and I hardly think about it. I adapted well to how it works and I don't have to make any adjustments in the way I walk, hike, bike or even jog on it. I don't worry that it is suddenly going to fracture if I accidentally step off the second rung of the ladder, or hop over a mountain stream. Some of you remember that I broke my first carbon fiber foot pretty quickly, and had to have the ankle replaced because it couldn't handle my weight.  None of that nonsense with my Rush™ foot.

I have been out and about, between Christmas shopping, hiking, biking and even to the beach. In every circumstance the Rush™ foot just took the abuse. The top of it is getting a little darker and I actually have tan lines on the foot shell, which is actually starting to crack a little on the bottom, but the foot itself is rock solid. As a matter of fact, most people don't even notice that I have anything wrong with my left leg at all. My gait is very natural while wearing it.

One of my co-workers asked why I favored the leg, wondering if I had injured myself, I had been sitting for about three hours and my leg was numb. I looked at him like he was a little crazy, but I realized he was serious. I had never told him I had an amputation. When I pulled up my pant leg, he was shocked.   He was amazed that I walked as well as i could.

Overall, I believe the Rush™ foot has really been a factor in how well I have adapted to my amputation. Without it, I feel certain that I would not be as mobile as I am.