Monday, December 21, 2015

Overcoming a lack of Motivation

When I am talking to people about the things that amputees have to do to stay as healthy and productive as they can, I make a solid point about "Motivation". I will be the first to tell you that if you want to stay active you have to motivate. The word is all about moving from one place to another. I remember a time shortly after I was married, I had become ill. Nothing serious, just a "man-cold", one of those nasty little colds that just knocks the feet out from under you till all you want to do is sit on the couch and whine. The kind of cold where you get a bowl of chicken-noodle soup and try to sleep it off with large doses of Ny-Quill. Well, my wife would have none of my whiny baby faced antics. She told me something that has stuck with me ever since:
When I get feeling like I'm sick, or don't feel very good, I get myself cleaned up and then I hang a big smile on my face! Even if I don't feel like it. Especially so! Believe me, it will make you feel better. Don't let the world see that it has you down!
I have  tried to apply this to everything that I do, and it has served me well, especially since my amputation. Keeping a positive outlook and a smile on my face actually does make me feel better about myself and my situation. Keeping motivated drives me faster and more furiously into the future. While I have not been an amputee for very long, it has only been 9 months since I was amputated, I can walk about 10 miles without any stress, I can actually jog about 2 miles on a treadmill, as I have not had the courage to try it out in the open yet. (my balance and core still need some more work before I trust myself to that)

Keeping myself moving and continually setting goals has got me this far. I know there are a lot of mid-aged amputees that have got along a lot further than I have in a shorter time, and I applaud them for their efforts, but I also talk to several amputees who barely can walk without assistance. Everyone is a little different. We all have one thing in common, we are short an appendage, whether it be an arm or a leg, above or below the middle joint. Some were traumatic, some due to infection, others due to congenital issues. Some have associated pain and phantom sensations. I wish I could give everyone the solution that is working for me and have it work for them. Here is my formula for success and overcoming pain:
  1. When phantom pain occurs, I understand what it is. I open a hole in my mind and put it there. This is hard to explain to people, I wrap it up and close the lid. I can still feel it, but it reduces the urgency of the feeling. This is a Buddhist teaching and while I may not agree with all of this report, I have put this into practice and it works for me. Read the REPORT here.
  2. When real pain occurs, whether this is tenderness from pressure points within my socket, or muscle tenderness caused by overuse, I use the least possible dosage of a common pain reliever. I will  not use any opiates again. I have found that the residual crud that they leave behind make future occurrences worse. It is my belief that if you can withstand some of the pain, it will prevent you from further injuring yourself.  Remember that pain is there for a reason, it tells you when you are threatening your survival. Use it to your advantage.
  3. Set a goal and stick to it. Motivate yourself to be active, even when you don't feel like it. I wear my leg from the time I get up until I go to bed, 16-18 hours a day. It comes off only when I take my shower or climb in bed. There are minor exceptions to this, I may take it off for 10 minutes when I feel like massaging it, but this has become an infrequent practice. 
  4. Own the fact that you are an amputee. Be proud you are the survivor, regardless of how it happened. Not everyone could face the challenges you face on a day to day basis for the rest of their lives. Talk to people about it. Make them comfortable to be around you. Remember that you are not broken, you just have after-market parts. In some cases, our new parts are far better than the original manufacturer's. 
  5. Make an effort to help others that are beginning their journey. I remember the first time I went out in public after my surgery, still in a wheel chair. There was an amputee in the store we went to and he took the time to talk to me about a wide range of things to expect. He had lost his leg in Iraq 10 years ago and I wouldn't have guessed he was an amputee if he had  not been wearing shorts. We still keep in touch. Mentorship is a great way to help yourself, it will make you do the research, read the magazines, and will motivate you to be a positive roll model.
 I believe in my heart that being active, both physically and mentally are the two most important things any amputee can do to help themselves. Do not expect anyone else to fully understand what we go through. No one else out there has to put on their liner and leg just to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. No one else has to think before they take the stairs the way we do. Keep in mind that we have a few extra things that we absolutely have to do differently. Motivate yourself to be strong, Motivate yourself to overcoming what challenges you face. Join a gym, get a bike, walk to the end of the block or across the room. Get up, grab this great big world by the horns and make it what you want. Remember what Dr. Suess taught us:
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And then things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too.  OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!     
© 1988 Dr Suess Enterprises LLC.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cyborg rights - Personal or Property Damage

I recently was reading a my twitter feed, and I heard that Adrianne Hasslet-Davis, a public speaker and amputee who lost her leg in the Boston marathon bomb attack, had a bag with some of her legs and dance parts misplaced by an airline. Being a public figure, she brought the issue to a Twitter post. The immediacy and outrage of the response was a frightening thing to witness. In the end, Adrianne had to remind her followers not to "cyber-bully" the airline. She is a class act. In fact, the incident brought up several subjects of discussion with the airline about rights for amputees. Incidentally, the airline jumped in and found her bag and legs very quickly.

 The episode got me thinking about what it would be like for the average amputee to go through a similar circumstance, or having their leg damaged as the result of an accident or injury.  Most of us only own one leg that really works for us. Some of us own some specialized versions, for running or working in an environment that a traditional socket will not work in. It takes several weeks to replace a socket and go through the fittings and get it to fit correctly. A leg, or for that matter and arm or a wheelchair is not something that most of us can easily do without for several weeks. I know that I depend on having my leg for the most basic of personal needs. Oh, I suppose I could use a wheelchair or crutches to get around in a pinch, but it would make my life a lot less enjoyable. For some people, it is not an option, due to the nature of their work, to resort to a lesser form of mobility. A construction worker certainly could not climb a ladder while being bound to a wheel chair,

According to the current tort laws within the United States, as noted by blogger Gordon Sibler in his post Legal rights of Cyborgs :

From time immemorial, our common law has provided one set of remedies for damage to one’s property and another set for damage to one’s person.  While the latter allows the full gamut of recovery including pain and suffering, lost earnings, medical expenses, lost enjoyment of life and loss of consortium, the former merely allows recovery of the property’s repair or replacement value.  One cannot even recover for the sentimental value of property[i].  Yet today, many of us depend on our devices to perform the normal tasks of living, such as walking, talking, hearing and seeing.  Damage to these prosthetics can leave a person without the ability to work or perform activities of daily living until repaired.  As demonstrated in this article, there is arguably a new suspect class in need of protection – cyborgs. 
Further exploration of this issue brought me to one of my favorite podcasts. It is a 31 minute discussion between the hosts of Amp'd, Peggy Chenoweth and Dave McGill  That really hits the points on this problem. It is a great episode, and I think you should listen.

What we need to remember is that until the law actually changes, and a precedent is set, our prosthetic devices are considered to be vehicles, not part of our bodies.The difference is that, unlike a car, that when it is damaged and is in the repair shop, our legs cannot be easily replaced. There are not rental companies that provide prosthetic devices. For many of us, we cannot work without them, and this will be a loss of income, that will not be covered by insurance. This will cause an undo burden on any amputee that is injured. I am not sure how this precedent can be changed. But it needs to be. There are way too many people being affected by this. We need to fight to get a new class of insurance claims, using our official designation of cyborgs. The definition is described in my post I Am a Cyborg Every amputee is in this category. I believe we need to define it, and use it to protect our rights!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

So many things have happened recently. It seems that every time I get a chance to sit down and write I get pulled in five different directions. Which is the most important subject? What will I talk about? This last month has been amazing. So I am going to touch on a number of topics. So, bear with me!

First, a quick update on my Rush Foot™. Every single day, I am amazed at this foot. It has given me the confidence to take on increasingly difficult activities with ease. Climbing stairs, ladders, walking on really challenging terrain is no match for the flexibility of the foot. I never feel like I am overdoing it and the power it gives me is truly remarkable. The only negative thing I can say about it is that the foot shell is a little freaky. The color looks like something that was made as a prop for a zombie movie, pale and lifeless. I think that just a little more work on the shell would be a good thing for Ability Dynamics to focus on.

It is a lot easier to focus on being positive when the foot you use is not giving you extra problems to deal with and overcome. Which leads me to my next subject: the White House revised response to our We The People petition. As you probably remember in my post White House Response Unacceptable I was pretty upset about the mamby-pamby wording of the original response, primarily since it did not address any part of the petition that we had signed.. On November 2nd, the White House updated the response, stating that while the LCD change for DME was not rescinded entirely, it was being removed and was going to be rewritten after a committee of involved (government implied) experts convened to discuss it. Not quite a complete victory, however the first battle went to us!

Right after this date, I received my Amplitude Magazine. I had been contacted to write a short article on advocacy, because I was being very vocal about it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and this blog. I want people to realize exactly what it feels like to be an amputee. That none of us want any sort of pity, but would much rather live our lives in a way that brings us back to a relative normality. While this article is in a magazine that is primarily distributed to amputees or people that work directly with us, it is a start to get the word out about standing up for our rights. If we don't stand up for ourselves, no one else will. No one out there wants us to suffer more than we already are, but without a frame of reference, they won't even think about how something affects the way we live. Click this link to read Amplitude Magazine online, and while you are there subscribe to it. It is free! My article is on Page 9.

I continue to work out, but not nearly as much as I need to. Riding my bike, walking and even using the treadmill. I am learning to trust my prosthetic, and some people may laugh at my attempts to run, but when I explain to them that running on a prosthetic is like trying to run in really high heels, they tend to understand. I know that once I get my brain wrapped around the idea that running will be easier I know that with the Rush™ foot, I can do most anything I want.

There  is a lot to be positive for, even with all the challenges that my family faces, learning to live within the confines of the my disability, deal with the financial difficulties as they come. I am extraordinarily thankful that I have a supportive family, a great insurance company who listens to my needs and helps to expedite my care and the health to enjoy life as it comes. Every time I start to feel overwhelmed, I remember all these things, focusing on them and then I work on a solution to the challenge that I am facing. A year ago,it was merely a game of survival, of trying to save a hunk of meat on the end of my leg, now it is about meeting my obligations. Believe me when I say that it has been a heck of a year, but better things are bound to come, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Phantom Pain - How do I deal with it?

In the spirit of Halloween, I have decided to write a little about the "Ghost" in my life. Phantom pains are one of the most annoying aspects of being an Amputee, 95% of amputees report at least some form of pain or discomfort coming from the non-existent extremity. For some, the pain is incredible, so bad that it keeps them awake at nights. For most pain medication does not work that well, and at best is only a temporary solution that is fraught with side-effects. I happen to be one of the lucky ones that only gets the sensations occasionally. It is always a surprise and confusing for me when it happens.

I have told you before that I keep a journal, in which I keep a record of size, weight, general notes on my activity levels and how many socks I wore each day. It has become a bit of a routine, but I have added a note about phantom sensations and pain that I feel in my "non foot'. While it is not a definitive study, I am building a database for a case study in phantom sensations. I am finding that if I wear extra socks during the day, I have an increased chance of having phantom pain, I have also noted what I did to relieve the pain. I do not want to take any medication and I have been looking for solutions. Journals are helpful when you start to feel overwhelmed. With some amputees, the pain is so severe it is debilitating, as well as so frequent as it seems to never go away. Keeping good records of the pains and times you feel them is helpful to your doctor in planning a course of action to relieve it.

Which brings us to the next item, effective treatment of the problem. Where do you go? What methods do you use yourself? Does medication help you? Or does it simply mask the problem. What do you do if your doctor feels that this is a physiological issue and not a medical (Yes, there are still some witch-doctors out there that do not believe in phantom pain, despite all the research that has been done) I can only speak of my personal experiences, they may be helpful to some, comical to others and totally useless to most. I will speak of last night, and how I overcame the sensations. Let's go to my Journal Entry:

Size AM 40 cm
Size PM 42 cm
Exercise: 13.1 miles bike ride,8,210 stepsSock Level: 0730 2 / 1000 5 / 1430 7 /1530 5 
Pain increased with too much sock level - May need to reduce level tomorrow.NIGHT: After removing leg, began to feel pain in L Big toe and exterior ankle area, pain increased to burning stabbing pain Level 4/5. Massage of residual limb did not reduce pain. Rolled to pronate position, hyperextended knee, pain began to abate almost immediately.

I do not know why hyperextending my knee while in the prone position helped reduce the pain, but I know that it worked. It has worked in the past and some of my journal entries get rather detailed on things that I have tried that did not work. I do know that from previous journal entries, whenever I use too many socks during the day, I tend to suffer more severe pain that evening. That appears to be my trigger. It is probably different for different people. I do know a few things for certain. First, Phantom pain is real, not psychological, if your physician disagrees, suggest to him that he should research it a little more, it might change his mind. (My doctor is one of this crowd by the way) and Second, simple solutions do not work for everyone. I have talked with many amputees, some of whom are in constant pain, who are seeking a rather expensive treatment where the nerve endings are sealed with a cryogenic probe. I am awaiting their reports on the success of these procedures.

 I suggest that everyone that suffers from phantom pain keeps a journal, It will help keep the perspective on a day to day basis, and keep you from feeling overwhelmed by a consistent, nagging problem. The pain is no joke, it is there, whether or not there is an obvious cause. Remember your brain usually is spot on when it comes to pain, there is a cause and effect to most pain problems, keeping a record of what you did during the day may show you a pattern that you can adjust to see if it helps in relieving the issue.

Who knows, it might just work for you, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My first full week on the Rush™ 87 foot

Generally, I do not trust reviews of any products until the tester has had enough time that the "newness" of their subject has had a chance to wear off. With the Rush™ 87 foot, that is a hard thing to do. I am a recent amputee. I have never had to walk on wood or foam feet, I have only had 2 other feet put on the bottom of my pylon, both of which were versions of the Kinterra™ foot by Freedom Innovations. I really liked that foot, too, but not as much as I like Ability Dynamic's Rush™ foot. I may have only had it a week, but I think it is great!

It is had to know where to start when discussing the foot. I can do so much more since I have acquired it. Standing still and being able to look up into the sky, especially at night was a very difficult task before I had the Rush™ foot. That sounds like such a simple thing, but I had trouble balancing. I would usually touch something to give me a reference point besides my "meat leg'. Even lightly touching another person's shoulder would let me keep my balance. With the Rush™ foot, I have the confidence to let go when I look up. The power return in the foot (toe) allows me to actually feel the amount of deviation from center, in a comfortable way that is much like what I get from my other leg. I know it is hard to explain, but if you are an amputee, you probably know what I mean.

Stairs still scare me, but I try
 to use them as much as I can
This is by far more comfortable than the feet I have had before, the roll-over and stability are more realistic as is the inversion and eversion of the foot. I am more stable on uneven ground than I have been in several years. In fact, I can only think of one area where I had any issue at all. Stairs.  I hate stairs. It is an obsession of mine to be able to use them like I used to. I have had several close encounters with injury and destruction on stairs, all of them thankfully only close calls. So when I got my Rush™ foot, this is one of the things I wanted to try.  I was in for a bit of a shock. The power return from the foot was a little more powerful than I was expecting, and I had to catch myself from launching into oblivion. As scary as my first attempt was, I have persisted until I acclimated to the way the foot reacts. Leg over leg going downstairs is not difficult, once you learn how the foot works and adapt your body to overcome the return. Do as Mama used to tell you: Stand up straight! Apparently, leaning forward moves you into the 'return' zone, but by standing straight, it offsets that feedback and allows the foot to support you. As always, make sure you have a good grasp on something stable and use 3 points of contact whenever you are on the stairs. I would even go so far as to tell you to have a partner when you start testing yourself on any uneven surface. Believe me, falling on stairs can ruin your day!

Ability Dynamics Twitter Crew Rocks!
One thing I must say: Ability Dynamics on twitter (@rushfoot) has been wonderful in both encouraging me to push hard to get the foot, and all their support when I have had any little question. When I posed the question about stairs to them, I had a response in less than an hour. Not information from some engineer, but rather from a fellow amputee who happens to be a clinical manager, who gave me advice to help me overcome some of the foot's abilities. I find their customer service is as good as their product and highly recommend them to anyone who asks.

I guess that the bottom line is: I feel that the Rush™ 87 is a fantastic product, and I promise, I will get some photos of some of the great places I plan on going with it soon. If you are a prosthesitist, I suggest that you use this foot as your 'go-to' foot for new amputees. It is easier to walk on, will take the new user into a place that they can trust their leg faster and with fewer problems. Just like their tag line says [It's] "Not Just Another Carbon Copy®"

Monday, October 19, 2015

On Prosthetic Care: White House Response Unacceptable

For many of us in the movement to halt proposed changes to the Local Cost Determination (LCD) for Durable Medical Equipment (DME) in Medicare benefits, the recent response by the Obama White House staff to our petition to review them was tepid, at best. At worst, one could say it was negligently apathetic. I am going to post both the petition request wording then the response from the "We the People" staff.

Rescind the Medicare proposal restricting access to prosthetic limbs and returning amputees to 1970’s standards of care.
Medicare, through its contractors, has proposed new coverage, coding, and clinical care guidelines that would have a profoundly negative impact on amputees across the United States.
If implemented, the policy installs new barriers that would limit and potentially deny access to appropriate prosthetic care. It eliminates coverage for certain prosthetic devices that amputees depend on for every step they take every day. It even would preclude amputees from using a prosthesis if they failed to meet the entirely nebulous and subjective standard of "the appearance of natural gait" while using the prosthesis.
Equally troublesome, the proposed policy contains no references to clinical or medical evidence supporting the changes.
For all of these reasons, the draft policy should be rescinded.
The petition has 110,136 signatures to date so far, well above the 100k threshold that the White House has set as a goal before they will take notice of any petition. However, I believe that the staff has not read, or understood for that matter, any of the proposed changes. One of the major issues is that the CMS (The agency that is responsible for implementing Medicare payouts) is the entity that is proposing the changes. Which makes the White House's response all the more ludicrous. This is a copy of what I received by E-Mail  Friday afternoon:

A response to your petition on a Medicare local coverage determination:
Thanks for using We the People, and for sharing your concerns about the local coverage determination for lower limb prostheses proposed by Medicare contractors. In order to get the most up-to-date information concerning your petition, we've gone to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) -- specifically, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Administration for Community Living (ACL).
You can learn more about LCDs and how they're determined here.
The coverage determination process is still ongoing, but CMS wants to make clear that they’re committed to providing high quality care to all Medicare beneficiaries. They also wanted to make sure you know that HHS has met with stakeholders on this important issue, and both CMS and its contractors understand the questions that have been raised about access to the right prosthetic care -- including related technologies -- for Medicare beneficiaries.
We will be in touch with another update.--The We the People Team
Why am I all wound tight about this issue, anyway? I am not on Medicare and I will not qualify for it for almost 15 years. I am taking up this fight because EVERY insurance company in America uses Medicare guidelines as a baseline for the services that they provide. Any changes to that baseline means a probable loss in benefits per dollar of expenditure. The bottom line is that our bottom line (Each and every single person in America) will have to spend more out of pocket money for the basic care that we need to have to live a normalized life. If you give an agency free reign as the tepid response from the White House seems to have done, you open the doors for abuse. Tell me, Obama Administration, how can you go to CMS and bring our petition to their door, yet allow them to continue on their path to our ruination? Their purpose and proposal  is clear and we asked for your intervention. You simply turned to them and asked and they said "Oh, yeah, we know about what they want, we will give them what we think is high quality care" and you accepted that as an answer! NOTHING has changed!
I may be wrong, perhaps CMS will have listened to the 130 individuals that testified in the one open hearing in Washington DC, and perhaps they will make changes. I would like an assurance from the White House that if they do not make changes to their proposed wording, that the White House is committed to standing up and doing what is right. Can we get that from you?

Because Prosthetics are NOT A LUXURY!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Early impressions of the RUSH™ Foot

Most of my followers on Twitter know that I have been fighting to get a running leg. I have done a ton of research on them and had reached a decision: I wanted to try the Rush™ foot by ability dynamics. My prosthestist has a lot of experience in fitting people for what they need and he really wasn't sold on the idea of trying it out. The only people that he had fitted for a Rush™ foot were new amputees, most of whom were either military veterans or younger, more active adults. He downplayed the flexibility, especially the inversion and eversion of the ankle. He was not sold that the special composite fiber material that Ability Dynamics named Flexeon® was as strong as the carbon fiber feet that he normally supplied. One of the major problems he pointed out was the lack of a split toe in the design, which he felt was a flaw. He had talked me out of the foot when I was getting my initial foot. Quite honestly, I am glad he did.

"But, Wait!" you must be saying, what about this review?

The reason I am saying that I am happy he talked me out of it the first time is that it gave me perspective. I have been walking on the standard foot that he gives people like me. (obese, yet still fairly active, motivated and needing a fair amount of function) That is the Kinterra™ foot by Freedom Innovations. And if you read my review on it, you will see that I believe it is a really good foot.
Tuesday, I got a new socket. it is much smaller, it fits well with a minimal amount of socking. Which in itself makes walking easier. I also received my RUSH™ 87 foot. The first step I took caught me by surprise! Not only was it more accurate in the way it felt, but it pushed me forward. It really felt like I could push off. I rolled over the ball of my foot and the flexion was exactly as I "meat foot" feeling like.It was simply amazing! The best description I have is that it felt like having a cast removed and beginning to walk without it for the first time. I know that a lot of this is in the overall flexibility of  the design. Without hydraulics in the ankle there is nothing to delay the foot from returning to its resting location. This was always an issue with my Kinterra™ foot because if I didn't roll through the step, the foot wasn't neutral for the next step, which could cause me to catch my toe. Stepping on an uneven surface really felt like I was jamming my leg, sometimes painfully. I have experienced none of that with the Rush™ foot.

One of the first things I did was head out to the local mall, with the excuse of wanting to fix my glasses. it is a parking lot that has a gentle slope to it. On my old foot, I had to short step with my left leg to ensure that I didn't have to power over the stiff toe. It used to feel like I was vaulting. The Rush™ foot allowed me to step normally and was extremely comfortable. I was very impressed with the stability and flexion it provided,  it really felt like my "meat foot".  I figured that a lot of my impression was circumstantial,  based partially on my excitement with a new toy.

That thought was quickly quelled when I got home and was out in my back yard.  We have a heavily landscaped yard that looks like a small park.  There is nothing even about the ground.  It slopes this way and that,  and before the rush foot, I had to use extreme caution walking around. The RUSH™ foot came through.  The stability was fantastic.  Walking around caused no problems at all. The amount of inversion and eversion in the foot is mind blowing. I have a area near my woodpile where the roots of a big maple tree are all exposed above the dirt. With my Kinterra™ foot, I avoided the area, but with the Rush™ foot, I was able to traverse it with ease and confidence. 

I haven't had a chance to jog at all, because as I have been writing this, I am finding some minor flaws in the fit of the socket, pressure points and all and I don't want to injure myself in the pursuit of sheer curiosity. I did however get out and ride a bike for the first time in probably 3 years. I was suprised again at how real my foot felt. Say what you will about phantom sensations (not the pain, but just the memory map feelings most of us get), for a little while it really seemed to me that I had not lost my leg at all. 

Which brings me to the conclusion of what I think of the Rush™ foot: From my initial couple of days on the foot, I find that the Rush™ 87 is far superior (for me) than the Freedom Innovations Kinterra foot and ankle system. The feel of the foot coupled with the flexability in the ankle including flexion, extension, inversion and eversion, make this hands down the best foot I have tried. It is nice to enter the #RushRebel family, and it makes me wonder why this is not the standard issue foot for everyone.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Annoyance of a loose socket.

Honestly, I haven't posted for a while for a reason. I got approved to get a high impact foot. I was expecting to be able to wait and post about it, but the process of getting the new socket and waiting on the delivery of the new foot has been long and rather annoying. One thing I have learned is that the first socket I was given only lasted about 3 months. My residual limb had shrunk so much that I was having to wear upwards of 20 to 25 ply of socking just to keep it on my leg.

To put that into perspective for our two-legged friends, that is kind of like someone who normally wears a size 7 running shoe trying to wear a size 13. It can be done, if you wear enough socks. I believe that if you tried it, you wouldn't be very comfortable walking, let alone trying to run. You might even wind up injuring yourself. Right now, if I were to remove the socking I can put my leg on and spin it freely 360 degrees. It feels sloppy and I am bottoming out almost every step I take.This gets painful, not a sharp stabbing pain, but a long deep muscle soreness. For some amputees, fitting a new socket is a difficult process, I am really hoping that this will not be the case for me. I may have been really lucky in the original fitting, but I only had a little problem with the actual scar tissue right where the bottom of my tibia pushed against the front of the socket. with a little adjusting, the irritation went away and I healed up within a week. But I have heard some real horror stories from some of my friends. One especially had some real trouble with finding someone that could fit him properly. He pushed his leg so far that it was always misshapen when he was attempting to get it scanned, then when the test socket came, he couldn't fit it.

We finally got to the point that my doctor approved the new socket. I went to get scanned, the process took almost two weeks since the local clinic is very busy. Two weeks more to get the test socket ready, and it fit like a glove. I was super excited, but now had to wait again for them to actually build the new socket. During this period of time, I was also approved to get the high impact foot, so we have been waiting to get everything properly approved and in place. I have decided to go with the Rush™ Foot, for a few good reasons: 1 they were very active and answered many of my question quickly and personally. 2 they offered a 60 day free trial of the foot. All that being said, Ottobock offered a similar deal on their Titan foot and ankle, but I am really looking for something that is closer to an actual running blade. I should be getting the new socket and foot tomorrow. There is a possibility that the foot won't be here yet, and I may need to wait a few days to get it, but I am going to get it. I promise to write a review on it after I get some real experience with it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What is the "Appearance of a Normal Gait"

Yesterday, a lot of my Facebook friends got an update from me that I felt was pretty cool. I got a lot of feedback from it that was very positive. I was on my way home when my wife called and asked me to swing by the grocery store and pick up a couple of items we needed. I pulled into the lot and immediately headed toward the handicap parking. There were 5 open spots and I took the one furthest from the door. It's a decent spot and I have a blue tag, I wasn't doing anything wrong, in fact, I felt pretty good about the fact that I took the furthest handicap spot that was there. I got out, locked my truck and headed into the store. About this time a woman coming in from the lot behind me shouted "Hey, you know those spots are for people with handicaps, right?"  I stopped and faced her, and said "I am, but thank you for speaking out about it. Too many people abuse those spots."   I think that she noticed that my pant leg didn't quite fall correctly down my leg and my ankle was showing. She started to apologize and I know that she was feeling embarrassed about saying anything. I made light of the whole situation and I found out that her mother is handicapped and that she has to take her shopping she sees a lot of abuse use of those slots. I told her that I was very happy that she thought I wasn't handicapped. It means a lot to me that most people are unaware of my condition, because it means that I have come a long way in the six months since my amputation.

But it did bring up a question has been tickling the back of my brain since I first saw it in the proposed LCD DME changes to Medicare coverage. What is the appearance of a normal gait? Who exactly is to determine what is normal? How is this not a derogatory term when speaking of someone with a physical disability? The entire idea of normalizing something is based in the subjective observation of an individual, and one's opinion of normal will differ wildly from another's opinion.

The more that I think about these changes to the guidelines, the angrier I get. It is terribly obvious that people that do not have a disability are writing them. It is all about the money involved, and even though these changes do not directly affect me right now since I am not on Medicare, they will indirectly influence my insurance company and their decision on how they will cover my prosthetic care. As a community of amputees we stood up and took the fight to the one hearing they had on the proposed changes, but that cannot be the end of the battle. I have a little bit of experience in politics, having served on the city council in Johnson, Arkansas for a term. I would have continued in the position, but my family and I moved to another city.I learned a lot from that short stint in office; like how certain people in politics do what is best for themselves, rather than what is best for the community as a whole. There are some people at CMS that the changes will benefit. Lower overhead costs will allow for further waste in excess personnel as well as allowing for them to remain under budget.

These changes are primarily a function of a government run, politically motivated money scheme. The CMS is under pressure to hold the medical billing down to a minimum, while supporting as much as they can afford in benefits. Rather then attacking the cost of the items that they cover as being too expensive, they would rather not buy it at all. It reminds me of two things. The war on drugs where the DEA goes after the end user rather than the supplier, and the pharmaceutical industry, where future research is funded by an effective monopoly on proprietary knowledge. I do support that if they lay out a boatload of money for research, they should be able to recover that cost and add a reasonable profit before releasing the drug to generic use. I hate to say that there is a corollary with prosthetic devices, but the difference is that we only have less than 1% of the population needing them. Research and development outruns the usage of the devices as the next big thing appears. A streamlining of the industry to follow similar paths of research might be called for, but as technology races forward the cost of prosthetic devices probably will also.

We all want a natural gait, to appear to be unaffected by our handicap to others. While this is an end goal, we need to guard ourselves from situations where we are dependent upon the opinion of others on whether or not we can achieve that. Make sure that you keep up the pressure to remove this language from the proposed changes to the Medicare guidelines!

If you haven't contacted your governmental representatives, you need to do so, whether you are on Medicare or not. These changes will affect your insurance, and it will drive the cost of prosthetic care higher than it already is. Take a stand, or plan on sitting down the rest of your life.

Monday, September 14, 2015

We face new challenges every day

Survival kit
Last Friday was my 6 month Ampu-versery; the celebration of my life saving and life changing decision to go ahead and amputate my left leg.  A lot of things have changed in the way I do things now. I have learned to consider my activity and how to address getting something done. I am sure that most amputees have implemented similar changes in their lives, but some of my readers may not be aware of the simple things that change when you lose a limb. I have a few things that I do differently that most of us will have to deal with. I am sure there are lots of other things, too.

Some basic things that I have to remember.

  • When taking a shower, making sure that I have everything I need prior to taking my leg off. Towels, clean clothes, a good floor mat (to keep me from slipping on the tile floor) my Hibiclens to clean my liner, a liner keeper, along with all of the important grooming tools I might need. Now for most of you that are reading this, this sounds super simple. We all have done it for most of our lives. The difference is the amount of frustration that missing one little step causes. Most of the time I catch myself before it becomes an issue. 
  • When getting ready for bed, making sure I have my crutches nearby, in case I have to go to the restroom. Turning out the light before I get all comfortable in the bed. I  don't like to wander around on my crutches, so sometimes I use a wheel-chair, However using it is not as easy as it appears since it is too wide to go into the bathroom. There are other methods of mobility, such as crawling or hopping, too. 
  • Making sure that I have my whole supply of socks and tools with me at all times. I am a relatively new amputee, my volume changes on a regular basis. I usually start my day somewhere around 15 ply of socking and wind up by the end of the day at or around 20. I am scheduled to get a new socket next week so that number will come down considerably. Going anywhere without an Allen wrench is probably not a good idea. One of my favorite YouTube videos is The Amputee Survival Kit by the AmputeeOT
  • Keeping good records.
    Since the beginning I read this helpful article from the Amputee Coalition I keep a basic log of how my residual leg feels, what I do to try to fix the issue and the result of what I have done. Since I have not had very much actual peer support since becoming an amputee, I have to keep records and learn as I go along. I also read several blogs and websites dealing with amputees. I have found that message boards are usually less than helpful. Most of the important questions I have are usually answered by people that are unable to understand or articulate in a helpful manner. The solutions that are given are usually less than helpful.
  • When walking on uneven ground: Especially at night or in twilight, to take careful, smaller steps. Nothing is worse than stepping down into a depression when you expect the ground to be there. This happens to me in parks and areas where the lawn is mown evenly over uneven ground. Taking steps more carefully prevents jamming my leg down into my socket. It also keeps me from stumbling. I also take extreme care on stairs. I still have some issues with fear when it comes to stairways. Especially when they do not have a solid banister. 
  • Stay Active!!! I honestly believe this is the most important thing. A body that is in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Another way of looking at it is that there are two basic organisms out there. The organism that flourishes and grows, and the organism that perishes. Choose the path that leads to getting stronger. If you have the choice between vegging out on the couch or doing something, choose to turn off the television and DO something. It is too easy to sit and feel sorry for yourself, don't add fuel to that fire. You will be amazed at what you can do!
I think that as I progress in my ability to walk, I will probably learn a lot more over the next few years. When I get my next socket, and can reduce the number of socks that I have to wear, there will be differences in how it feels. When I decide on a different foot, there will be new things to learn on how it functions. I believe that every bit of knowledge that I glean from my experiences has a home on this blog, and what has worked for me may not always work for others. I do know that what little I did find about certain subjects will defiantly be added as soon as I can find proper context to introduce them.

Anyone that has ideas on subjects you would like me to address can connect with my twitter address @Zenshai anytime. I am on there constantly. I tend to follow most everyone that follows me, with the notable exceptions of those that just use twitter to sell stuff. Feel free to contact me. I will help in any way I can.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Potential - So very important

In my last post,  I stated that the word potential was removed from the proposed LCD DME guidelines. It is my belief that removing that word will also remove the motivation for improvement in a large number of amputees.  Since insurance companies  tend to mimic Medicare,  the proposed changes will make it much harder for some amputees to obtain the best in prosthetic care. 

I found this video that shows what happens when people underestimate those with disabilities.  It is in Portuguese, but has subtitles. It makes me smile every time iIwatch it. 

As most of my readers know I want to get a solid foot that will allow me to run,  walk,  hike, and play golf.  While my prosthetist wants me to get a C-blade,  I have a different idea.  Below are two feet that iIam considering.  Ability Dynamics Rush foot,  and Ottobock's Triton.  Both are amazing feet. I will be exploring all of the options and working with my prosthetist on obtaining one to test. Please,  if you know something about these feet,  drop me a line.  My twitter handle is @zenshai. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Be ACTIVE on more than one level!

The problem with most forms of activism is that when a perceived threat or issue appears to be addressed or eliminated, activism and support dwindles.  It reminds me of a bacterial infection; when the patient begins to feel better and stops taking medicine.  The infection remains,  but is stronger than before, more likely that it can withstand future treatment with that medicine.
This analogy can be applied to the current struggle we face during the current proposed Medicare DME LCD  changes.  We have raised awareness within our community of amputees,  some of our friends and family.  However,  unless we continue to make our voices heard,  the struggle will fail.We have to reach out to our co-workers, to those we meet in the street, and most especially those that have any sort of influence with others and make them understand that this issue is much much deeper than simply care for amputees.

While we are affected most severely, due to the impact on our independence, in the proposed DME changes, there are many others that are going to be affected also. Those with MS, CP and other medical conditions that limit mobility are affected right alongside of us. The machines that they require to gain any independence will be stripped away from all who do not have the immediate wherewithal to pay out of pocket. I don't know about you, but I know that as a median ranged individual with pretty decent medical coverage and an above average income, my medical bills are eating most of my disposable income. I don't have anything left over to drop several thousand or tens of thousands of dollars on a new foot or leg. 

Private insurance tends to mimic what Medicare will pay. The Medicare guidelines provide a solid baseline that the insurance companies can use to determine exactly what they will cover, and what percentages above that line that they will be willing to spend. If we allow the Medicare guidelines to be lowered to the point that simply obtaining a new socket is prohibitive, then we will all be fighting that battle. 

In my opinion, there are two portions of the prosthetic device proposed changes that need to be amended. First and foremost would be to reintroduce the word POTENTIAL. In most cases, the potentiality of improvement is a fairly easy assessment. It would be obvious that a 600 lb 65 year old male diabetic below knee amputee would have a hard time being evaluated as a K4 initially, however without the word potential at each step, he would have no motivation what so ever to improve his condition. For example, lets take a hard look at me. Prior to the amputation: a 50 year old white male, approximate weight 310 lbs, primarily sedentary with a severe foot wound and MRSA. Below knee amputation required to save the patients life. Without the condition of POTENTIAL involved, my doctor would have been required to mark me at K2, with little hope of being able to progress. I have since lost weight down to about 240 lbs and walk about 2-5 miles per day. My goal is to progress to jogging and enter a 10k fun run before the end of the year. I am a solid K3, with the potential to reach K4. 

Secondly I think that the prosthesist should be allowed to continue to assess and evaluate the patients ability and potentiality. Quite honestly, my primary care physician, while good at diagnosing and treating standard maladies is very quick to pass on consultations to those who are better versed in a particular field. He knows the limits of his own knowledge and defers to the expertise of others. The surgeon that amputated my leg has more knowledge of wounds and wound care but not nearly as much as the technician at my O&P office. I would rather have someone knowledgeable in the specifics of my abilities make that evaluation and assess me properly.  

The bottom line is that we need to keep the pressure up on all of our congressmen, senators and any other policy makers out there. We need to organize and maintain a constant barrage of social media streams until a final decision has been made on the LCD DME changes. Whether they directly affect us now, or indirectly affect our insurance coverage later is what we need to remember. It is far easier to make a stand before the change occurs than wait for years of congressional wrangling to get basic coverage restored.

In order to find your congressmen and senators you can click HERE
On Twitter you should follow @amputeesusa @_amplitude_ @zenshai @CMSGov to get updates. 
If you have not signed the petition yet - GO SIGN IT!! Click HERE to do it.
You can post to twitter using the hashtag #notaluxury and use it to connect and follow others that are helping the cause. You can lend your support to those that are lobbying in congress and with the hearings and committees involved. We are the antibiotic, and we have to be used until the infection of this LCD to our DME has been eradicated.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Finding Support, Not as easy at it seems

According to a lot of sources, like the Amputee-Coalition as cited in this article that there are lots of support groups out there as well as peer councilors. The article states:

According to Susan Tipton, national peer network coordinator for the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA), there are about 260 support groups for amputees across the United States. 

The article seems to state that it is very likely that a new amputee would have support set up by the hospital or some other group out there. I can tell you that for me this was not the case.

This was partly my fault. The decision to amputate was made fairly quickly. My infection had progressed to the point that my life depended on a quick decision. I did not do a lot of research and had not touched base with any amputee group in the area. It wasn't until several weeks post surgery that I even looked for anyone. If you do a web search on where to find support, you will find the first (and one of the only) sources of information to be the Amputee Coalition website. Searching on there the closest support group was one in Tulsa Oklahoma (100 miles west of us) or Little Rock (200 miles east) I was surprised that there were no groups closer. Northwestern Arkansas is the home of the retail giant Walmart, as well at Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt Transportation. There are a quarter million people living within 50 miles of where I live.

So far the only support was there has been  from my prosthetist, He is a great guy with a ton of experience, but really has no first hand knowledge of how it feels to be an amputee. It is hard to explain to people that have both legs. Short of duct taping their legs together for a week, I don't think that anyone could really get the FINALITY of losing a limb. Yes, I put on a prosthesis to walk, but I have to put it on. I tend to leave mine on 99% of the time I am awake. I seldom remove it for anything other than to adjust the sock levels or straighten out a wrinkle.

The point of this post isn't to complain, but to possibly inspire amputees to become peer counselors and to pay forward the things we have not had. I suspect that there are quite a few amputees out there that have not had any peer counseling whatsoever. With almost 3 million amputees in America alone, we have the base to make a huge difference. With spokes-people like Josh Sundquist and Adrianne Haslet, the support of great publications like Amplitude Magazine and In Motion Magazine and our drive to make the amputee world a better place - We can make a big difference.

Monday, August 31, 2015

I am a CYBORG! How cool is that?

I was looking at a post on Facebook the other day and someone had written about an amputee being a Cyborg by definition. Now, as a huge Sci-Fi fan, I had to find out the truth of the matter. I had to do a little research.

My first stop was to Where I found this entry when I looked up Cyborg It is very clear in the definition of what a cyborg is: a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device. The question is whether or not my leg would be considered 'Mechanical'  So I looked up the definition of Mechanical and while not quite as clear, since the term is used both as a noun, adjective and adverb it seems pretty clear that my 'device' has moving parts and qualifies as a mechanical device.

Regardless of what some people @CMSGov may think with their proposed changes to the Medicare DME LCD that I spoke about in a recent post, I am dependent on this 'device' to get around. While I can survive, separated from it, I function better when I have it on. It is my belief that all amputees who use prosthetic devices would qualify for the distinction of being called Cyborgs. What do you think? Comment below and let me know.

By the way, any Tony Starks or Bruce Waynes out there that want someone to test out one of their cool new toys.... I'm game!!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What are K-Levels? What do they mean?

The amputee K-levels ranking system is the Medicare standard practice in the United States for classifying amputees into 5 classes (K0, K1, K2, K3, K4)  a 5-level functional classification system related to the functional abilities of lower-limb amputees. In simple words, The higher the K Level, the more activity the amputee can tolerate.

K0 – No Mobility. This base level is assigned to amputees who do not have the ability or potential to ambulate or transfer safely with or without assistance. A prosthesis does not enhance the quality of life or mobility of the amputee.
K1 – Very Limited Mobility. The amputee has the ability or potential to use a prosthesis for transfers or ambulation in level surfaces at a walking pace. Walking at various speeds, bypassing obstacles of any kind are out of the K1 class.
K2 – Limited Mobility – The amputee has the ability or potential to use a prosthesis for  ambulation and the ability to adjust for low-level environmental barriers such as curbs, stairs, or uneven surfaces. K2 level amputees may walk for limited periods of time however, without significantly varying their speed.
K3 - Basic to Normal Mobility. The amputee has the ability or potential to use a prosthesis for  basic ambulation and the ability to adjust for most environmental barriers. The amputee has the ability to walk at varying speeds.
K4 – High Activity. The amputee exceeds basic mobility and applies high impact and stress to the prosthetic leg. Typical of the prosthetic demands of the child, active adult, or athlete.

Amputee K-levels are determined by the treating physician and/or the prosthetist. To evaluate the amputee condition, they consider previous activity of the amputee, residual limb condition,  other medical problems, the amputee desire for activity and other factors. It is a dynamic system and  the amputee K-level may change with time. A motivated amputee could go up K-levels. It is important for an active amputee to be classified in his/her appropriate K-Level so that components that are designed for higher activity levels would be covered for payment under the Medicare guidelines.  Once an amputee is assigned a K-level, this dictates the class of the prosthetics the amputee can purchase.

After my appointment yesterday, I was told that a level K4 was a myth and unattainable. That there were no K4 level amputees. Now while I remain a K3 I cannot obtain a running blade, a swim leg or any other specialized leg to help me advance my physical fitness. The foot - ankle system I currently have, while allowing me a very normalized gait, precludes taking it into the pool or running on it. The foot itself could handle the stress but the ankle has hydraulics in it that could be damaged. I assist in coaching my daughters softball team, and occasionally need to hustle to get a a ball. I also golf, hike, fish and swim. Currently most of these activities are limited by my ability to ambulate with my current leg system. I need a higher K rating to get a better leg. I just don't know how to do it.

While all of that can be irritating, understand that it is my motivation to return to a more active lifestyle that fuels that frustration. Medical advances are very costly and honestly, I don't have the finances to pay for what I want. My prosthetist put it in a way that gave me a little perspective:

"I want a Ferrari, I can drive a Ferrari, I have the skill. I would like to own a Ferrari, it would make my life more enjoyable. I know I can't afford a Ferrari, but that shouldn't keep me from having my insurance company from seeing my desire to improve how I get to work and enjoy my free time. I know that having a Ferrari is not a necessity, but it is my heart's desire. Why can't I have one?"

Looking at it that way, I am not a professional athlete. While I would like to get a foot - ankle system that would support running, I do not need it yet. There are several options out there. I have heard a lot of good things about the Rush Foot, and it intrigues me. I will be exploring other options within my current K level and will keep you updated.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What are they thinking?

Walking to increase my fitness and to fight
obesity should not be considered a LUXURY
I am not one who complains about governmental polices very often. Laws are created and stricken based upon the need of the society that it serves. However, there are times when the proposed changes are so far removed from the reality of the situation that it becomes absurd. There is a proposed change to the Medicare guidelines that is insane, from the point of view of most amputees.

This change, while restricted to Medicare will affect most people that have private insurance also. I don't know how many times in the last 6 months that I have heard the words "Medicare guidelines" when discussing issues with both my case nurse and prosthestist. If Medicare will cover something, my insurance will. However, if Medicare will not cover something, most of the time neither will my insurance. I have good insurance, it is not the Rolls-Royce of policies, but it has been fantastic at covering many different aspects of my care over the last year and a half. I have not had to do much fighting at all to get stuff covered.

The new guidelines will hold me at my current fitness level (K3) even though I have the ability and drive to be a K4. Even if I am capable of running, I will never get a new socket or running leg. Currently, I would be able to get the proper prosthesis for my activity level, but in the future, I will only have the socket I have - UNLESS - I pay for it 100% out of pocket. OUCH! Legs can cost between 12 and 25 Thousand dollars. The one I have now cost about as much as a Toyota Corolla. ($16,500). Just for those that are mathematically challenged, a 3 year loan at a modest interest rate for that amount would be about 350 a month (since most feet are warranted for 3 years)

We need help in increasing the number of signatures on the petition. I need my friends, family, and their friends and family to help support the current guidelines, not just for me, but for all those 3.5 million amputees around the country. Do it for the little 4 year olds that lose their legs to cancer, but will only receive one socket in their lifetime that is covered by their insurance. Do it for the veterans who have lost their legs in the service of their country. We need your help. We need 30 thousand more signatures to get this proposal reviewed before August 31st.

Remember, for most of us in the amputee world, having a prosthetic is #notaluxury it is a #matteroflife . Please make sure that the thousands of dollars a year I drop on insurance goes to good use. Make it work for both me and you. There are a lot of other changes that will affect others too. Like access to long term medical care, wellness, tobacco withdrawal, mental health and other things. Putting us back 40 years or more, and denying us the recent technological advances. You never know when you will need your medical insurance, and when you need it.. It needs to work.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Not A Luxury ( #notaluxury )

Recently I found out that Medicare Guidelines were being reviewed and some of the changes would affect the level of care we would receive. Since most insurance companies out there use Medicare guidelines as a basis for their own level of care, this affects everyone in the country. Prosthetic care is only one portion of the changes. Please assist me in getting the word out about this!!

Medicare, through its contractors, has proposed new coverage, coding, and clinical care guidelines that would have a profoundly negative impact on amputees across the United States.

If implemented, the policy installs new barriers that would limit and potentially deny access to appropriate prosthetic care. It eliminates coverage for certain prosthetic devices that amputees depend on for every step they take every day. It even would preclude amputees from using a prosthesis if they failed to meet the entirely nebulous and subjective standard of "the appearance of natural gait" while using the prosthesis.

Equally troublesome, the proposed policy contains no references to clinical or medical evidence supporting the changes.

For all of these reasons, the draft policy should be rescinded.

Published Date: Jul 31, 2015Issues: Disabilities, Health Care


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What being an inspiration is

I have made no secret on my social media feeds what all I have been through, sharing on both my Twitter and Facebook accounts. The problem with social media is you get the "sunny" version of everything. No one wants to be perceived as a "whiner" or a "debbie downer". Amputation is no joke. It is not "sunny". It is a frustrating, annoying condition. It's not horribly painful, like a cancer. It is just plain old annoying. I cannot just go "do" what I want to do. I have to think about every step that I need to accomplish before I start. It is hard to break 50 years of habit, but I am overcoming it. I am sure that I will succeed.

What bothers me the most, though is when people say I am an inspiration to them. I understand what they mean, I project a good attitude in the face of adversity. I reach my goals. I don't whine publicly in my social media feeds. I don't even whine on this blog, which I started simply to have a forum to say some of the things I was thinking without polluting facebook with my frustrations. I understand this.

I see myself as the result of my choices. This should inspire people to NOT be like me. I made poor choices in my lifestyle, my eating habits, my exercise habits. I chose not to listen to several doctors along the way, neglect my diabetes and fail to take any of it seriously. When I lacerated my foot all the way to the bone, I did not go off to the emergency room. I did my own first aid, and hid the fact that I was hurt from my entire family until it became so bad that I could not hide it any longer.  Once I fessed up, and started taking it seriously, it was a long hard fight just to save my life. I had to sacrifice 10% of my body to keep my life.  I am grateful that I was provided such a great surgeon, nursing staff, rehab staff and physical therapists along the way that got me through the ordeal, as well as a great prosthetitist, and after care facilitators that have guided me along the way.

I should be an inspiration to others, for the way I handle my current adversity. I should be an inspiration to others to avoid the stupidity of denial. To inspire others to avoid the dangers of MRSA, Diabetes and take wounds seriously. But more than all of that is to provide an example of what not to do so that others may avoid the path I took.
I would not wish MRSA on the worst enemy of mankind. In fact, I will shout from the rooftops that humanity had better pay attention to the little devil before he takes us out completely. I nearly lost my life to MRSA, I survived. I am forever scarred and disabled because I did not take precautions, or have the information at hand to avoid it. Even the health care workers that I was seeing did not take it as seriously as they should have.

This is what needs to change. We, as human beings, need to bring awareness of how deadly MRSA is, and INSPIRE others to continue to educate and eradicate this bacteria from the face of planet earth!

Monday, August 3, 2015

New name for the blog

I originally had the title as "Less than 4" which I understand was originally a website developed and run by Josh Sundquist. I was unaware of that fact and do not wish to just up and take the name. I found this out on my own and was not asked to change it. Since my blog really has not taken off yet, I decided to change the name early before Google decides to run a bot through and grab the URLS.
I have been using the hashtag "MyAmpLife" since the beginning, so I figured it would be a good name for the blog, and a little more accurate since this is all about my experience.

The new name of the blog is My Amp Life

I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Freedom Innovation's Kinterra foot/ankle system review

I became in amputee in March of 2015 and received my prosthesis in May. My insurance company and the doctor rated me between a K3 and K4 for fitness level and decided that this foot ankle system would give me the best overall motion and ability to ambulate safely. 

As I don't have much experience with different feet and ankle systems other than what I have read and watched on YouTube, I may not be the best to take advice on here. However I would like to drop off my two cents worth on this wonderful foot and ankle system.

The Kinterra Freedom foot and ankle system allows for motion that rivals that of a real foot. With the exception of lateral movement of the ankle, which would allow for rotation of the foot. I like to golf and am having difficulty rotating through my swing. Overall it is very easy to walk on comfortably. My stump is still pretty tender and the socket is still a bit loose in places, but the actual foot and ankle perform exactly like I remember my "meat" foot did. 

The actual adjustment is so simple a kindergartner could do it. There is an adjustment wheel for plantar and dorsal flexion is an easy way to adjust for the type of ground you are on. I usually run mine at about half resistance, This is the only adjustment that I have made to the foot since I received it. Here are some of the statisitcs for the Kinterra's system:

Kinterra’s articulating ankle delivers:
  • Increased ground contact and a more symmetrical gait
  • Improved stability and safety, especially on slopes and varied terrain
  • Reduced socket pressures for healthier residual limbs
  • Enhanced comfort while sitting and squatting
  • User confidence and satisfaction

Range of Ankle Motion: 12 degrees 
Sizes: 22-31cm  (Sandal toe option available sizes 22-28cm)
 Build Height (averages): 120mm (4.3″) 25cm User Weight Rating: 275 lbs. (125kg)
Product Weight (averages): 795g (25cm including foot shell) 
Stiffness Categories: 7 (low & moderate impact) Heel Height:3/8″ (10 mm) 
Warranty: 36-months (shell 6 months) - 

See more at:

They also have a good video on the system that I found

My viewpoint is that this is a great system to put someone who is relatively active but does not run or do any sort of high impact sport. I use mine for light hiking, fishing and general use. I had little to no trouble adapting to the way it functioned. I plan on using it for quite a while into the future 

What is "Normal"?

Have you ever noticed something that just seems off? You tend to look twice, perhaps even go so far as to stare.  Now imagine being that something.  How would that behavior in others make you feel? I really don't mind having people do a double take.  But I am not the average person when it comes to "body image" 
I grew up taller than most people. I am still over average in height, even with the younger crowd getting bigger each year. I stand just under 6 foot 6 inches and weigh close to 250 pounds. a large percentage of people throughout the years have commented on my height or my weight, telling me that I'm as big as a linebacker. So when I had my amputation, the stares continued. Some of the questions I have heard tend to make me chuckle inwardly. I know they make some people uncomfortable even to ask. Josh Sunquist has a great video about some of them, you can watch it here
I was amazed that I had people actually say some of this stuff to me. It is always good for a laugh. The whole body image problem many amputees face is riveted in the poor understanding of how people lose their limbs. Most people have never considered how they could lose their limbs and have no idea on how we survive. True, there are a lot of challenges that we have. Limb loss is a huge annoyance. Having to plan ahead to do everything really takes a lot of forethought. Making sure I have the security of my wheelchair close to my bed in case I have to hustle to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or carrying my little bag of socks to add volume to my socket.

The looks I get at some of the places go from disgust, to pity, and even to reverence. Some people assume a lot of things about people with one leg. The ones that boldly walk up and thank me for my service to our country are the ones that really get me. Yes, I served in the military. I served during a the Grenada invasion. No, I did not lose my leg in that conflict. I lost my leg to a simple one celled organism called MRSA. Yes, it was a war. It lasted a year. Am I bitter? Yes, I am. It has done irreparable harm to my body, my family and life in general. But, please, do not assume I am a war hero just because I wear a prosthesis.

In the end, and I know that I am preaching to the choir here, Body image is what we make it. We can own the fact that we are different in some way from others, whether it is our legs, arms, fingers or toes that are missing. We can be proud of our ability to adapt and  overcome. Alternately, we could wallow in self pity of the things that we perceive that we are not able to do. I chose to find solutions. I chose to proudly show people that with a little perseverance, anyone can overcome adversity. I am normal, for me, and in the end, that is all that matters to me.