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.