The Amputee Coalition (AC) team and I recently attended the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) National Assembly in San Antonio, Texas, where AC Board Member Mona Patel gave a rousing keynote address on the importance of serving the entire limb loss and limb difference community.
In a time where we long to reconnect with others in person, we should begin to focus our attention on the marginalized populations of our community that withstood the worst of the pandemic.
It was great to walk the AOPA halls and feel the positive energy in the room, see the familiar faces of those we had not seen in a couple of years, and honor those who are no longer with us. I commend Eve Lee, AOPA’s Executive Director, and her team for making us all feel at home.
As we turn our attention to November and December, we are excited to celebrate our veteran amputees for their dedication to protecting American lives and for their courage to rise above the challenges from living with limb loss.
We also feature AC’s new Youth Engagement Program, a story about the power of community by Össur, a few tips to care for your mental health during the holidays, and ways to engage with the Coalition in 2023.
From at least 3,000 years ago when an Egyptian mummy was found with a prosthetic toe made from wood and leather, and Roman scholars described warriors who used iron and wood to fashion legs and arms, the military has begotten the civilian.
As we look to create greater access to quality living through prosthetic devices, I often struggle with the realization that if my amputation had not occurred while I was on active duty in the United States Army, I would not have access to the same care I receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I also know that if I grew up as a child with an amputation, I would not have been afforded similar opportunities as my peers. Those youth experiences were a significant part of shaping my life.
In both cases, my life has been significantly impacted for the better because of access to prostheses. I have been able to hike, bike, run and even jump with the prostheses now available. My lifestyle continues because I have this access through my VA insurance.
Why should a young person who desires to play with their peers sit on the sidelines because her insurance denies prosthetic devices? Why should the person injured on the job have an insurance company decide whether they can return to work or not based on what they can afford to pay for safer prostheses?
The military begets a lot of research and development in prosthetic innovations. What inspires and fuels my desire to serve in this capacity as Acting CEO is to ensure those who did not serve in the military can have access to the same high-tech prosthetic devices as those who do. I do not believe that just because one served, they should be afforded a higher quality of life through prosthetic technology than someone who did not.
Yes, the military — wounded, ill, and injured — advance prosthetic technologies by providing test patients for research and development, but we should not stop there. We should ensure that anyone who qualifies or desires to increase their activity level should have the same access.
When it comes to our youth, I am excited that we are thinking of an ecosystem for children living with limb loss or limb difference to engage with each other. I believe this must go beyond an annual camp. As we roll out the Youth Engagement Program (YEP), we will learn from, empower, and create youth advocates to focus on issues concerning people living with limb loss and limb differences and align with other disability groups.
No amputee should be told by a prosthetist that because the patient does not have adequate insurance, they are limited in their prosthetic choices.
In America, 2.7 million people live with limb loss and limb difference, yet we currently only impact about 40,000 of this population. This is where I see the greatest opportunity for growth. You may have seen our push to increase our reach and impact. I have challenged the AC team with aggressive numbers to achieve before year end and before the 2023 National Conference. I am most excited because I know the AC staff has already begun to grow towards that number.
Finally, if you are part of our community as a manufacturer or a wearer of the latest technology and have benefited from those who have served in a uniform for the Armed Forces, please thank a veteran for protecting and defending the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and for bearing true faith and allegiance to the same. This is the oath each of us took and is the foundation for our service.
Enjoy your families this season and remember the Amputee Coalition is all of us.
Go forth and inspire your world.
John F. Register, CSP
Acting President & CEO