Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Call to Action

Please take the time to read this letter and to call your Congressional representatives. It concerns prosthetic care for Veterans. Thank you!

Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights, H.R. 5428

Earlier today, NAAOP learned that Congressman Filner (D-CA), Chairman
of the House VA Committee, combined NAAOP's bill, H.R. 5428, into
another bill for which he also serves as chief sponsor, the Women
Veterans Bill of Rights (H.R. 5953). He made no amendments to the
bill language but included the entire bill as introduced. He then
placed the bill on the House "suspension calendar." This means that
if two thirds or more of the House does not object, it passes. If
this occurs, a similar procedure would be necessary in the U.S.

This afternoon, as the bill was scheduled to come to the floor and
the ranking Republican on the committee, Congressman Buyer (R-IA),
strongly objected to the process, Chairman Filner pulled the bill
from consideration and said he intends to put the bill up for a vote

We, therefore, have tonight and tomorrow morning to get as many calls
into House Republicans to urge them to vote FOR H.R. 5953 (which
contains our bill-H.R. 5428).

Contact your Congressman today or tomorrow morning by calling the
U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121.

Tell your Congressman to:

o PASS H.R. 5953, the Women Veterans Bill of Rights, which includes
H.R. 5428, the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights.

o The bill will help injured and amputee veterans get the prosthetic
and orthotic care they need to be healthy, functional, independent
and employed.

o The bill will make access to high quality prosthetic and orthotic
care more consistent throughout the country.

o The bill does not cost a dime and simply informs veterans of their
rights so they can be empowered to get the care they need.

o The bill is widely supported by Veteran Service Organizations as
well as over 35 national disability organizations.

o VOTE FOR H.R. 5953, which contains the Injured and Amputee Veterans
Bill of Rights.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request!

PowerFoot Launch

Throughout history there has never been a better time to be an amputee. Developments in the field of prosthetics are enabling amputees to return to active lifestyles, unhindered by their limb loss. Prosthetic limbs are increasingly providing more life-like functions, minimizing the limitations felt by the amputee.

The PowerFoot by iWalk is one of the most anticipated prosthetic advancements in recent years. This is the first prosthesis that is designed to replace muscle function. Instead of positioning the foot when it is unloaded, the PowerFoot technology works to power the amputee as he or she walks.

By replacing the forces lost by the absence of muscle tissue, the PowerFoot enables the amputee to normalize the gait pattern. With training, the amputee's weight is equally distributed through the prosthesis, conserving the sound side. Users of this technology report increased energy and confidence as well as a sense of safety compared to their standard prosthesis. Some wearers report feeling no difference in functioning between their new prosthesis and their sound side foot.

In preparation for its market debut, PowerFoot has just been officially unveiled through the iWalk website. This state of the art prosthesis is currently available for select military personnel and has been receiving rave reviews. The device will be commercially available in the coming months. If you're interested in the PowerFoot, be sure to bring it up at your next visit!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Phantom Pain

Phantom pain, or phantom sensations, is an issue that impacts many amputees. I have discovered that the best fitting socket in the world doesn't alleviate those pesky "phantom pains" which, for me at least, manifest themselves at night. There are a myriad of pharmaceutical treatments, but other amputees have found relief through alternative methods.

Although I haven't completely eliminated the phantom pains, I have greatly reduced their intensity and frequency. I also have a problem with my limb "kicking" at night, involuntarily and sometimes quite rapidly. My husband is thrilled that I have come up with a way to quiet the "cricket leg."

I have started using the HoMedics Shiatsu Massaging Pillow at night. I have found that the deep circular massage, for 15 to 20 minutes every night, treats the stump soreness and drastically decreases the phantom pain issues. For me, the deep massage makes the pain and stinging fade enough so that I can sleep. The pillow was the best $20 I've spent in a long time!

Have you found a non-pharmaceutical treatment for phantom pain? How do you deal with this pain which, as many amputees know, is anything but "phantom?"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What to Expect When you Fly

TSA has been all over the news lately. As you have probably already heard, the agency has modified the screening procedures. The new process directly impacts the amputee traveler. As recommended, you want to arrive to the airport early. This is not a screening process that you can expect to be through within a minute or two.

As of today, is is the procedure you should expect.

1. The amputee is ushered away from the metal detector into a "holding area."

2. The prosthetic should then be wanded to test for explosives. This is supposed to be done by a screener of the same gender.

3. The pat down. The agency has initiated new "thorough" pat down procedures. This consists of feeling inside the shirt collar and the waist of the pants. The arms and legs are also patted down.

Be aware that "thorough" is an apt description. Ladies, your entire breasts will be felt by the back of the screeners hand. All amputees should be prepared to have the buttocks and genital region physically touched during the process. All passengers have the right to a private screening if the public pat down is embarrassing.

After the pat down, the screener runs the explosive detector wand across his or her gloves for a final test. When everything is clear, the amputee is free to pass through security and fly. Unless, of course you are flying through an airport with the Cast Scope.

4. The TSA is unveiling Cast Scope technology at airports across the country. As of today, in our area the only airport affected is BWI. The Cast Scope is a low radiation x-ray machine that allows the screeners to see inside the prosthetic.

If you are traveling through an airport with access to the technology, be prepared to have four to six x-rays taken. This procedure takes time. (I personally have never been through the Cast Scope process in less than 15 minutes.) After the x-ray images are taken and examined, the amputee is cleared for travel.

TSA screening procedures are constantly evolving. We at OPC will do our best to keep you up to date with the changes. Happy traveling!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Limb and Liner Care

The residual limb endures a lot of abuse every day, especially when a prosthesis is worn. The skin is covered with a snug material which restricts the pores ability to breath. Pistoning and rubbing within the socket can cause further irritation. In order to maintain a healthy limb, it is recommended that the amputee take basic steps every day.

The liner should be thoroughly washed daily using a non-abrasive gentle soap. Avoid using harsh detergents as they may embed within the material and cause irritation to the skin. Rinse the liner well and, if possible, allow it to dry thoroughly before donning.

The skin on the residual limb should also be cleaned daily. In order to prevent ingrown and infected hairs, it is the consensus that the limb should not be shaved. Removing the liner for several hours a day, typically at night when sleeping, allows the skin to breath and rest.

Many amputees suffer from dry or cracked skin on their residual limb, especially during the winter months. Applying a lotion or cream can help to moisturize. Over moisturizing the skin before putting on the liner and prosthesis should be avoided. Heavily moisturized skin often becomes too slick to hold the devices.

Simple preventative measures can go a long way to ensure the health of the residual limb. If you have further questions about how to care for your limb, liner or prosthesis, don't hesitate to ask!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Over many years, unequal weight distribution causes wear and tear on the body. Being cognizant of your stance and vigilant about putting full weight through the socket can help, but sometimes more awareness is necessary. It is not unusual for the "good side" to become the prosthetic side after a lifetime of extra duty takes the toll on the non-prosthetic side of the body.

In addition to arthritis and ligament issues, bone strength is also negatively impacted by limb loss. In fact, 100% of all lower extremity amputees experience reductions in bone density after two years. An astounding 80% of all amputees had at least a 28% reduction in their bone density. Just for comparison, a 28% loss brings a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

It is recommended that a routine bone density screening should be included in the yearly physical for all lower extremity amputees. Bone loss can be halted and, if caught early enough, can even be reversed. Know the risks, become educated and talk with your doctor.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Few Helpful Sites

The Internet offers an abundance of information for the amputee and their families. Unfortunately it is also riddled with pitfalls in the form of unsavory individuals looking to exploit and to manipulate. Although amputee support sites are plentiful, it is difficult to find a safe place to communicate freely, to receive and offer support and to exchange information without the intrusion of devotees.

If you want to reach out to others with limb loss, www.empoweringamputees.com has become a powerful resource. You have to register and complete a questionnaire in order to receive access to the site. This process can take several hours to as long as a day or two, depending upon the workload of the administrators. The site has a variety of safeguards to protect its members from unwanted intruders.

Feel free to visit and join the OPC site on Facebook. The ACA webpage also provides links to valuable information. (And a personal plug, www.amputeemommy.com, is this blogger's website that offers an interactive forum, a daily blog and also has a Facebook Fan Page.) If you have found a great Internet resource, please let us know!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meet Ben

Just as every amputee has a story, every practitioner has a tale about how they became involved in the field. Ben has been working as a prosthetist at OPC since 2007. What many of his patients don't realize is that this is actually his second stint at OPC. For two years he worked in the shop building the devices before returning to school to become certified.

Ben graduated from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia with aspirations of training to become a physical therapist. He accepted a position at what is now Shady Grove Adventist Hospital as a PT Assistant and began working in his chosen field. Enter Elliot Weintrob, and everything changed.

Elliot introduced Ben to the world of prosthetics as they collaborated on a patient's treatment. Although he still enjoyed the physical therapy aspects of his job, Ben found himself drawn to "mechanical" tasks and challenges. Unsure what career path to choose, he left the area to move to Denver to train for his Olympic dreams.

During his two years in Denver, Ben discovered sports other than running. He came within seconds of the Olympic qualifying time for the Steeple Chase but opted to pursue other ambitions. He became an avid snowboarder and accepted a job at Comcast Cable.

When Ben returned to the area he contacted Elliot. As luck would have it, there was a technical manufacturing position available at OPC. Ben was offered and accepted the opportunity. He toiled in "the back" with Mark and Angela, manufacturing prosthetic devices and learning about the field for two years.

His career path cemented, he returned to school in 2007 to receive his prosthetic certification. He graduated from Cal State after completing the program and began look for a position. As if by fate, he ran into Elliot at a conference in San Fransisco and the two rekindled their friendship.

Ben returned to the Northern Virginia area, completed his residency at OPC and became Board Certified in 2008. He enjoys his position at OPC and the challenges posed by prosthetics. With everyday offering "variety and something different," he relishes "coming up with unique solutions for different problems. When someone wheels or crutches in and you give them something you built and they walk out, it is one of the biggest perks of the job. It's pretty special. It's why I do what I do."

Settled and happy with his career choice, Ben has no plans to leave the area. He and his girlfriend recently purchased a horse farm (sorry ladies, he is off the market) where he enjoys running, playing with his dogs and riding horses. He is working on articles for publications and is energized about the future of prosthetics. "In the future we will be seeing more functionality in every phase of life. I think that devices will be more durable and mechanical. I'm excited about how the field is evolving. I am definitely doing what I should be doing with my life. "