21 April 2013

I wasn’t one of the people glued to my TV last Monday when word of the Boston Marathon bombings hit or last Thursday/Friday as the shoot out in Watertown, Mass., started and eventually ended with the capture of the second suspect. I’m not good with the endless loop of repeated information that gets fed into the 24-hour news cycle, much of it wildly speculative, biased, and just plain wrong.  

When the news is still developing and the news networks have long run out of explaining “who, what, where and when” and there’s no answer yet for “why and how,” the void gets filled in ridiculous ways. Add in the frantic, irresponsible, almost pathological need to be the first to report something, even if it later turns out to be wrong, and all that does is ratchet up my anxiety.  

But since then, I’ve been reading almost everything I can get my hands on about the bombings. I’m grasping for something that will make sense of it all, even though I know that there are senseless, evil acts that can never be fully explained. It’s futile, but I can’t help myself. 

The Los Angeles Times had a story today about the tough recovery facing the amputees. We know there were at least 13, from various news reports. Among others, The Times talked with Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois Congresswoman, who lost both her legs while fighting in Iraq in 2004, about the journey ahead of the Boston victims. Since Duckworth lost her legs, in addition to being elected to public office, she’s run three marathons and earned a new pilot’s license. What an inspiration she is.

(A little side note: As a kid, losing a limb was the stuff of brutal nightmares for me and it’s still one of my biggest fears. Not to inject myself too much here, but it stemmed, in part, from my mom taking me to see “Gone With The Wind” when I was little...maybe 7 or 8. There’s a scene with the wounded Confederate soldiers lying on the ground in some sort of makeshift triage and one of them is about to get his leg amputated with a saw. He’s screaming at the doctor, “Don’t cut! Don’t cut!”  I may have this scene wildly wrong but that’s how I remember it all these decades later and it’s still too traumatizing for me to have ever seen “Gone With The Wind” again. I’m queasy even writing this paragraph.  Thanks, mom.)

The article also talked about the physical and emotional trauma the patients will face as they learn to adapt to their new normal. 

As if dealing with the trauma of losing a limb isn’t enough, the story also stressed, as with so many health issues, the struggle even those who are insured may face in getting the best possible care to ensure that they live as full a life as they can. Insurance companies often limit the number of rehab visits an amputee can have, as well as how much insurance will pay for a prosthetic. Just imagine that you have lost a limb and are dealing with that and your doctors are recommending a prosthetic that will give you the best possible chance at regaining as much function as you can and your insurance company says it will not pay for that, but you can have this other one that may not be best for you but falls within its budget. Then its CEO gets a seven-figure bonus for earning record profits. 

The Amputee Coalition, a national advocacy group for those who have lost limbs, says that 20 states bar dollar limits on prosthetics and it is fighting to make sure the other 30 get in line.  According to a map on its site, it looks like Massachusetts is one of the 20 that has passed the Fair Insurance for Amputee law. 

In addition to its legislative work, the Amputee Coalition also offers peer support and recovery resources for amputees and their families. Today’s $10 goes to the Amputee Coalition.

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