Another Amputee Walking School come and gone! Wednesday, November 15, 2017 saw the final session of 2017 take place. Co-hosted by Dankmeyer, Inc. and the staff from the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute (UMROI) at the UMROI campus, the third session of 2017 was well attended. This event, more formally known as Advanced Gait Training for Individuals with Lower Extremity Amputations, features two segments. The afternoon segment from 1pm -5pm is a learning session for professionals, followed by a session from 5pm - 7pm where those with lower limb loss and their families come to work with the pros on various kinds of exercises.
All of this is under the guidance of the founders of the Amputee Walking School, which is designed to bring Para-Olympians and self-styled “professional amputees” Todd Schaffhauser and Dennis Oehler together with other amputees and their families, physical therapists, prosthetists and support staff. The goal is to teach and practice training exercises for lower limb amputees. Todd and Dennis, both lower limb amputees, co-founded the Amputee Walking School (AWS) in 1989 to take amputees beyond traditional rehabilitation.
Previous attendees know that these two guys know how to have fun while they are teaching and encouraging participants in all this hard work! This session was no exception. They lectured in class, they demonstrated exercises, and then moved around the room to work with attendees individually. And boy was it fun! With the emphasis on "boy"!
We almost always have a few young people with limb loss come - and by young we would be speaking of the under thirteen crowd in this case. Sometimes these young people are far more interested in things like kicking a ball, running, or obstacle courses than their adult counterparts are. Todd and Dennis know how to make these juniors feel right at home, with exercises designed to hold their interest and channel some energy, too!
This time one of our regular young attendees, Emerson Spekis, welcomed eleven year old Julian Maldonado. Unlike Emerson, Julian was very new at this prosthesis stuff, having become an amputee in January after surviving necrotizing fasciitis and a coma. Julian had actually come quite a way to attend, flying in from Corpus Christi, TX especially for Walking School, with his mom Jennifer and his physical therapist Mandy Alaniz. He came because he wants to learn to run because he wants to play baseball, and he also really enjoys wade fishing (check out his socket design.)
Jennifer and Mandy spent some time chatting with Dankmeyer Practice Liaison, Toni Robinson, who has attended every session of AWS for the past few years. Toni learned some amazing things that they shared with us. This young man:
—Had necrotizing fasciitis...30% chance of survival, he had 21 surgeries in 60 days.
—Was in a coma for 5 days. His family worried the entire time about how to tell him that he would be an amputee when he woke up. Julian's mom Jennifer shared that she was so afraid that he would cry and be upset. Instead, he said, “I understand, they have to take my leg to save my life.” He never shed one tear.
—Since his amputation Julian has gone to the hospital and talked to a little girl with a new amputation to let her know that it is going to be ok.
And what does this young man have to say about it? “Everyone is strong, they just don’t know it!” Wisdom from an eleven year old.