Make New Friends, But Keep the Old....

“Make new friends, but keep the old…” goes an old childhood rhyme.  And that is what happened at the June 15, 2016 evening edition of the Amputee Walking School.  With the highest number of attendees ever, the event (more formally known as Advanced Gait Training for Individuals with Lower Extremity Amputations) boasted a number of returning participants as well as new ones - including a group of youngsters who met each other for the first time, and were very intent on playing with each other. One of these enterprising young toddlers decided to investigate some of the equipment the adults were working on, and was determined to master walking on the treadmill. Another decided that weightlifting was more his style.

Other attendees greeted each other like old friends and welcomed the first timers.  The University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute welcomed back Dennis Oehler and Todd Schaffhauser for the popular program. Todd and Dennis are both individuals with amputation who were Gold medalists in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, and now travel around the country with this event. Hosted locally by the Amputee Support Group, and co-sponsored by Dankmeyer Inc. Prosthetics and Orthotics, the program is designed for people with lower extremity amputation.  Free to participants and their families, amputees are encouraged to attend all sessions, in order to gauge their progress and introduce them to new exercises.  Many clinical volunteers participate, including physical therapists and prosthetists.  As this particular event was in the evening following a session of Certified Peer Visitors training from the Amputee Coalition, many of the newly certified joined in the fun as well!  

The Dankmeyer-sponsored Amputee Coalition (AC) Certified Peer Visitor (CPV) training took place during a day long program leading up to the evening event.  Coordinated by Dankmeyer, thirteen trainees attended the classes lead by instructors from the Amputee Coalition.  These candidates had to submit an application to AC to be considered for the program.  

The CPVs' enthusiastic response underscored the need for enhanced amputee peer support in our region. These new CPVs - including both amputees and parents of amputees - should enable us to leverage some of the resources that were gathered at the AC June 2016 conference to better serve new amputees. A member of Dr Stephen Wegener's program development team (Promoting Amputee Life Skills, or PALS) has expressed interest in enabling the new CPVs to administer the PALS program for Dankmeyer's new amputee patients. The soon-to-launch online version of this program utilizes 8 "self-management lessons", each requiring approximately 25 minutes to complete,  and the idea is to offer all new Dankmeyer patients an opportunity to meet with a CPV who can facilitate PALS training and by so doing, work with new patients over an extended period of time.

Our hope is that such a program will help to ensure that our new patients begin acquiring the skills they need to participate effectively in their care plans, from the onset of treatment. Discussions with parents of amputee children at the CPV training session have emphasized the fact that a significant percentage of child amputees' parents feel a need for a more effective parent peer support group within our local limb loss community. One of our young patient's parents is especially interested in creating a local Parent Peer Support Group in coordination with Dankmeyer and a local institution, and I am currently reaching out to the staff there,  the Association of Children's Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics (ACPOC), and the International Child Amputee Network (I-CAN) to get advice regarding how to best develop a parent-led peer support group for our local area.

Enjoy some pictures from then June 2016 Amputee Walking School here: