Empowering others: sharing experiences, ideas; offering creative solutions to common challenges.


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Braveheart

    A few days ago, I shared a true story with all of you. I was surprised to find out that the perception of others in the country I was visiting was very different  than the country from which I hail. For some reason, I had not expected this reaction. Why? Silly me! I had just assumed that we were, well, of similar cultures. Or perhaps I did not think of this at all. I do know that I had not anticipated this event or this perception. I also know that I choose my prosthesis for the function it gives me and have tailored it to the appearance that suits me. -Bravery regarding this decision never entered my mind! (You have checked out my very savvy arm, right? -My point is that it suits me: classic with a modern twist, highly functional, simple, accessible and powered by my personal reserves) To someone else, my prosthesis might look like Dr. Strangeglove the villain  from an old James Bond movie. It's the black hand of..... function, durability,  streamlined appearance.  I really love this prosthesis; it fits me. And guess what... you meet me, notice the prosthesis, ask your questions (or trust me, I answer them anyway) and then... you forget about the prosthesis and see me. By the time you 'know' me, you forget that I am any more different than anyone else. Gee, what a concept: we are ALL 'different'!
    OK, back to my story: When I spoke of the experience on the train to my colleagues at the symposium, they explained to me that most people (in that country) who use a prosthesis typically wear a cosmetic hand in public; not a utilitarian design such as the hook or the Adept. These very functional terminal devices are reserved for the workplace. In the United States individuals with an upper extremity limb deficiency have several options: no prosthesis, passive /cosmetic (but still functional! -we'll discuss this another time) prosthesis; activity-specific  prosthesis, body-powered prosthesis; myo-electric prosthesis, electronic prosthesis.... the list goes on.  My point is that there are many options and the choices are dependent upon consumer preferences, residual limb length, age, life style, funding sources... So how does one choose the "correct" prosthesis and why does one choose what they do? These questions have been among those asked by investigators for decades. Investigators include consumers and clinicians.
    I am a consumer of the prosthesis industry because I have a trans-radial (below-elbow) limb deficiency and choose to wear a prosthesis. I am a clinician as a registered occupational therapist and have a passion to empower people who are attempting to overcome obstacles. Although I have personal preferences (such as choosing to use a prosthesis), as a clinician I understand that my clients have unique preferences as well.-That is one of the reasons that we are individuals! -and I have learned to respect their perceptions.  As an investigator, I am curious about preferences of individuals and groups,  what works best for the individuals in areas of functional ability, self-esteem and social rituals; why these components (or none) work well  or don't at all; and looking for any common denominators. As a consumer-clinician-researcher, I am wary of believing evidence that cites any particular item (be it technology, method, etc)  as being the end-all  and answer to solving all of the challenges faced by an individual with upper extremity limb deficiency (or deficiencies) and open-minded enough to know that many different components, strategies, can work to create function, independence, satisfaction, happiness. Personal happiness.
Remember, we are talking about a prosthesis; the goal of which is to become a natural extension of the (residual) limb; as it relates -or is worn/used by individuals....
   Ahhhh; the power of one.  Think about it: the power of one. ONE! Individual preferences, strategies, talents, interests, strengths working together. "One" can make a difference...
                     You are one being who can make a difference.

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