ACA Meeting Provides Education, Inspiration

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Held July 18-21 in Anaheim, California, the event brought together about 600 amputees, legislators, government staff members, healthcare providers, and others.

The opening ceremonies were a grand event, featuring the actor Robert David Hall as master of ceremonies. A bilateral amputee for many years, he has not allowed his disability to hinder his profession. He has appeared in many television programs, including "The Practice" and, currently, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." He was fit with an Otto Bock C-Leg in June and hopes to be off crutches by September. Hall also emceed the closing ceremonies.

Michael E. Bird, a highly respected national public health consultant and the first native American to serve as president of the American Public Health Association (APHA), was keynote speaker. He was both funny and extremely inspirational. Some of his comments included: "Loss is not less. One can be physically whole, but still lacking. The basic needs for the success of any group or organization are: love, trust, respect, honesty, and reciprocity."

Mary P. Novotny, who, with other female amputees, founded the ACA in 1986, was honored with the Ernest M. Burgess Award for her contributions to improving the lives of people with limb loss.

An Inspirational Meeting

This being my first visit to an ACA conference, I was both inspired and awed by the amputees, the professionalism of the ACA, and the exhibitors, who were all there to interact in a comfortable arena. For ACA members, it must be incredibly rewarding to spend a few days with others who have experienced similar difficulties and triumphs.

The conference attracted 69 young people between 8-18 years old. They visited Disneyland and swam endlessly in the pool, played basketball, rollerbladed, learned martial arts, and spent hours "just being kids." The bio-fit clinic was filled with fitness, education, and fun activities for youth with limb differences.

The conference offered such excellent sessions that it was difficult to choose which to attend. The organizers of the event brought in the best of the best to make them interesting, informative, and inspirational. Spanish translations were offered for the educational sessions.

The social events organized were enjoyable. Ossur sponsored a facility tour and fiesta celebration, which offered a hands-on look at the manufacturing and distribution processes of a large corporation.

The closing ceremonies ended the conference on a high note. With the conference theme, "Reaching for the Stars," the ceremonies remembered the events of September 11. Featured were bilateral amputee skydiver Dana Bowman, Sgt. First Class (Ret.); SSG Matthew F. Hess, who lost his leg recently in Afghanistan; William Glenn Malmskog, a below-knee amputee and firefighter, stuntman, and personal trainer; Jay Yepp, an above-knee amputee and classically trained tenor who has appeared in film, television, and stage productions; and Carl Brashear, the first African-American Navy SEAL master diver, whose life was the subject of the Fox 2000 movie, "Men of Honor." Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., was cast as Brashear, and Robert DeNiro was cast as Master Chief Navy Diver Billy Sunday. Brashear lost his left leg below the knee in an accident in the course of duty.

Next year's event is scheduled for July 4-6 in Boston, Massachusetts. What a wonderful place to spend the Fourth of July-and with such a wonderful group of people. I can't wait!