Turning Dreams to Promises

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By Judy Hettinga

Returning to Nashville, Tennessee, after a decade-long absence, the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) hosted a record 726 attendees at the 14th Annual Educational Conference & Exposition, August 57, making it evident that its mission to reach out to people with limb loss and to empower them is a continuing success. During the three-day conference, visitors examined new, innovative, and assistive products; attended technology sessions hosted by conference exhibitors; aided peers; brushed up their two-step and gait skills; and built or renewed friendships.

What's New?

The fact that the ACA celebrated its 15th birthday this year should not lead you to assume it is resting on its laurels. According to Board Chairman David McGill, the exposition theme "Turning Dreams to Promises," means taking old commitments and making them new. These projects include enhanced partnership with Walter Reed Army Medical Center, closer affiliation with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), improved peer visitation and support, a multi-cultural outreach, and two new publications: Connections and Senior Step.

ACA President and CEO Paddy Rossbach, RN, outlined the revamped Access to Care initiative, describing it as a milestone on the road to "&ensuring that everyone has access to the very, very best of care."

Another "Dream to Promise" was ACA's input resulting in revised screening guidelines for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). With a view toward enabling persons with disability, Sandra Cammaroto, Department of Homeland Security, provided complete information and a full demonstration of screening procedures. Visit www.tsa.gov for specifics.

VA/ACA Partner

VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi, keynote speaker, thanked veterans in the audience and discussed some of the horrors related to the war in Iraq and the ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom. Among returning injured service personnel to date are 144 upper- or lower-limb amputees. "Sadly," said Principi, "defense of freedom has been paid for in loss of limbs."

Principi pointed out that our way of life hinges on our embrace of technology--always seeking better solutions. He shared his heartfelt hope that VA research and treatment advances would help all mankind.

Talking or Communicating?

Much encouraged during the conference was true communication between patient and healthcare professional. Why is this such a challenge? According to statistics presented by Joanne Schwartzberg, MD, 21 percent of Americans have inadequate functional literacy and are unable to read for content. An additional 27 percent have marginal literacy. They have difficulty deciphering numbers, charts, calculations--much of what a prescription, post-op care, or device instructions would normally include.

Since nearly half of all Americans can be classified as having "health literacy problems," there is a danger that "a disconnect in communication can lead to patient confusion, frustration, helplessness, or serious consequences," stated Schwartzberg. Guidelines for medical professionals to deliver care in an open, shame-free environment as well as specific, simple questions a patient might use to request clarification were shared.

All Work and No Play...

Otto Bock reception attendees.
Otto Bock reception attendees.

However, ACA is certainly not all work and no play! A packed Welcome Reception was closely followed by dessert, games, and prizes at the Standing Room Only C-Leg Reception hosted by Otto Bock Healthcare.

Twenty-four hours later, attendees were out on the town, invited to "cut a rug or just sit back and enjoy the show" at Nashville's premier dinner/dance/party place, the Wildhorse Saloon. A great dinner was followed by the first-ever ACA Runway Fashion Show, sponsored by Freedom Innovations, and a live band cranked out tunes until the wee hours.

And after one last day of education and information, there was a final blast of motivation. Closing Ceremony keynote speaker Warren MacDonald, climbing instructor, author, motivational speaker, adventurer, and amputee, summed it all up: "Nothing is impossible when we dare to face our dreams and believe in ourselves."

Don't wait; make your reservations now for the 2005 ACA Annual Educational Conference & Exposition to be held in Dallas, Texas, August 11-13. It's sure to be more exciting than ever!