Before this blog is read, I would like to clarify a few things. First, I love animals. We have two cats in our home whom we consider to be members of our family. Second, we have gone to extraordinary measures to keep our pets happy and active, including ordering a doggy wheelchair when my childhood dog could no longer use his back legs. Third, animal "feel good" stories typically make me smile. Nothing compares to the complete devotion offered by a pet to his caretaker.
Lately both the mainstream and social media have been abuzz with stories featuring an animal using a prosthetic. In the past two weeks, I have read articles about a horse, an elephant, two cats and a turtle. All of these animals would have been put down had it not been for the generosity of the public and the gumption of a veterinarian willing to try.
The first few articles featuring limbless animals made me smile. How wonderful, I thought, that prosthetic technology is helping our little four (now three or two) legged friends. After reading the article about the turtle who has been fitted with a wheel, my happiness began to turn into frustration.
I can't help wonder how the thousands of amputees who cannot afford a prosthetic feel when reading about the community rallying around a turtle. It must be horribly frustrating to realize that a turtle has received more support, admiration and financial assistance to regain mobility!
Many people assume that insurance along with Medicaid/Medicare will pick up the financial burden of a prosthetic. While these programs pay for some of the cost, many amputees incur costs of thousands of dollars to pay for a basic prosthetic.
Insurance and government assistance programs often pay only for 80%. At a time when a basic prosthetic leg ranges from $10,000 to $35,000, coming up with the additional 20% is many times not financially feasible. When the prosthetic lifetime cap is met, the amputee is left with a choice: a hefty bill or no prosthetic. Factoring in the medical costs accrued from the amputation and time off work, the new amputee is left both financially and emotionally drained.
The article about the wheeling turtle, which was meant to be a feel good, light-hearted story, gave me pause. I read about how the community rallied behind the reptile raising upwards of $25,000 to fit him with a wheel. I couldn't help but think about the new amputee who had just learned that he cannot afford the "luxury" of walking again. It must be a horrible play second fiddle to a turtle!
I certainly don't begrudge these injured animals receiving the gift of prosthetic mobility. I just wish that the public would rally behind their amputee neighbors to offer the same level of support. Personally, I would rather contribute to help my neighbor gain a leg so that he can return to a more normal life than to a turtle who wheels around a zoo pen!