Today is the hearing! I'm so excited, nervous, terrified and honored to be here to speak on behalf of the amputee community. I wanted to share my opening statement. Wish me luck!
My name is Peggy Chenoweth, and I am a mother, wife, friend, author and employee who happens to have a below knee amputation. When I was in the third grade I read a book about Helen Keller, and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was going to be a teacher for the blind and help unlock the potential of the visually impaired. I never wavered from my dream, earning my Master's degree and a 4.0 GPA from Michigan State University 1997.
Fresh out of graduate school I was offered my dream job of providing rehabilitation services to recently blinded adults. Every day I was making a difference and helping somebody reach a new goal. With the exception of lacking a boyfriend, my life was perfect. On March 12, 1997 everything changed when a computer fell on my foot, ultimately leading to my amputation.
I was fit with a standard prosthetic and assumed that I would resume life as normal. I didn't know any better. I didn't expect everything to be so hard. From simply walking upstairs to trying to keep up with my students, I struggled. I was devastated when I lost my private insurance as an Orientation and
Mobility instructor. While I could still teach rehab skills, I was no
longer "safe" teaching students how to use the white cane. As my mobility and life became more difficult, I turned to Snickers to cope. I gained 100 pounds during the first year after my amputation.
Obese, pre-diabetic and depressed. I assumed that this was normal because I was an amputee. I didn't know better. Thankfully my prosthetist, using his professional knowledge and experience, recognized my potential. He recognized that my walking was laborious and that the prosthetic was not the right device for me. Because he is a highly trained professional, he knew that my prosthetic foot was limiting me. He asked me to trial a new foot, a microprocessor ankle system.
My prosthetist unlocked my potential by providing that microprocessor ankle. I began walking with ease, and my confidence soared. I lost 100 pounds, resumed my dream job and started my family. In other words, I regained my life. Because my prosthetist was able to both recognize my potential and provide the device necessary to reach it, I have achieved more on one leg than I ever dreamed possible when I had two.
The decision to disregard the potential in prosthetic fittings will lead to the further disabling the community. Because my potential was recognized and accounted for through my prosthetic, I was able to return to work and realize my dreams. I urge this committee to continue to recognize the prosthetic potential of those living with limb loss. We may be missing legs, but we have a lot to offer the world. Please don't limit our potential. Thank you for your time, and for listening to me this morning. I would like to offer myself to serve should you decide to form an advisory committee to create a proposal that makes fiscal sense without disabling the amputee community.