Yesterday was the third running of the Boston Marathon since the tragic bombings. I know this not because I am a particular fan of marathon running, but because my Twitter feed provided me with nonstop updates about various amputees partaking in the event. Inspirational stories featuring the bombing victims triumphantly running the same roads that took their limb just three years earlier were especially popular in my little Twitter universe.
I get it. Humans are drawn to comeback
stories. The marathon victims reclaiming their lives by running the
marathon, only this time utilizing state of the art prosthetics, is as feel good as it
gets. I applaud their efforts and their tenacity. Running 26.1 miles is
an admirable feat for able bodied individuals. Accomplishing the task
while utilizing a prosthetic takes difficult to a new realm.
taking away from the accomplishment of the Boston Victim runners, their
journey is not representative of the average amputee in this country.
Because their limb loss occurred during a terrorist attack, the
country and the prosthetic industry responded quickly and generously.
These individuals were provided with the best rehabilitation specialists
and fitted with state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs. Thanks to the
donations from millions of American's, the Boston Bombing victims are
free to pursue their mobility ambitions without worrying about the
confines of private insurance.
Juxtaposed against the Marathon
Victim runners were a group of amputees representing the Challenged
Athlete Foundation. Perhaps the irony was lost on most, but I couldn't
help but reflect upon the fact that this organization exists to provide
the adapted sporting equipment that insurance typically denies. For the
vast majority of amputees who want to return to sport, a grant from the
Challenged Athletes Foundation is often the only avenue for a running
leg. The one commonality between both groups of amputee runners is the
fact that their sport limbs were provided through donations.
Amputees running marathons and participating in sports is always lauded by society and the mainstream media. Yet the true struggle, the one that is battled before the carbon fiber blade ever touches the pavement, is never explored. Amputees are disabled more by the confines of their own finances and insurance policies than by the physical loss of a limb. In order for all amputees to reach the potential of our marathon peers, we need to remove the barriers preventing access to quality prosthetic devices.