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Insights from our prosthetists about new technology, advances in prosthetics, & more

Dorsey Vengrouski

May 20, 2013

Dorsey lives with her husband John and their son Delian in Upper Marlboro, MD.

When I was 12 years old, I was hit by a drunk driver going 60 mph. I was on a bicycle. I went through nearly four decades of surgeries for the damage. In 2000, my doctors told me, “We can try re-breaking your leg or try to refuse it or we can do an amputation below the knee.” At that time I was 50 years old. I took a year to think it over– asked people in an amputee group about their experiences. In 2001, I did the amputation.

Meeting MCOP:
In 2003, by mere coincidence, I happened upon someone from MCOP. I talked to him and I liked the feeling I got from that conversation. Plus, I liked that they’d come to you at your home or office. Before I found MCOP, a lot of the prosthetists that I was talking to were telling me that I was going to get this and that and that’s it. The MCOP approach was to tell me I might want this or that; their approach is different. So I went with them and stayed with them the whole time I have had my prosthetic. It’s unique for a patient to stay with the same prosthetist. Usually patients hop around to a few. I have no reason to look around for anybody else. That’s how you know they’re getting it right because if you’re not happy you’re going to look around.

Working with MCOP:
They immediately put me in a leg and they have just been fantastic. When something came up, they’d make me a new socket– they have been so patient. I had to have a new socket every three months to suit my limb’s needs. They worked really hard. They have just been fantastic and they supported everything I wanted to do. They’ve been there for me– getting me the best leg I could get with my insurance. They’re always there for me trying to help me get better. I’m one of these 24-7 people– I wear this like it’s a real leg. The only difference is I put it on in the morning.

They really listen to what you’re saying. A lot of times all I can say to them is ‘it’s not right,’ and they have to figure out what that means. That’s what I like about them– they take time, they get it just right. Being a woman, they don’t make you feel like you shouldn’t be attractive and I like that about them. We get along great. Having a prosthetist is like getting married, you have to be able to talk to them and they have to want to listen to you.

I started in a walker, progressed to a cane and now I need no assistance at all. After the amputation it took two or three months in the clinic learning how to walk, but I never looked back. I was happy to be rid of the pain and not need surgery every two years. Now when I have to do something, they get a new socket, try it out, adjust it and I walk back out the door. It’s wonderful.

Challenges and Achievements:
The PROPRIO FOOT prosthetic assists your ankle and helps you walk– uphill and everything. So there’s no dragging. I dance. I love to dance. Two or three years before the amputation I couldn’t dance because it hurt so badly, I had to give it up. It took me a long time after the amputations because I didn’t feel like I could perform but my teacher talked me back into performing and I’m just loving it. And here’s the real kick about it– I do Middle Eastern belly dance! I use swords and veils and all that stuff. I have a ‘pirate-themed’ persona as well that I do for volunteer work related to Multiple Sclerosis. The persona’s name is ‘Peg Leg Meg.’ I’ve been back to dancing for three years now.

It’s the individual attention that makes such a difference. When you go in, you are the only person they’re talking to. They focus on you and what you’re doing and they’re so accommodating. They’ll come to you if you need them to– your home, office, anywhere. When they’re dealing with you it’s not like they’re this big organization and you’re just another person. You’re not really a patient, you’re like a friend or partner—they’re a part of what you’re trying to do and achieve. They care about things like: Are you going to be happy? Do you stay home? Do you like to go out? Do you use the metro? Do you enjoy the night life? What do you want to do and go back to doing? They want you to have a lifestyle that is as good as it can be, whatever your situation might be, and they work so hard to get it right.

They really have spent the time to learn the new technologies that are coming out. They work a lot with wounded warriors so they know the new systems. They study it all and get certified with the new technology. They know the different people out there, and because they’re well-respected and well-informed with what they do, I think they have a very good ability to get an answer for someone who may be having difficulty. They’re not going to sell you the hottest new toy because it’s out there. They want to get the right thing for you and that may not be the most costly thing out there.

Move Forward:
When I say there’s something else I want to do, they’ll say try this and they’ll make an adjustment. MCOP made it possible for me to go ride a horse, with a special foot in a certain position. And now I have the PROPRIO that I can set at different heel heights. So that allows me to do my dancing versus my work.

I want to be able to go down stairs and I can’t do that without holding the hand rail. My right knee doesn’t seem to want to do it. But we are working on it, and they will help me get there.

This is important because I want to always be active. My biggest fear is going back to a wheelchair– I hated that. They’re giving me the ability to stay on my feet. With these guys, they’re going to care enough and work with me enough so I can stay mobile.

This is why they’re so good. They are extremely patient and available. There’s not a time where I called and didn’t get a call back. These are the kinds of folks that should be doing this and it’s clear they hold that high standard for themselves.

That’s who they are and who they expect themselves to be. If I had met them right at the start before I had the amputation, I probably would not have had the issues I had. It was by accident I found them. I couldn’t ask for better people– I’m so pleased. To them it’s a puzzle and there will be an answer.

There’s nothing like the look on Mike’s face when you’re able to get up and do something; he gets such a kick out of being able to make that happen. It’s truly a gift that they’re giving. I think our responsibility as patients is not to waste that gift; take it and run like heck with it.

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