Charity formed to help amputees
An attempt to create a special clinic for amputees in Bermuda has been launched, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
Ryan Gibbons, of the non-profit organisation A New Life, said a prosthetics clinic would make a huge difference to the 300 people on the island who have lost a limb.
The organisation will hold its first tag day today and has launched a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for the clinic.
Mr Gibbons, an award-winning bartender who lost his leg as a result of a 2008 motorbike crash, said yesterday: “I just ran May 24.
“Afterwards, I was bleeding from behind my knee where my prosthesis is. That could be fixed if I could go into a clinic right now, but I don't have access.
“The only way I get that is if I either send my device up to Boston, which means I can't do anything until it's done, or I have to fly away and get it sorted and then I'm losing work.”
He explained that an on-island prosthetics clinic would be able to measure patients for artificial limbs, make them and keep them in good working order without the need for patients to leave the island or ship their prosthetics overseas.
Mr Gibbons said the clinic would also help to keep costs down for patients.
He explained: “There is no full-time clinic for prosthetics here, and insurance offers roughly $100,000 for prosthetics, but in some cases the companies don't want to make that portable.
“So there's no one who makes prosthetics here, but if you want to go away, that means you won't be covered by insurance all the time.”
He added that many people are unaware of the high cost of artificial limbs, and their sometimes limited use.
Mr Gibbons said the artificial limb he used to run cost around $30,000 and if he wanted to do other sports he would need a different one.
He added: “Triathlon people have asked me why I don't get into the biking. To get another device for biking would be another $20,000 and insurance doesn't necessarily want to cover it.”
Mr Gibbons said in addition to assisting those who need artificial limbs, a clinic would be able to help those who needed orthopaedics, which would help make the project more economically sustainable.
He added: “We see with the cancer centre how it is reducing some of the costs.
“It is definitely reducing the patient stress levels because they don't have to travel out of their comfort zones.”
Mr Gibbons and LeKiesha Wolffe, the executive director of A New Life, who lost a leg in a 2013 motorbike crash, said artificial limbs suffered wear and tear which was worsened by Bermuda's humidity and the salt in the air.
Ms Wolffe, a mother of two, said having her leg shipped overseas for repairs or travel overseas affected her family life.
She said: “I have to go back to Boston in a few weeks because it is causing lumps under my skin and I'm not sure if I'm allergic to the silicone piece I'm using.
“I have two kids, so I have to find someone to watch them.
“I need someone to travel with me because I'm an above-the-knee amputee and I need someone to help me with my wheelchair.”
She added that the additional expenses might not be covered by insurance which left some patients with an extra financial burden.
Ms Wolffe said A New Life did not know how much it would cost to open a clinic but had set an initial fundraising target of $200,000 to get started.
Mr Gibbons said the figure would “just scratch the surface”, but it would mark the first step towards a service that would improve people's lives.
He added: “While I've been running the miles, LeKiesha has been putting in the paperwork. Now it's about coming together to serve people and help them find their best quality of life.”
• For more information about A New Life, which has been issued temporary fundraising licence number T2055, visit www.anewlifebda.org or phone 292-5570 ext 224. Donations can be made at Butterfield Bank account 0604002420010