Saturday, November 19, 2005

Small Things with Great Love

As the Lymphedema Stakeholders bounded the steps of Raymond buildingfor the press conference and then to storm senator's offices, Ithought about all the therapists and patients around the country affected by recent litigation. For those who may not have heard, a recent 2005 Medicare ruling limited therapist reimbursement for lymphedema to PTs, PTAs, OTs, OTAs, and Speech and Language Pathologists. The ruling caught most of the affected therapists and clinics completely unaware. Clinics failed, patients suffered. Mostof us were taken agast, while some did nothing. I thought about the small lymphedema community, and wondered what type of political rifts had formed, were forming, would be formed. I briefly wondered why and how I got involved. But then I rememberedone of Mother Theresa's quotes which states that none of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.

The statement really fits the lymphedema community. Many people with different educational backgrounds, who became therapists by falling into it or being drawn into it by seeing an unfit need. Perhaps this is what drove the Lymphedema Stakeholder's foreward with such passion on to capital hill. It was the remembrance of decades past where there were few adequately trained therapists, the knowledge that many withlymphedema still go untreated and do not have access to proper care.It was the knowledge that our treatments worked and decreased morbidity and mortality. That our knowledge and a few products hadthe ability to reach out and do small things with great love as we treated someone with lymphedema.

So we held our press conference and made our points. Physicians, therapists, and passionate backers, all with the common goal of improving lymphedema care in our country. We took our passion to the senators and congressmen on Capital Hill. I was surprised how openly we were received in their offices, mostly full of young energetic staff full of optimism. I was impressed how they listened to our plight with interest and took notes and made full effort to understand the situation. I left with a completely restored faith in our democratic system, despite all its faults and interparty bickering which often dominates the news.

By the end of the trip, we had secured a key senator to sponsor a bill and reverse the ruling, and met with senior health care policymakers who could help make this happen. It was as if someone above was watching our small band of warriers for a cause and guiding our small voices so they could be heard.

There is much still to be done, and it must be done quickly. We need patients and therapists to write and visit their senators and congressmen and raise awareness of this issue. If the ruling is not overturned this session, it will require going through the Congressional Budget Office, which complicates the bill and slows the timing to pass the reversal. Still, at this point I am optimistic that a quick reversal is very possible, and the optimist inside me insists it will happen soon.

With these thoughts, I look to our future as therapists, patients and physicians. I see great possibilities if we can correct this injustice and right this wrong. I see the ability for us to move forward in improving standard-of-care, and not backwards.

I see hope for the future to develop a more structured certification training process so we can ensure standard-of-care for all patients. I see hope that the NLN will be able to take a leadership role in promoting this standard-of-care, and advancing it as our knowledge and treatment ability increases.

Along with this, I hope to see mended fences and a continued focus on serving our patients as humble servants to their plight -- working in our own Mother Theresa like way to do small things with great love as we care for our patients.

Lymphedema Stakeholders

No comments: