Ervin: DIY Adaptive Printing

By | 2017-01-13T20:41:36+00:00 February 1st, 2016|
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ErvinIt seems that some stupid new proposed Medicare reimbursement rule changes regarding prosthetic devices have a lot of amputees up in arms (or at least those amputees who have arms).

One of the stupidest things the new rules would do is require amputees to prove that they can walk with a “natural gait” using an artificial limb before the limb would be covered by Medicare, according to the pissed-off amputees. They also say Medicare would no longer pay for prosthetics for amputees who sometimes use other mobility devices like a wheelchair, crutches or canes. The proposed changes were issued five days after the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. What a bunch of party poops those Medicare bigwigs are!

I can relate to the stress my limb-challenged cripple comrades feel about all this. Wheelchair cripples have often had to deal with this same Medicare crap. Why, even as we speak, some folks are raising a stink about a new Medicare policy they say will significantly reduce what Medicare pays for customized wheelchair stuff like cushions, recline/tilt systems and drive controls.

So I feel bad for the amputees, but still they’re pretty lucky. At least there’s light at the end of the political tunnel for them. I’m talking about 3-D printers. People make all kinds of crazy stuff with those things these days, including limbs. I see where a father in Massachusetts used a 3-D printer to make a functioning prosthetic for his 5-year-old son, who was born without fingers on his left hand. There’s an organization called e-NABLE, which uses a network of volunteers to make prosthetic hands using printers. The hands are then given free to people who need them.

And a lot of these homemade limbs are multicolored and really cool looking. They draw attention to the limb rather than playing that futile game of trying to make the limb look “realistic.” That never fooled anybody anyway. It’s like a comb-over.

All this makes me wonder what would have happened if Geppetto, the lonely woodcarver who whittled up Pinocchio, had a 3-D printer. No doubt he would have used it to create his perfect little boy instead of messing around with wood. And as soon as he saw the boy come to life, he would have rushed back to his studio and quickly drawn up plans to print up a buxom young woman. It also makes me wonder about this girl who was my fifth grade classmate at the segregated cripple school in the 1960s. They sent her to the segregated cripple school because she didn’t have a nose. There was nothing else crippled about her. She had a crude, homemade nose that looked like somebody made it for her out of clay. It was literally glued to her face and sometimes it fell off. These days, somebody could probably print her a new nose. And the nose could be hot pink or some cool color like that so she could flaunt it. “Check out my badass nose!”

But my point is, at least amputees can dare to dream of the dawn of a glorious day when they will no longer be caught in the evil tug of war between manufacturers of cripple products that charge a zillion bucks for their goods and the government that doesn’t want to pay for anything that costs more than a nickel. The amputees will soon be able to tell them all to go jump off a high bridge.

But what about wheelchair cripples? I see where some people used a 3-D printer to make a wheelchair for a crippled cat. That’s good news for crippled cats. Soon they too will no longer have to deal with Medicare. And some people have used 3-D printers to make ramps and parts for manual wheelchairs and motorized wheelchair stuff like joysticks. But as far as I can tell, nobody has ever printed up a big honkin’ loaded power chair like the one I ride.

Will that day ever come? Maybe soon. Maybe never. Who knows? If only I was a damn cat.