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On the Move

by: Leah Hoenen - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You know the line: "Farewell, adieu, auf weidersehen, goodbye."

After a whirlwind two weeks knocking out stories on bills, websites and speech generating devices (my absolute favorite story here), I am heading off to a new venture doing communications work for an environmental research firm.

Thanks for giving me a brief, but enlightening, glimpse into your industry. I've learned a lot about products I never knew existed and about the people who need them. It's been great working with you!

by: Leah Hoenen - Friday, August 29, 2014

It hasn’t taken too long for the Internet-craze of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to reach our corner of the universe.

I’ve honestly not paid attention to this social-media phenomenon, other than laughing at a particularly off-centric friend who stood for a while in a disposal bin of ice up to his neck. Otherwise, I’ve been cheering on the Rice Bucket challenge.

But, as Don Clayback pointed out before dousing himself with ice water, the ALS fundraiser and National CRT Awareness Week are like hand and glove, as people with ALS often rely on CRT. It’s perfect timing really to get the word out about the importance of CRT and a separate benefit for it!

Clayback passed the challenge along to Numotion’s Gary Gilberti, Monroe’s Doug Westerdahl and U.S. Rehab’s Greg Packer. 

Team Amigo joined in this week, and further challenged three other Michigan companies to take part. And, Numotion’s in the game with its Apex, N.C., team members doing a group challenge after Bill Boyce, vice president for the Southeast, was soaked earlier this week.

We’ll keep our eyes out for more YouTube links.

by: Leah Hoenen - Monday, August 11, 2014

It’s hardly the middle of August, and the weather in Maine is taking a decidedly autumnal turn. We hear crickets instead of frogs, the dew is heavier and slower to dry, and it’s time for the last cutting of hay—seriously, nothing caps a work day like stacking a hundred bales of hay!

Over the summer, I’ve developed this pattern here at HME News. Every two to three weeks, Managing Editor Theresa Flaherty emails or stops in and says, “Time to blog,” and I spend the afternoon hunched over a notepad, wracking my brain for a blog topic. She’s reminded me two or three times to write this particular installation. If they keep a performance log, I bet I’m racking up some serious demerits in this category.

It’s not so much that I hate blogging as that I’m really, really forgetful. This morning, for instance, a certain Officer Young from Cumberland County Police Department was kind enough to pull me over on my way to work and let me know my car registration is overdue. By 221 days. I’m sure at some point I meant to do it, but then other things happened, and here’s me with a court date in September.

Nobody relishes the car registration process (which, in Maine, is exorbitantly expensive, by the by), but blogging … It really can’t be this hard.

Short-term memory aside, here’s the problem: I rarely know what to write, what you fine folks find interesting, or want to read about in a blog on our website. 

So, what do you want to see here? We can talk farming in Maine, food, wars, current events, happy mobility stories gathered from the interwebs, crazy news stories … I’m open to suggestions.

by: Leah Hoenen - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We’re entering our second day of clouds and heavy rain in southern Maine. We absolutely need the precip, but the weather’s pretty uninspiring.

Yes, I’d rather be napping.

I usually get started here trolling Twitter and Googling to see what’s going on in the world, and it’s always a better day when I unearth some good news first thing in the morning.

Cool products, like the Paramobil device featured in this story, fall squarely in that category.

It’s a greens-friendly wheelchair that allows the user to stand up to play sports, like golf.

I’ve been prohibited from sporting only a few times, and those stretches of a few months felt like forever to me. I can’t imagine not being able to play, and love seeing innovations that allow more people to stay in the game, even after devastating injuries. 

And, the Stand Up and Play foundation, in Wisconsin, has some of the devices for use free of charge. It’s good stuff.

Lucky me, I also came across a story about a dog, and I’m such a sucker for dog stories (we have three: Barley, Beagle the Beagle and Fafnir, a livestock guardian dog named after a dragon in Wagner’s Ring—seriously). 

When Florida dog Wally, a Jack Russell, became paralyzed his owner headed to her local Home Depot for some wheelchair-building supplies. She got a whole lot more: two Home Depot staffers built Wally a wheelchair themselves, and the store wouldn’t charge for supplies.

It’s good timing, since my husband and I were discussing our old dog’s need for a wheelchair just last weekend. A lifelong fetch fanatic, Barley is paying the price in a big way with arthritic paws and wrists. Along with lots of supportive therapy, we’re toying with the idea of making a sling system to get her off her front paws.

If we make it past the prototype stage, I’ll post pictures.

by: Leah Hoenen - Friday, June 20, 2014

Just before Theresa and Jo packed their bags and headed for the Heartland Conference, I hopped on a plane going the other way.

Although I’m appropriately awestruck by the careers of Napoleon and Wellington, we skipped the real Waterloo and headed instead for Normandy.

The seventieth anniversary of D-Day has long been billed as the last gathering of the liberators and they were certainly there in force. 

Some relied on walkers or were pushed in wheelchairs. Others took the controls of the planes they flew on D-Day, went underwater to see their old submarines and parachuted again into France. When his care home couldn’t arrange travel, Britain’s Bernard Jordan took matters into his own hands and left for Normandy, triggering a police search at home.

For the last handful of years, at least, most of us 20th-century types have been caught up in concern over the impending disappearance of WWII vets and the need to capture all their stories before they’re gone. 

We’ve watched them retire, slow down, decrease in number. A friend of mine routinely recites the rate at which American WWII vets are dying. Grim, I know.

In Normandy and in Belgium, I had the privilege of seeing hundreds of veterans and meeting several. 

They’re obviously not as young as they once were—not quite ready for the Olympics, my grandmother would say—but they were lively and busy and having a good time on their tour.

I listened to infantrymen talk with my cousin Franz about the Battle of the Bulge, hearing the stories of the liberators and the liberated. Franz, an avid history buff, grew up in Rocherath, Belgium, and went into the Ardennes as a child to unearth and play with relics from the battle.

The veterans, to a man, were humble and modest about their service and the role they played in liberating Europe. It was an honor to see them, to listen to their stories and to consider the debarquement through their perspective.

by: Leah Hoenen - Monday, May 12, 2014

From plans of attack to capturing markets and outflanking competitors, business loves a good war reference, right? But this month it seems like more people than not are talking about fighting.

In the cartoon meeting for our last issue, I had suggested an image of a provider going over the top, running through a hail of bullets fired from CMS snipers. Too dramatic? Probably.

A few days later, I talked with an Ohio provider about the classic text The Art of War (not a bad read, by the way). 

Then, Managing Editor Theresa Flaherty told me one of her contacts referenced Benghazi. 

On the first day of last month’s National CRT Leadership & Advocacy Conference, Pride Mobility Products CEO Scott Meuser had this to say: “We need to recognize we’re in a fight—we’ve got to act like we’re in a fight,” Scott Meuser, chairman and CEO of Pride Mobility. “We’re putting up with it and we’ve got to get angry.” 

At last week’s Washington Legislative Conference, Karyn Estrella, executive director of the Home Medical Equipment and Services Association of New England said, “It’s been a long fight and the troops are weary.”

Battling CMS or facing a long slog through the legislative process is enough to wear out the fittest foot soldiers. But, let’s be honest, there are few more appropriate weeks for war references than these. 

Last week, Europe commemorated the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s exile to Elba. A mere three weeks away, June 6 marks 70 years since D-Day when Allied forces landed in Normandy, beginning the liberation of Europe. I’m heading over for the historian’s dream Wars of Europe trip (and to visit family) … photos to come. And, 2014 is the centenary of the start of the Great War. Check out this In Focus from The Atlantic.

In case you were ever wondering what those strategically-placed war references do to my free association, there you have it.

by: Leah Hoenen - Friday, April 25, 2014

This past Monday, I followed along on Twitter and Facebook as People for Quality Care shadowed Tim Ascherl, founder of Advanced Rehab Technologies, for the day.

Tim shared his frustrations about the struggles he faces (like $300,000 in audits) trying to provide clients with the medical equipment they need. 

And, he showed why access to proper equipment is critical, saying, “As long as my equipment works, I’m not disabled.”

It was a nice way to get a glimpse into the daily workings of a provider’s business, and learn about the experiences of a wheelchair user.

And, speaking of wheelchair users, Tatyana McFadden won the Boston Marathon wheelchair race for the second straight year. Not a bad way to celebrate her 25th birthday! South African Ernest van Dyk made his 10th trip (!) to the Boston Marathon’s winner’s circle. The Invacare athlete last won Boston in 2010.  

I’m off for a short sojourn on Delmarva before heading to the National CRT Conference on Tuesday.

by: Leah Hoenen - Friday, April 4, 2014

I’m a firm believer that there’s a song lyric for every situation. 

The opener to Billie Myers’ 90’s tune “Kiss the Rain” got stuck in my head this week:

“Hello? Can you hear me? Am I getting through to you?”

I was talking with providers about the very puzzling capped rental rule for complex rehab items. 

Several times I heard about the 170 comments submitted to CMS, the lawmakers’ letters calling for a delay, and the fact that nothing about the rule makes any sense.

One provider said, “Whoever is responsible for this absolutely does not know what they’re talking about.”

And they’re apparently not listening to the people who do.

I have to admit the idea that someone with life-long health problems requiring customized equipment would rent it on the short term is so absurd it’s laughable. It’s also pretty dismaying that the folks in charge of administering healthcare nationwide don’t get that, and can’t seem to hear the professionals trying hard to get the point across.

by: Leah Hoenen - Thursday, March 13, 2014

A few years back, Adidas launched a feel-good advertising campaign cheering for the amateur athletes logging their gym time in the wee hours of the morning and late at night, the weekend warriors and life-long junkies fitting sport in around work and family. 

Those people tend every four years to lock the gym TVs on NBC’s Olympics coverage. In awe, and maybe a little jealous, we dial up the weights, stack our plyometric boxes a little higher and sprint that last mile. The Olympics are sport for the sake of sport, and they make us all want to do better, push harder and see if we aren’t just a little stronger, a little faster than we thought.

I’m always disappointed that the Paralympics don’t receive the same blanket coverage the Olympics do—I’d get a whole lot more training done with that double dose of motivation. 

Enter Twitter, which keeps me updated during the day. Without it, I’d be missing the action, including this: Tatyana McFadden, the track star and marathoner, won a silver medal in the 1 km sitting cross-country skiing race Wednesday. 

She started skiing a year ago. 

Maybe it’s because I don’t remain upright for more than 10 seconds on skis, but I can’t get over that. Beginner to Paralympic medalist in a year.

“Everybody is able to do something,” McFadden says. 

Let’s face it: few of us are destined for the podium, but we still strap on our sneakers and run or spend a nice hour jumping on stuff and moving weights around because it’s challenging and it’s fun. If the weather didn’t mandate snow tires, I’d definitely be on my bike. 

For now, I have a new sports hero and that extra motivation I need to get through the last slog of winter. 

Long live sport.

by: Leah Hoenen - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

After one too many mid-Atlantic heat waves and a job offer my husband couldn’t refuse, I packed my bags for Maine, home of HME News.

In my native (Delmarva) parlance, it’s “a fer piece” from home, and to Mainers, I’m “from away.” A lot has changed, and not just the accents.

My days once involved reporting on fish surveys, power plants, wastewater treatment facilities and school board meetings. Now, I’m learning how to drive in snow and bike on hills, and what competitive bidding means.

There’s still a lot to learn.

In the six months since I joined HME News as web editor, I’ve discovered that complex rehab technology, enteral nutrition and DME exist, and that the need for them is great.

Just scratching the surface of the world of Medicare, bidding and reimbursements, I’m impressed by the tenacity of providers fighting to do business and provide essential goods and services in the face of formidable challenges.

It’s good to be here. Thanks to those of you who’ve helped me through my first couple weeks as associate editor, and I’m looking forward to working with you.