The discrimination of the NZ public health system: return to triathlon now cancelled?

I am absolutely horrified as I write this, at the things I am finding out about the NZ public health system… right when I though losing my leg (for reasons still undetermined.. but through no fault of mine) wasn’t hard enough already.

I have already spoken / written about the weird ACC system which is basically free private health care for people who have had an accident. So.. if I had lost my leg as a result of some type of trauma (car accident etc) then life would be rosy. I could get whatever wheelchair I needed, whatever prosthetic leg(s) I needed.. no questions asked.. no budget restrictions.

But.. because that isn’t the case (and the ACC claim for negligence has not yet been accepted) I’m in a very different boat.

The public health system will only allow the limb centre to fund me ONE prosthetic leg. Yes, just one.

So, when it comes to needing an updated one made further down the line.. either I agree to recycled parts, to allow them to make another while I keep the one I’m walking on, or I give it back and go back to a wheelchair while they fix it. (The crappy DHB wheelchair I have already complained about).

Think about the ramifications of this. That affects not only my whole lifestyle, but would also prevent me from working full time (massage therapist) each time that happened.

But wait, I’m not finished yet.

While that person who had their leg torn off in some unfortunate incident can have as many legs as they want whenever they want… if I wanted to return to triathlon.. nope.. tough sh*t.

Why is triathlon potentially off the cards again?

If I wanted to be able to race at any type of level other than recreational beginner, I would need a walking, cycling and running leg.

Why a cycling leg?

The socket on a prosthetic leg is designed to stabilise the leg below the knee by ‘hugging’ the top of the tibia front and back. This restricts the amount of bend it allows at the knee because of the socket support at the back of the knee.

Cut this down to allow more knee bend on a bike creates destabilisation at the front of the socket. If you are not cycling AND walking on the same leg, it doesn’t matter, does it.

Why a running blade?

When you walk on a prosthetic, the ankle will never ever do the same job as a real ankle – cushioning and stabilisation. The way the ankle moves is the first sign that someone has a prosthetic because it is much more rigid than a real ankle.

Running blades are designed to create a bit of ankle leverage simulation as well as the cushioning needed when you had with force and speed.

Where does this leave me?

Public funding will allow me a walking prosthetic. At a push, with agreement to use second hand parts, it might allow a second replacement walking leg for when the first needs maintenance.

It will not allow them to make me a cycling or running leg.

If I want to ride my bike again, I would need to figure out a way to modify my bike to allow the regular prosthetic to be used for cycling.

If I wanted to run again (and this, return to triathlon) I would need to fund the running blade myself. And nope.. they don’t come cheap.

I’m devastated

That the restrictions of a dumb ass public health system is holding me to ransom and could actually mean I am forced to abandon my future lifestyle and fitness goals.

To say I’m devastated doesn’t even come close.

Author: Melanie

I am a massage therapist and part time athlete, blogging life thru a disability lens. On wheels, with flipper and occasionally on feet.