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Coming Full Circle: From Being Helped to Helping Others

Coming Full Circle: From Being Helped to Helping Others

Richard Lucas Slusher, 27, was born missing his right arm below the elbow. Amplitude spoke with Richard about his experiences and inspiration to help other amputees.

How did your parents deal with the high costs associated with prosthetic devices?

They found help from Shriners Hospitals for Children in Erie, Pennsylvania. There, doctors and occupational therapists helped me throughout my early life for free. In addition, Green Prosthetics & Orthotics in Erie provided me free body-powered prostheses.

How did you deal with having a limb difference?

I was not that enthusiastic about wearing my prosthesis. It was heavy and didn’t allow me to express my personality. I was usually more comfortable going without it, especially as a child.

I had many friends and didn’t experience much teasing. My positive attitude and determination were what people saw in me, and they concluded that no physical limitation can hold someone back. I played right field in baseball, and I could catch the ball, quickly take it out of my glove, throw down the glove, and then throw the ball—all in about three seconds.

Later, I became interested in my prosthesis again and began to see it more as an asset and a tool than a burden.

Did you know any other amputees?

Not until 2010. That’s when I received a brochure from Shriners Hospitals for Children in Salt Lake City that advertised an Un-Limb-ited 89-mile whitewater rafting amputee camp. I attended the camp and experienced so much for the first time: meeting and bonding with others who were missing limbs, my first flight, my first extended time away from home, my first trip across the country, and my first time rafting. My time spent with the campers and counselors was inspiring, and I gained new insight on living as an amputee. The wilderness adventure and sleeping under the stars was a bonus.

In winter 2011, I attended another Un-Limb-ited camp at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah. I made new friends and learned how to snowboard. I probably fell more than I surfed, but I never gave up. My love for camp encouraged me to return as a counselor in 2015, 2017, and 2019, where I helped to encourage and empower teenage amputees. (For more information about the camp, visit bit.ly/3aHDgy2).

In 2013, I upgraded to a myoelectric prosthetic arm from Ottobock called the MyoFacil. The myoelectric was a game changer and allowed me to go beyond what I could do with my body-powered prosthesis.

Did the assistance you received from others motivate you to volunteer as a camp counselor and with nonprofit organizations?

Yes. If I’m able to motivate and be a role model for youth, I feel I’ve contributed to helping them realize their potential. After graduating from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in applied communication in 2018, I also served with City Year Columbus, an education-based nonprofit, through AmeriCorps, where I worked with eighth-grade students to keep them on track to graduate.

What’s next?

In 2019, I was told my experience with a myoelectric would make me a great candidate for a Hero Arm from Open Bionics. However, those dreams have hit a snag due to insurance obstacles.

I’m now interested in volunteering to advocate for greater access to appropriate prosthetic devices, and I feel that by sharing my story, I’m adding momentum to this goal. Amputees need to let insurance companies, as well as their representatives in government, know that affordable prosthetic coverage is not only vital but a right.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/lucas.slusher.

WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU CAN HELP?

Only 21 states have a law in place specifically mandating fair and reasonable insurance coverage for prosthetic devices. But advocacy efforts to increase these protections on state and federal levels are ongoing.

To learn more, check out Fair Insurance for Amputees: The State of the States at
https://bit.ly/3dd62Hh.

Image courtesy of Richard Lucas Slusher.

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