Rose O’Neill was trying out a prosthetic for the first time Tuesday at a Victoria clinic. It was slow going, but she was starting to make progress.
“It’s that little taste of freedom and I just want to get out there,” said O’Neill.
The 44-year-old had her leg amputated three months ago. Nerve damage during a previous back surgery had left with her a foot wound that wouldn’t heal and multiple infections nearly ended up killing her.
But she says even worse than losing her leg has been the fact she can’t pursue her greatest passion.
“Not being able to run has been worse for me than losing my leg, that has been more damaging to me,” she said. “It’s the personal freedom, it’s part of who I am.”
O’Neill started running 12 years ago, shedding an incredible 145 pounds and running grueling races, some longer than 100 kilometres.
But if she wants to be able to hit the trails again she will need a running blade and in B.C. they aren’t covered. Only “basic functionality“, like the ability to walk around your house, is covered by PharmaCare.
War Amps gives this province a failing grade when it comes to prosthetic funding.
“Amputees are precluded from receiving technology that would allow them to participate in activities that other people would normally take for granted,” said War Amps Advocacy Program Manager Annelise Petlock.
“We try to fill as many gaps as we can but we can’t fill all the gaps and support, and there really is an obligation on government agencies to put arms and legs on people,” she said.
O’Neill says B.C.’s prosthetic policy is likely costing the healthcare system more in the long-run.
“How much more are you going to spend on mental health? People’s mental health, their well being, obesity because they’re not out moving,” she said.
With nowhere else to turn to, O’Neill reluctantly started an online fundraiser and the community is already pitching in.
“I’m just humbled, it’s just amazing,” she said.
O’Neill says she won’t physically be able to even try a running blade for about a year, so she hopes by starting early, her fundraiser can help her achieve her goal by then.
Meanwhile she’s hoping B.C.’s Ministry of Health will change it’s policy about funding prostheses so that others aren’t forced to give up the activities they love.