Ron Broda and Andrea Swallow. (Hugo Wong/News staff)

Amputee pledges GoFundMe money to another amputee

When amputee Ron Broda set up a GoFundMe to help pay for a medical procedure to improve his quality of life, he said he was skeptical.

“I find it really hard to ask for money. I think most people are that way.”

The fundraiser aimed to raise $108,000 to pay for an advanced surgery that fuses a metal rod with the bone in his residual limb. The procedure is primarily done in Australia, and is not covered by MSP. He has since raised about $7,000, but now that he is confident he can pay for the surgery out of an accident settlement decision, he has committed to donating the money to another amputee who can benefit from the surgery. His first choice: Andrea Swallow, a colleague of his wife’s who is an educational assistant at Stelly’s Secondary School in Central Saanich.

“When I set up the campaign, I didn’t have anybody in mind,” said Broda. “Now my surgery’s scheduled and it’s happening. For me it was a no-brainer as a friend, and so I felt she should get the first crack at this if she wants.”

Swallow became an amputee almost 30 years ago in a motorcycle accident and said she got used to dealing with the problems related to conventional prosthetics.

“It’s all I’ve really known, dealing with sores, going back and forth to the prosthetist to get things fixed, dealing with the emotions and depression. It brings me down,” she said.

Swallow said that MSP changed their procedures recently where anyone who lost their limb in a motor vehicle accident must re-submit proof. Since the accident occured almost 30 years ago for Swallow, there have been delays in securing old paperwork.

“The idea of moving forward and possibly having that better quality of living, of physical activity which I really love, that’s really exciting. For me, this is a process I have to honour and take the time to research properly.”

The procedure, pioneered by surgeon Dr. Mujid Al Muderis, involves a titanium rod inserted into the bone of of the residual limb. Eventually the metal and bone fuse together, which allows the prosthetic limb to be attached directly to the body’s skeletal system instead of just a sock or sleeve. It allows the skeletal system to bear the body’s weight rather than soft tissue which reduces hip issues and pressure sores. The procedure has been done successfully on American combat veterans, but when Broda approached local orthopedic surgeons, he said they did not know about the procedure and were not interested in investigating it.

“I know there’s a great reluctance sometimes in the medical profession to look at new technologies. Some docs are more progressive than others,” said Broda.

To cover the cost (Broda has three limbs for various activities ranging from $7,000-$15,000 each), amputees rely on a mix of provincial health care, extended health insurance, ICBC, or legal settlements, depending on how the limb was lost.

If there is a legal settlement, Broda said that most extended health providers won’t pay until the settlement is exhausted. With the complex procedures, Broda said that “lots of people fall through the cracks,” going five or six years without a limb replacement instead of three. To compensate, some amputees get help from GoFundMe, friends and family, or the War Amps. Broda said while the surgery is expensive, the lifetime costs would be half as much as if he continued to use conventional prosthetics.

After meeting with the surgeon twice, Broda is scheduled for surgery in April of 2018. Swallow hasn’t fully committed to the surgery yet, she is researching her options and will meet with Dr. Al Muderis in the summer to see if it is a good fit. But if she decides that she is not a suitable candidate, Ron will offer the money to another amputee. Eventually he hopes to start a foundation to help others pay for similar procedures.

“Ron, I think, is doing amputees in B.C. a favour in opening up that window of possibility for a more physical life, a life with less discomfort, more activity.”

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