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OSU-Okmulgee's Orthotics/Prosthetics Clinic Gets Creek Nation Support for Creek Diabetic Patients

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

(Okmulgee) – Through a partnership between Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee’s Orthotics & Prosthetics Clinical Center and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, citizens of the Creek Nation who have diabetes now have access to orthotic and prosthetic care.  Proper orthotics and quality prosthetics are major components in battling the ill effects of diabetes.  
Keeper Johnson, a National Council Member for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, had a vision to help improve the quality of life for Creek citizens who are experiencing complications due to diabetes.  He introduced legislation to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council and was successful in obtaining more than half a million dollars for OSU-Okmulgee’s Clinic to provide treatment, care and customized help for Creek citizens to deal with the results of diabetes.  The funding is administered through the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s Diabetes Prevention Program.  It supplements Medicare’s payments for Creek Nation patients.  
Johnson says he spearheaded the effort because of his desire to serve the Creek people and his interest in diabetes patients’ care, since he himself is a diabetic.  Johnson is aware that oftentimes, amputees have orthotics, prosthetics or diabetic shoes made but will not wear them if they cause discomfort, and often they have no source to pay for an artificial limb.
Jerry Wilson, chair of OSU-Okmulgee’s Health and Environmental Technologies Division, says the mission of the university’s orthotics and prosthetics clinic is to help save people’s limbs.  Wilson adds that Orthotics and Prosthetics are prevention and treatment methods used for diabetics.  “There are many Native Americans who have either lost a limb or are at risk of losing a limb due to diabetes.  We want to help keep the Native American population healthy.  OSU-Okmulgee’s clinic provides services for those who have had a limb amputated and to prevent others from losing a limb.”  
Wilson added statistics show there are more than 2,000 diabetic Creek Nation citizens in OSU-Okmulgee’s immediate service area.  The university’s Orthotics and Prosthetics Clinic has treated many patients since it opened a few months ago.  Although the Creek Nation supplements Medicare for tribal patients, the clinic is open to the public.
Betsy Hill, a member of the Creek Nation, has benefited from a prosthetic leg made at OSU-Okmulgee’s clinic.  Hill, who is a resident of Eufaula, says she needed a prosthetic leg after an amputation.  “I had a neuropathy on my foot due to diabetes, then I stepped on a thorn and an infection developed.  The only treatment was amputation.  I’ve had prosthetic legs made at other clinics in the past, but they weren’t comfortable.  The prosthetic leg that I’m wearing was made at OSU-Okmulgee’s clinic -- it’s very comfortable and doesn’t squeak when I walk.”
Orthotic and prosthetic treatment involves a practitioner evaluating patients.  Then, the technician fabricates and the practitioner custom-fits the artificial limb or the orthopedic brace to meet the patient’s needs.  An orthosis is an external support for the body and can help people regain lost function.  A prosthesis is an artificial limb, including fingers, hands, arms and legs.  
OSU-Okmulgee’s orthotics and prosthetics students serve as interns in the clinic as a component of their education.  There are currently 14 students in the program, and many more are needed to fill the industry shortage nationwide.  
“Nearly 70% of amputations performed on diabetics could be prevented with proper foot care,” Wilson observes.  “Diabetics need to wear extra-depth comfort shoes, including custom-made foot orthotics, which are designed to relieve pressure on foot ulcers and to keep them from worsening and becoming infected to the point that amputation is the only alternative.”  Wilson added that amputations cost an average of $75,000 per operation, while proper foot care can cost as low as $400.
A patient of OSU-Okmulgee’s Orthotics and Prosthetics Clinic, Jesse Colbert, Jr., a member of the Creek Nation who lives in Eufaula, says the director of the clinic Shelley Perkins, C.O., C.Ped., and her staff worked diligently to get a proper fit for his orthotics.  “These are the only orthotics I have ever wanted to wear every day.  They’re very comfortable.”
Johnson knows the benefits of having orthotics custom-made to prevent the disabling effects of diabetes.  “Diabetes is a very critical disease for Native Americans.  Over the years, when I was a vocational rehabilitation counselor, I saw people at different facilities who had amputations and were wearing ill-fitting or old shoes because they couldn’t afford anything better.”
When Johnson decided to help diabetic Creek citizens, he and Wilson devised a plan for OSU-Okmulgee’s clinic to provide orthotics and prosthetics for these patients.  Johnson proceeded to get statistics on the numbers of Creek citizens who are diabetic or amputees from Johnnie Brasuell, the director of the Diabetes Prevention Program for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.  Then, he asked Chief A.D. Ellis at Muscogee (Creek) Nation for support in getting the legislation passed.  “Chief Ellis agreed to support anything that would improve Creek citizens’ health care because the clinic’s services have been needed by Creek citizens for many years,” adds Johnson.   
Wilson says that because of Johnson’s work to earn funding for the clinic’s services, many Creek citizens will have a better quality of life.  “We thank Keeper Johnson for his vision to help us develop this program.  He is making a difference for many Creek citizens everyday through his work to secure funding for this program.”

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