Globetrotting with a Prosthesis

Brian Donnellan has always been active, but two years ago he was hit with the news that his leg would need to be amputated below the knee. Over the past two years he has been partnering with Abilities In Motion to achieve his goals of an active lifestyle. 

This past month, Brian took a two week European trip with stops in Ireland and Italy. “This was the best trip ever, because I got to do everything that I wanted to do,” said Brian. He also shared some pro tips with us about traveling with a prosthesis:

  1. GET A TUNE UP. A few weeks before traveling, Brian made an appointment to see the experts at Abilities In Motion. They were able to check his prosthesis and were able to make adjustments before he traveled. Brian was also fitted with a swim leg*, which is a secondary device that is waterproof. This helped Brian use smaller showers that are typical when traveling internationally. 
  2. GIVE YOURSELF EXTRA TIME AT TSA. We have all been told to arrive early and allow extra time to get through security, but this is especially true when wearing a medical device. Brian strongly recommends using the handicap line when going through TSA. Brian also chose to wear shorts to make inspecting his leg easier. 
  3. CHECK AN EXTRA BAG. According to Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), a suitcase that contains only “assistive devices” are exempt from checked bag fees. You will want to notify the agent that your bag contains such equipment and will likely be asked to open the bag to verify its contents. Remember, baggage can be misrouted or lost during travel, so it is important to make sure you carry on your most important equipment and supplies. 
  4. ASK FOR EXTRA LEG ROOM. Brian asked his airline for extra leg room to help accommodate his prosthesis. The airline responded to his request, and because he was comfortable assisting in the event of an emergency, this allowed him to sit in an exit row. During a longer flight, this extra room can be invaluable. 

During his trip, Brian was able to enjoy the Cliffs of Moher. “I felt comfortable the entire time. My wife was a little concerned that I was standing on a 1,000 foot cliff, but it was easy,” says Brian. He was also able to walk though the Coliseum in Rome and walked for miles on his trip.

“I just proved to myself that I can do whatever I want to do, and nothing is holding me back now.”


Please note, the information contained in this post is based on this individual’s experience. Individual situations vary. We recommend that you do your own research to fully comply with TSA and airline policies and restrictions. 

Additional Information from TSA:


DOT, Guide: Air Travelers with Developmental Disabilities:

*Swim Leg: Standard prosthetic legs are not able to be exposed to water because of some components are not waterproof. Swim legs are designed for swimming, bathing and other aquatic activities. They are typically not covered by insurance, but Abilities In Motion works to help accommodate patients with affordable solutions when necessary. 

Area Realtors Support Local Veteran

The American Warrior Initiative and area realtors presented Abilities In Motion’s Josh Sust a $5,500 grant last week. Josh became an amputee as a result of his service in the US Marines during his third deployment in Afghanistan. The grant will allow him to hire a personal trainer to aid him in his recovery.

Lori Boswell, Sean Parnell and Louise Thaxton present $5,500 grant to Josh Sust.

Louise Thaxton and Sean Parnell of the American Warrior Initiative came to Cincinnati to educate area realtors on how to best interact and assist veterans. “My goal was to stir them, bring out their patriotic spirit and help thousands of veterans like Josh. None of us can do everything, but each of us can do one thing,” said Thaxton.

Area realtors gather to learn how to best assist veterans returning home.

The group recognizes the important role realtors can play in helping veterans once returning home from deployments. “Guys come back forever changed, sometimes with physical and mental injuries. It’s important for them to have a support group that reminds them that even though they come back different, it doesn’t change the core of who they are,” said Parnell.

Josh made it clear that he intends to pay forward this opportunity, and that attitude is on display everyday at work. Josh’s injury has put him in a unique position to connect with the amputee patients he sees everyday at Abilities In Motion. “Every day he reminds our patients that their injuries do not define them, and he motivates them to overcome the challenges they face,” said Tom Walsh the Lead Prosthetist at Abilities In Motion.

More information about the American Warrior Initiative can be found on their website at

Abilities In Motion has two locations in Cincinnati and is always seeking new and innovative ways to meet the needs of lower limb amputees. More information, including stories of other veterans can be found on their website at

Abilities In Motion Receives Highest Level of Accreditation in the Profession.

Abilities In Motion proudly announces a Three-Year Accreditation award in orthotics and prosthetics by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics, Inc. (ABC).

Abilities In Motion is recognized for achievements in the areas of Organizational Management, Patient Care Standards, Quality Assurance, Supplier Compliance and Facility and Safety Management. This award represents the highest level of accreditation achievable in the profession of orthotics and prosthetics.

“It’s great to be recognized by ABC as they are the standard bearer for our industry,” said Matthew Milthaler, a member of the Abilities In Motion Team. “This accreditation simply acknowledges the commitment our team has to provide outstanding care for our patients.”

“Abilities In Motion has demonstrated its commitment to the provision of quality patient care services by seeking and attaining ABC accreditation,” said Catherine Carter, ABC’s Executive Director. “ABC has developed the highest standards for accreditation in the industry and is proud to include Abilities In Motion among our over 2500 accredited patient care facilities.”

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics, Inc. has been credentialing practitioners and organizations since 1948 in accordance with established standards of excellence in the delivery of comprehensive patient care. A not-for-profit organization headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, ABC’s mission is to encourage and promote the highest standards of professionalism in the delivery of orthotic, prosthetic and pedorthic services. ABC advances the competency of practitioners, promotes the quality and effectiveness of orthotic, prosthetic, and pedorthic care, and maintains the integrity of the profession.


“It’s great to be recognized by ABC as they are the standard bearer for our industry,” said Matthew Milthaler, a member of the Abilities In Motion Team. “This accreditation simply acknowledges the commitment our team has to provide outstanding care for our patients.”

Students Gain Hands On Experience

Students Gain Hands On Experience

The Physical Therapy Assistant program at the University of Cincinnati, Clermont gained valuable, hands on experience today at Premiere Physical Therapy and Abilities in Motion.

Carolyn Shisler, who leads the program at UC, Clermont said that this experience gives future physical therapist assistants the opportunity to hear stories and ask questions to recent and veteran amputees. “They are real people and students are able to hear their story and empathize with their life situation. Our students get to see the person and not the diagnosis,” said Shisler.

Caitlin Rausch participates with PT Training

Caitlin Rausch is a student at UC, Claremont and she echoed those feelings. “It’s so different than being in the classroom. There, you don’t get to see patients and hear their backgrounds”.

Students heard an hour long presentation from experts and then broke into smaller groups to see demonstrations and interact with patients. The patients participating in the program had below knee, above knee and bilateral leg amputations. Each had different experiences that informed students and each saw this as an opportunity to invest in the future.

Andy Beardslee is the PT director at Premiere Physical Therapy and he understands the value of these types of experiences. “Many times, new students are apprehensive when meeting with amputees. They may have a fear of saying the wrong thing and this experience gives them a change to get comfortable with real people.”

Jay Estoquia is a resident at Abilities In Motion

Students would be hard pressed to find a better environment for this type of learning as Premier Physical Therapy is the regions leader in working with amputee patients. Their partnership with Abilities In Motion allows a patient to meet with their prosthetist and physical therapist all in same visit.

Shisler summed up the experience this way, “PTAs work in many different areas of physical therapy, Amputees are one facet of the field. It’s important that they are able to work with people and help them reach their full potential.”

Thomas Shaw

Artist, Amputee

Thomas Shaw has been a professional artist for many years. He has had his work exhibited many times. All of the pictures in this newsletter are his original work. He also has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate.

An artist for many years, he spent his earlier career finding out what kind of art was going to define him. He spent many years depicting how society reflected on him in his surroundings.

Many of his early works were about social ills. He had witnessed, drugs, gangs, etc.. Thomas works mostly in a black and white artistic medium, using inks, relief print process and woodcut techniques.

As his health issues became more prominent in his life, his artistic focus found a new avenue. Thom found a great outlet to express how he was feeling about the way his health was effecting his life.

He has produced some outstanding and thought provoking pieces, which really capture the feelings and reflections of someone going through hospitalization, dialysis and all of the life altering effects of diabetes and amputation.

One piece, “A Dialysis Fable” represents the time spent regularly undergoing dialysis and the relaxation and contemplation time it provides. Thom said “It’s not the nicest thing, but it is necessary for me to do it. I took the approach of using the four hour sessions to think and reflect. I find the time useful now”.

A recurring theme of his recent artwork is the symbolic placement of his heart in all of his self portraits, representing his heart bypass surgery.

Another piece, entitled “Christ Hospital: The Rough Times” reflects on a time he was hospitalized with a neck brace and IV lines.

Much of the self portraits have been well received by the art world. Thom was the first artist to have a solo exhibition at Art Beyond Boundaries, 1410 Main Street, Cincinnati. The gallery specializes in artists with disabilities.

He started an exhibit of his work at the Art Academy on August 21st. He has taught classes displaying his techniques.

He hopes is work inspires others with disabilities throughout the world.

We cannot wait to see what his artistic self portraits are now that he has completed rehabilitation and is back in the studio!

Selected One Man Exhibits:

2009: “Life Stories”, Art Beyond Boundaries

2006: “Choice of Weapons III”, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH

2005: “Choice of Weapons II”, Artwork Gallery, Cincinnati, OH

2004: “Personal Impressions”, South Bend Museum, South Bend, IN

“Personal Impressions”, Sheldon Swope Museum of Art, Terre Haute, IN

“Personal Impressions”, Art Academy of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

“Personal Impressions”, Olin College Gallery, Kenyon College, Kenyon, OH

2003: “Personal Impressions”, Huntingdon Museum of Art, Huntingdon, WV

“Personal Impressions”, SUNY College At Oneonta, Oneonta, NY

2002: “Inner Sanctums, Urban Medals, & Other Short Subjects”, Cocelia Coker Gallery, Hartville, SC

2001: “Personal Impressions”, Dayton Visual Arts Center, Dayton, OH

“Inner Sanctums, Urban Medals, & Other Short Subjects”, Weston Gallery, Cincinnati, OH

“Choice of Weapons”, Phreibe Gallery, Oshkosh, WI

“Inner Sanctums, Urban Medals, & Other Short Subjects”, 1912 Gallery, Emery, VI

“Hardcore to the Edge”, Heistand Gallery, Oxford, OH

Amputees Meet State Representative

Tom Walsh, Amputees Meets State Representative to Discuss Amputee Insurance Protection Legislation

August 22nd, State Representative James Raussen, (R – Springdale) visited Abilities In Motion’s White Oak office to discuss insurance protection. Prosthetic insurance protection is a subject close to Tom’s heart. Tom is a leading figure in the drive to have Ohio State legislature pass a bill that would require ALL coverage of prosthetics to be equivalent to that of Medicare guidelines.

In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of healthcare plans that cap the funding for prosthetic devices. Some of theses caps are annual, some are for lifetime.

For example, some insurance companies have recently begun lifetime prosthetic benefit caps of $2,500 or have limited patients to one prosthesis per lifetime. Other insurers have annual caps as low as $500.

The effects of these caps can be devastating for patients trying to maintain productive, healthy and active lifestyles. Depending on activity level, health changes to the body and age, a lower limb prosthesis usually needs to be replaced every 2 to 5 years.

Some of the large insurance companies, namely Aetna and Anthem have announced changes starting 2007.

These changes will cap prosthetic devices annually at $2,500 in all states other than California, Colorado, New Hampshire and Maine. These states are exempted from the national prosthetic insurance benefit cuts because amputees and prosthetists already worked together to pass legislation in these states to ensure that insurance benefits include adequate coverage for prosthetics. This is the legislation that Tom is trying to get passed to protect the interests of the amputees of Ohio. Other states, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, Alabama and Louisiana have legislation pending.

Representative Raussen was a keen listener and expressed concern for our issues. He made some suggestions concerning how to achieve greater statewide recognition and recommended Health Saving Accounts (HSA) for those that can afford to save.

Amputees have not had vocal national organized advocacy groups that can lobby for their rights, until the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) mobilized with a support system for regional efforts to pass legislation.

The Colorado legislation is estimated to add just 14 cents per month to the cost of insurance premiums to adequately cover prosthetics state wide.

Options for the disabled on Medicaid are getting worse. Texas for example, dropped Medicaid coverage of prosthetics completely. Other states such as Missouri are debating similar cuts. This seems foolish as Colorado’s figures have shown. The year after passing a law to insure prosthetic coverage for Medicaid, the state of Colorado saved almost $500,000 through decreased medical expenses. This did not even include the savings of getting people back to work and off Medicaid.

If you are interested in helping the push for legislation in Ohio, give us a call and we can help you with letters to state congressional and senate reps. The more support Tom gets from the amputee community in addition to the effort he is leading with his fellow prosthetists statewide, the greater the chance of change being effected.

How Far Would You Walk For A Friend?

Walk of Hope

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When Larry Robinson found out that his friend and pharmacist, Amy Glaser, had multiple sclerosis, he knew what he had to do.

“I thought that if Amy can’t walk, I’ll walk for her,” he said.

Robinson was one of the 30 members of Amy’s Army taking part in the 5-mile Western-Southern MS Walk at Thomas More College.
The difference between Robinson, 52, and other members of Amy’s Army is that walking poses a challenge for him. In June of last year, he had to have his left leg amputated below the knee.

“I was club-footed when I was born and then, when I was 13, I was playing sandlot football and I shattered my leg. It made a sound like a .22 rifle going off,” he said.

The series of surgeries and constant pain that followed became so difficult to manage that Robinson, a father of three, realized he had to have his lower leg removed. Now he says he walks better than he ever has.

“It’s taken some adjusting. Balance is the hardest thing, but I’ve adapted. I needed to do it for my family and now I’m realizing there’s a life out there. There really is.”

Shortly after his surgery, Robinson met Ken Glaser, Amy’s husband, at St. Mary’s Church in Alexandria.

“Ken told me what Amy was going through. I’d known her for nine years – she was my pharmacist – but I didn’t know she was struggling with MS,” Robinson said.

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system.

Amy Glaser was diagnosed in 1996.

Robinson said some higher power had a hand in shaping his friendship with Amy.

“I think God wanted us to cross paths like this,” he said.
Amy Glaser did not take part in the walk. She was on the sidelines cheering. for Ken, their three children, and Larry, who took strides for her and others whose lives have been irrevocably changed by MS.

What Does Larry Use?

Larry has a silicone locking liner. This is rolled on his residual limb and has a locking pin in the bottom of it. The pin locks into a locking mechanism in the bottom of the socket portion of the prosthesis, eliminating the need for straps or belts.

The foot on Larry’s prosthesis is a Variflex foot, made by Ossur. It is a carbon fiber spring like foot. The carbon fiber composition allows the foot to be light weight and flexible.

It has energy storing characteristics which stores the energy put into the composite material during heel strike and mid stance and returns that energy at toe off. This allows for a great amount of flexibility and a spring like feeling which helps the wearer do more while using less energy.

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