Step Up!

A Free Gait Training Clinic

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Free gait training clinic available to Great Lakes Bay Region amputees.

Lower extremity amputees can expect a two year learning curve when adapting to a prosthetic limb and working to maximize their abilities. To facilitate this transition, most insurance will cover four months of post-amputation therapy. How, then, do amputees continue to build strength and gain balance for 20 months after the insurance-covered physical therapy ends? The answer for Mid-Michigan amputees: The Step Up! Clinic.

The Step Up! Clinic is a free gait training clinic held twice each month at two area locations: Covenant Hospital Outpatient Therapy in Saginaw and Mid-Michigan Medical Center in Midland. Since May 2012 Mid-Michigan area amputees and their family members have convened regularly at the clinic to practice exercises to build strength, increase balance and improve mobility. Amputees, in a small group setting, learn tips from certified therapists and staff at Covenant Hospital, Mid-Michigan Medical Center and Bremer Prosthetic Design, Inc.

“Amputees typically plateau at the mobility level they reach when insurance-covered therapy ends,” said Scott Baranek, a certified prosthetist and owner of Bremer Prosthetics, and a twenty year amputee. “Step Up! is offered as an opportunity to set goals to further increase mobility and work together to practice high and low impact moves to reach those goals.”

Those goals vary from person to person. Some want to return to a highly active lifestyle while others simply want to walk without an assistive device. Individual goals may be different but the clinic’s general goal is the same: The Step Up! Clinic is a resource to help people reach the quality of life they had prior to their amputation.

Amputees benefit from peer support at the clinic. New amputees gain insight from those more experienced and feedback from attendees has been positive. According to Vernice Davis, a lower extremity amputation is one of the most challenging experiences a person can face.

“Practicing exercises at Step Up! helped me build my self-confidence,” said Davis who added, “it’s also very helpful to have the support of other amputees who attend.” Family members are encouraged to attend Step Up! as well.

“It’s helpful to share experiences and information with other family members,” said Arlene Salters who attends the clinic regularly with her husband, Larry. “Meeting with others who have experienced a similar trauma has encouraged my husband to exercise more and continue to improve.”

The first Step Up! Clinic had about 15 amputees and family members. Today the clinic regularly draws more than 30.