As a prosthetic user, Tom Coakley looks at the O&P profession from the outside in. He reminisces that, prior to getting involved with ABC, it was easy to take for granted the good work and services he received. Sixteen years later, he better understands the ‘incredibly complex’ process that O&P providers go through to meet standards and provide quality care.
“This profession is such a small population in comparison to other medical fields. That makes it so much more important to work closely together as consumers, patients and medical professionals,” he emphasizes.
Brought into the ABC fold by his prosthetist Don Holms, CPO, Tom began serving as part of the facility accreditation committee before joining the ABC Board and serving as a public member for 12 years.
A former collegiate hockey player, Tom found himself without a limb after being injured while serving in Vietnam. When he woke up one morning in the Valley Forge amputee ward, Tom stared incredulously at his roommate. “This 19-year-old kid, with both limbs lost to the hips and one arm lost close to his shoulders, was doing one-arm pull-ups in his bed. I couldn’t ever allow myself to feel badly after seeing that.” A few years later, Tom re-learned how to skate and spent the next 25 years coaching youth hockey, including many years coaching his sons.
Although he claims to be ‘cutting back a bit’, in addition to working with ABC Tom actively volunteers with the local hospital, the Canton College Foundation (the fundraising arm for the local college), sits on the Canton, N.Y. economic development committee and is increasing his role with the Amputee Coalition.
For Tom, volunteering is a series of rewarding moments. Most satisfying is being an Amputee Coalition peer visitor, demonstrating that life continues in just as wonderful and rewarding a fashion even when missing a limb. Tom finds special reward in working with young children, who start out scared and gain confidence working with peer visitors and encouragement from their O&P practitioners.
“Combining my roles with the Amputee Coalition and ABC fulfills my deep conviction that we as consumers and our O&P professionals must be on the same page and working together,” says Tom. He may claim that he wants to slow down, but that doesn’t seem to hold him back. Forget retirement – it’s full steam ahead.