Monday, November 24, 2008

Expressing Thanks For Our Great Patients

We have a new series of posters that we are excited to share in this space. Soon, the ones you see here--as well as a few others--will be making their debuts in our offices in Chicago and throughout the region.

Each poster spotlights a remarkable patient with two photographs and a brief description that tells some of the basic elements of their story. And each one ends with words that emphasize these are ordinary people doing some extraordinary things, "with a little help from Scheck & Siress."

Now, that's no false modesty on our part. Certainly, we take pride in being caring, competent professionals. We have a storied 55-year history which, at its center, consists of helping improve the lives of thousands of individuals and, by association, their families.

But we couldn't do it without our patients, whose amazing fortitude and indefatigable spirit we are privileged to witness. On a daily basis, they humble and inspire us as they look adversity in the eye and keep moving forward.

And they even go out of their way to thank us, as you can see from a sampling of Scheck & Siress patient testimonials.

So as we approach Thanksgiving, we want to express how thankful we are for the wonderful patients who entrust us with such an important role in their lives.

From everyone in the Scheck & Siress family, here's to a Happy--and Healthy--Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"New Technology" Seminar a Big Success

Three weeks ago, we provided a preview of "New Technology For Active Amputees," a free seminar at our Hickory Hills location.

As we hoped, there was a strong, enthusiastic turnout of more than 40 guests and nobody left disappointed.

Both Dr. Michael Pinzur, a renowned orthopedic surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, and Melissa Stockwell received heartfelt ovations for their presentations.

Stockwell's inspiring talk was "Road to the Paralympic Games.” It culminated with her being the flag bearer during the Paralympic Games Closing Ceremonies. In addition to being a patient, Stockwell has been a resident with Scheck & Siress.

A U.S. Army veteran, Stockwell was the country's first female amputee from the Iraq War.

Over the 4-plus hours, which concluded with a boxed lunch provided by Scheck & Siress, more than a dozen company staff members as well as exhibitors turned out for the event. In the accompanying photos, you can see some Cindy Hausner with Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (top photo) and Emily Horn (below) with Ossur, a manufacturer of prosthetic components.

The purpose of the seminar was to provide resources, support and education to amputees who are or would like to be active in sports and exercise. Attendees said they enjoyed meeting other amputees and gained inspiration and resources to become as active as they once were.

Based on the day's all-around success, stay tuned for similar programming that we will be holding in the future. To offer topic suggestions for future seminars, contact Emily Frederick, marketing director, at 773-606-9356.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

With Deep Gratitude, On Veterans Day

Every day, we ought to extend our gratitude to the men and women whose sacrifices have helped ensure our freedom and way of life here in the United States.

In particular, Veterans Day brings to mind the ultimate price that so many have paid--with their very lives. Others, through physical and other wounds, continue to render an ongoing sacrifice. Among them is Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois Veteran Affairs Director who lost both of her legs in combat during the war in Iraq.

In the photo above is Tammy, with President-elect Barack Obama, during a solemn salute to veterans Tuesday. They were at the bronze soldiers memorial between the Field Museum and Soldier Field in Chicago.

As we've noted previously, Tammy is a patient of Scheck & Siress prosthetist David Rotter.

Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day marks the anniversary of the Nov. 11, 1918 signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Paralympic Games Airing on TV This Week

A reminder to those who did not have a chance to travel to Beijing and see the Paralympic Games in person: coverage of the competition is airing this week on USN.

The NBC Paralympics special aired on November 9 and from Monday, Nov. 10, through Sunday, Nov. 16, coverage goes from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern on Universal Sports.

As noted on the Team USA website, "for exciting video highlights and images of the 99 medal-winning performances and other amazing moments from the 2008 Beijing Paralympics," visit here.

Melissa Stockwell, a resident at Scheck & Siress, was among those who competed as a swimmer in the Paralympics.

Monday, November 3, 2008

WalkAide: Scheck & Siress Proud To Provide Patients With Gait-Way To Improved Quality of Life

One of the significant developments this year has been the rising prominence of WalkAide.

It's a transformative new technology that is helping people whose neurological deficits had severely hindered their ability to walk, get up from a chair, climb stairs and take other simple actions.

Our patients have received coverage in the Chicago Tribune, the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest and The Daily Chronicle of DeKalb.

To get a sense of the impact that this device has had on our patients, see the below footage of Joanne Schutt, profiled in one of the stories. While under the care and supervision of Scheck & Siress prosthetist Dan Hasso, Schutt demonstrated her gait with and without the WalkAide.

Without the WalkAide

With the WalkAide

As you can see, the device restores the signal between the brain and the nerves that control the movement of the ankle and foot, enabling people to make great strides in improving their gait.

To learn more, contact our Oakbrook Terrace office at 630-424-0392.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Coming Nov. 8th: New Technology For Active Amputees

We are excited about "New Technology For Active Amputees," a 4 1/2-hour free seminar that we are hosting on Saturday, Nov. 8 at our Hickory Hills location.

The session starts at 8:30 a.m., lasts until 1 p.m. and includes a free boxed lunch.

Dr. Michael Pinzur, a renowned orthopedic surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, will discuss “Ground-Breaking Bone-Bridge Surgery,” the pros and cons of a controversial technique, called a “bone bridge.”

It is used to prepare the residual limb in below-the-knee amputations. In this technique, the amputated ends of the tibia (shin bone) and fibula are fused with a bone bridge.

Also speaking will be our very own Melissa Stockwell, a resident with Scheck & Siress and U.S. Army veteran who was the country's first female amputee from the Iraq War. She will share her "Road to the Paralympic Games,” which culminated with her being the flag bearer during the Paralympic Games Closing Ceremonies.

If you like sports or working out, this one's for you! To reserve a space, contact Emily Frederick at 773-606-9356.

Our facility in Hickory Hills is at 8641 95th St., in the Hill Creek Shopping Center. You can read more about the day at

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Melissa Stockwell Speaks at Book Kick-Off

On Thursday, Melissa Stockwell will be speaking at a kick-off party for a book on wounded veterans. A story posted at The Earth Times states the book, released by Praeger Security Press, is called Returning Wars' Wounded, Injured, and Ill: A Handbook.

"Proceeds from the book's first year of sales will be donated to The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project to provide athletic activities towounded service members as part of their rehabilitation," the story states. " Their motto is `If Ican do this, I can do anything.'"

As anyone who has followed Melissa's journey knows, she perfectly embodies that motto.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Safe & Smooth: Proprio Foot Provides Boost To Amputees As They Walk

When we walk, 40 percent of the time our legs are swinging through the air. In those moments, an amputee—or anyone else, for that matter—is at risk of tripping.

Such a stumble can lead to a host of other problems, especially for amputees who may already face other health difficulties.

That is why Steve Thorstenson turned to Scheck & Siress for a prosthetic advancement called the Proprio Foot. At, the companion website to the Chicago Tribune, you can read a more in-depth profile about Steve and the role that we have been able to play in his journey.

Monday, October 20, 2008

About Range Of Motion Project (ROMP)

Two Scheck & Siress prosthetists, David Rotter and Dreher Jouett, have traveled to Guatemala to volunteer for the Range Of Motion Project (ROMP), so this is a timely point to touch on Scheck & Siress' support for the not-for-profit organization.

ROMP is dedicated to turning "disability into possibility" among amputees around the world.

In May, through the efforts of personnel like Eric Neufeld, a ROMP co-founder, we helped a 16-year-old from Nicargaua, Luis Torres, regain a measure of independence. (That's Eric and Luis in the photo above, outside our Bannockburn office.)

Among other video clips, you can see how Scheck & Siress is supporting the organization's resourceful re-purposing of prosthetic parts.

You can also witness Luis' remarkable speed in taking to his new prosthetic leg.

Burt Constable, a columnist at the Daily Herald, wrote a wonderful story about the role that ROMP, Scheck & Siress and others played to help Luis.

It's humbling to think that Luis is just one of many, many people, globally, who have benefited from ROMP as it pursues its vision of serving 100,000 people.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Melissa & Co. Conquer Chicago Marathon

Melissa Stockwell is on the move again--from the Paralympic Games in Beijing to Washington, D.C. for a reception at the White House and, this past Sunday, to the Chicago Marathon.

She traversed the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 8 minutes, using a handcrank to propel herself along. She completed the New York City Marathon in 2004 and 2005 on a handcrank as well.

"I enjoy seeing the city at a new level, seeing the crowds and crossing the finish line," says Melissa.

This year was especially rewarding because she was joined by Tammy Duckworth, with whom Melissa was at Walter Reed Hospital after both suffered injuries in the Iraq War, and another amputee friend, Alisha Middel.

"To all have finished and have our medals around our necks was awesome," says Melissa.

In the wheelchair category of the event, four women competed, including three who are patients at Scheck & Siress. Prosthetist David Rotter (pictured here with Melissa, Tammy and Alisha) has fit all three of those patients with their prostheses, and said he was proud of each one.

Congratulations to them, as well as to Melissa, Tammy and Alisha, for the excellent example they set for all of us!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Erica's Race: The News-Gazette Story

Reprinted from The News-Gazette
September 21, 2008
©2008 The News-Gazette, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Erica’s race
Bounce in her step
UI student thrilled to be active again after recovery from illness, amputations
URBANA — Erica Van Zuidam loves the feeling of a good workout that gets her heart pumping.

“It feels like how it used to be. My old life, in sports and everything,” she said. “I think that’s why it’s so fun. It brings back good times.”

On Saturday, Van Zuidam ran a 5-kilometer race — 3.1 miles in two laps around the University of Illinois campus, from the Illini Union to the Stock Pavilion. It was her first race on her carbon fiber legs with the zebra-striped cloth covering the top. Her first race since her feet and hands were amputated, the casualties of a nearly fatal case of bacterial meningitis she contracted at the end of her freshman year at the UI.

She believes she survived the disease because she was active and physically fit.
Saturday’s race was organized by the Kinesiology Student Association and held in honor of Van Zuidam, now a senior in kinesiology. It wasn’t just a chance for her to run and to promote an active lifestyle. It was also a chance to spread the word about bacterial meningitis and the vaccine that can protect against it. Included in the packet for runners was information about the disease.

Van Zuidam played volleyball in high school — her main sport — and she also ran the 800 during track season to keep in shape. She continued to be active at the UI, working out often for fun and to relieve stress.

But she contracted bacterial meningitis in May 2005, at the end of her freshman year. She was hospitalized for several months, then began therapy to learn to use prosthetic hands and to walk on prosthetic legs.

Through it all, she couldn’t wait to be active again. Even while learning to use her new legs, she knew she wanted running legs.

“I’m stubborn and I don’t like being told I can’t do something,” she said. “Even if I don’t run regularly, I don’t want to be told I don’t have the option.
“When I got my (regular prosthetic) legs, it was like, ‘All right, I want to move fast.’ That’s just who I am. I like to be going.”

She tried to run a few times with her regular prosthetics, but they aren’t made for running. She got the carbon fiber running legs in May 2007. Running in them was a rush.

Holy cow, my hair is moving fast again, she thought.

“I can’t really stand still when I’m in them. They’re really bouncy,” she said.
Even so, it took a lot of effort to run again. It’s particularly difficult in hot weather, because of how the prosthetics and liners fit her, so she often opts for swimming instead.

Mary Carlton, a UI professor of kinesiology and advisor for the Kinesiology Student Association, has come to know Van Zuidam well after teaching her in several classes.
“Erica has always been concerned about getting the word out about meningitis, and the idea that this is a disease you don’t have to get,” Carlton said. “This is one way to get Erica’s story out here, and she is one of our own and she’s a great kid.”

Van Zuidam acknowledged being nervous before the race. While she has long run to stay in shape, she’d never raced a 5K before.

She was cheered on by her parents, Tim and Janice. Younger sister Jamie, her boyfriend, and Dave Rotter, who works with Van Zuidam to fit her with her prostheses, all ran the race as well.

She ran better than she expected, completing the first mile without needing a break. She stopped twice during the race and removed her prosthetic legs, once to adjust the liners and another time for Jamie and a friend to massage a cramp out of her leg.

“She’s a fighter,” Rotter said of Van Zuidam. “She’s tough. She has a strong constitution.

“The key is not to have the mind-set of limitation, but of possibility.”
Van Zuidam said of Rotter: “He pretty much thinks I can do anything.”

Robert K. O’Daniell photos/The News-Gazette
Erica Van Zuidam starts running a 5K race put on by the Kinesiology Student Association on Saturday on the UI campus in Urbana. ALSO: Van Zuidam wore the No. 1 for the race, held in her honor.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

President Bush Honors Melissa Stockwell

In case you missed it, we wanted to pass along remarks made Tuesday by President Bush to members of the United States Olympic and Paralympic teams.

The full transcript of his talk on the South Lawn of the White House is here. Included in his comments is this excerpt, in which the president directly addresses our very own resident prosthetist, Melissa Stockwell:

"I'm particularly pleased to be here with those who have worn the uniform of our country. (Applause.) On the America team were 16 men and women who served the nation in uniform -- one of whom was Army Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell. She lost her leg while serving our country in Iraq. Four years after hard work, four years after significant rehabilitation, she qualified as a swimmer. And her teammates elected her as the flag bearer for the Closing Ceremonies.

We welcome you, Melissa, and we welcome you all."

During the event, Melissa presented President Bush with the American flag that flew over the Olympic Village in Beijing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Run With Erica, Run Because You Can

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

I am fortunate to work with so many remarkable individuals. One of them is Erica Van Zuidam (second from right in the photo, between me and Jason Wening of Scheck & Siress.)

Summer is one of the most difficult seasons for Erica. She has a lot less skin surface area to dissipate heat, and she’s been doing a great job dealing with that challenge as she runs as best she can.

On Saturday, her efforts paid off as she successfully was among 90 runners in a 5K race organized by the Kinesiology Student Association at the University of Illinois, where she is a senior. "Run With Erica, Run Because You Can," as the event was named, received very good coverage from The News-Gazette in Champaign.

In addition to Erica and Jason, who finished first in the 30-39 year-old age group, joining us was one other amputee runner, Patrick, and two other Scheck & Siress staff members, Ania Jarosz, a patient care coordinator at our UIC office, and Leah Witte, an orthotist at our Rush office.

The News-Gazette has done some other outstanding and

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Melissa Carries The American Flag

In a fitting tribute, Melissa Stockwell was selected as the flag bearer for the United States during closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.

It's a great honor for Melissa, who while growing up developed a passion for the American flag and all that it represents.

And as you can see from the U.S. Paralympic announcement, her selection stems from respect she has earned from a variety of U.S. Paralympians, not only fellow swimmers.

You can read Melissa's own account of this development on her latest blog post.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Melissa Featured in Chicago Sun-Times

Today's Chicago Sun-Times included a feature by Andrew Herrmann on Melissa Stockwell. Herrmann wrote two previous pieces on Melissa, including one in April when she qualified for the Paralympic Games.

We appreciate the interest that Herrmann and the Sun-Times have taken in Melissa's inspiring story.

Melissa Profiled In New York Times Video

The New York Times produced a 4 1/2-minute video on Melissa Stockwell's journey to the Paralympic Games, including her remarkable, American world record-setting qualification for the Paralympic Swim Team at the Trials in April.

Entitled "From Baghdad to Beijing," the video is here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day 10: Goodbye, Unforgettable Beijing

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

How fast the time has flown!

I can’t believe it, but I am packing for the airport to return home to Chicago. This has been such a wonderful trip in so many ways. I got a chance to root for Melissa as she swam, representing our country. I also got a chance to see many different events and to learn about a different culture. I am very impressed by Beijing. It is a first-rate modern city.

This experience has instilled in me the desire to come back and visit more of this vast land. For now, I take my memories and experiences back home with me, memories I won’t forget.

Zai Jian (goodbye) from Beijing

Friday, September 12, 2008

Day 9: Melissa's Valiant Effort

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

The day that Melissa had been waiting for: today is the 400-meter free, which is Melissa’s strongest event. The morning session again is the qualifying session to make it to the finals, held the same day later in the evening.

We are now accustomed to waiting for her meet, which is second-to-last. Finally, Melissa comes out and our section erupts with cheer. The race begins and Melissa is off to a good start. This is a long race, making it possible for swimmers to improve their positions or get overtaken by a competitor’s surge.

Despite a valiant effort, Melissa finishes fifth in this race with one more meet in her S9 class to go. As we learned, the competition is very stiff. After the final race they put the qualifiers on the screen. As the names go up, it becomes clear that the competition is just too stiff and that Melissa’s time isn’t a qualifying time.

She finishes number 17. We are so proud of our champ! She defied all odds and made the Paralympic squad. She represented our country valiantly. At the end of the heat we got a chance to see Melissa. She got a supporting and comforting embrace from her husband, Dick, and a shoulder to grieve on.

We all got a chance to give Melissa a hug and tell her how proud of her we are. She is understandably disappointed. We all plan to go to the finals this evening to cheer on the American team.

During the evening session we got a chance to see Jessica Long get a gold medal. For the first time at an Olympic Games, I saw our flag raised and listened to The Star-Spangled Banner at an award ceremony. It was a very proud moment.

Melissa got a chance to sit with us and cheer for a bit. Every one in the American cheering section got a chance to congratulate her on the great accomplishment of being a Paralympian.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day 8: Biking in Beijing

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

The morning is spent taking a bike tour of Beijing. It was great to get a feel for this mode of transportation used by many to get around the city. We had a nice tour guide who took us to different historical landmarks around the city.

The evening was spent at a Kun Fu Opera. The acrobatics were incredible and we all thoroughly enjoyed the show. Tomorrow is Melissa’s last day of swimming so we all get back to the hotel for the early start.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Day 7: Wheelchair Hoops & History

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Observed a game of wheelchair basketball at the national indoor stadium. How impressive!

I was amazed how physical and fast the game is. Canada played Japan and won by a large margin. It was clear that the Canadian team, although older, had a lot more experience.

We spent the afternoon at Tiananmen Square and then the Forbidden City. Tiananmen is a large square surrounded by Chinese municipal museums, museums and ancient structures from the Ming Dynasty.

To the north is the famous portrait of Mao Zedong overlooking the square. That is the building where Mao proclaimed the New State of the People’s Republic of China. The Forbidden City was where China’s emperors lived. It is called forbidden because only the emperor and his subjects were allowed in its gates.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Day 6: The Bird's Nest (Part II)

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Back at the Bird’s Nest for the evening meets. More amazing stuff to watch.

Out of sheer luck, I am there to watch “the race” between Oscar "Bladerunner" Pistorius, the double amputee from South Africa who attempted to make the Olympics, and Marlon Shirley, the reigning champ of the 100-meter race.

Tragically, Shirley pulled his Achilles tendon midway and fell to the ground. Pistorius just edged out the other American in the race to take gold. USA took silver and bronze.

Just a few races later, April Holmes, the American runner favored to win the 200, fell in the last 20 meters of her race. She was leading with a comfortable margin. A tough night for the American runners.

The highlight of the evening was China’s blind male 5,000-meter runner winning his race in dramatic fashion. The 90,000 who packed the stadium roared loudly in celebration. This is my only experience in the Bird’s Nest and I am sorry it is over at the end of the day.

Day 6: The Bird's Nest

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Track and field: I finally get an opportunity to go in to the national stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest for its interesting architecture.

I have not ceased to be impressed by this incredible complex.

The national stadium is fantastic. Not a bad seat to be had in the house. We were able to watch long jump, shot put, discus, running events and wheel chair racing in the span of four hours.

What an incredible experience! The most moving of all was the blind runners running with their guides. It is just amazing to watch the two tethered together running down the track.

In the women’s 100-meter final, the Chinese competitor won and the stadium erupted in cheer.

During the medal ceremony, that competitor found her guide’s neck and put her Gold medal around him. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

It is now midday and they cleared the stadium for the evening events, which I can’t wait to get back to!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Day 5: Melissa's 2nd Race & Other Events

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Melissa’s second race: Another morning and we are headed first thing to the Water Cube. We already know that Melissa swims last so the group is more comfortable settling to watch the different events. Another wonderful morning spent watching the different classes of swimmers compete.

Melissa’s category is S9, which has a lot of participants. When Melissa came out, she was greeted by the same very loud applause from our cheering section. Day 2 and we are still the loudest!

The race begins and so does the cheering! Melissa swims against steep competition and does great! Although her times are short for qualifying for the final, she swims a personal best.

Going in, Melissa knew this would be a challenging event as it proves to be. She shows improvement yet again, advancing to #18 in the world.

As a group we have a break from Melissa swimming events until Friday. Now it is time to experience some of the other venues and sports. After a morning of swimming, we ventured out of the main complex by bus to a separate complex where wheelchair tennis was taking place.

What amazing athletes! I can say with utmost certainty that if you put me against any of the competitors they would easily make quick work of me. I was so impressed by the coordination of hitting a ball and navigating in a chair at the same time. I think I said “wow” a lot!

The day is done and we are off to have dinner as a group in a more local setting in Beijing. Tomorrow I go to the national stadium for track and field.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Day 4: Melissa's First Race

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

With some remarkable experiences already under my belt, today was the day that I've been especially looking forward to: Melissa Stockwell's competition in the Paralympic Games.

All of Melissa’s fans met as a group at the hotel and walked to the Water Cube together. Walking into the Olympic Village for the first time is incredibly impressive. Once you get to the main square you can fully appreciate just how massive a complex the Village is.

The Water Cube, where all the swimming takes place, is probably the most interesting of all the buildings. As you get closer you realize that it does not have solid walls but rather a transparent exterior made from a heavy cloth/plastic. You can see the steel endoskeleton structure underneath as you get closer to the building. There are projectors behind the exterior walls. This is how the Water Cube changes colors at night: it projects the light from the inside out.

Once you go in, you see the inner part of the Cube is constructed with plastic panels. The shapes resemble amoeba-like water droplets strung together with a steel frame, an incredibly interesting artistic structure.

The pool is awesome! The energy and excitement is palpable as you walk in and see the athletes doing warm-up laps. We all spotted Melissa and went nuts!

We easily have the largest cheering section, complete with matching Melissa T-shirts and visors. Melissa looks awesome warming up in the pool.
Melissa’s round is the very last of the session, leaving us all waiting in anticipation. The races were amazing! We all marveled at the determination and will of the racers. There is an intricate classification system pairing racers together that I still don’t fully understand. You will see some races where you have amputees racing against people with all their limbs that have some other type of deficit.

Some of the visually impaired racers have enough sight that they can be totally independent, contrasted by the high-level involved quadriplegics and paraplegics who need assistance getting in and out of the water. The crowd was great cheering on their home countries and giving encouragement to every racer to finish the race.

Finally…the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. It was time for Melissa to swim the 100-meter butterfly. Melissa walked out to the pool deck and our section erupted! We were easily the loudest fans, even louder than the raucous Australians! I think we were all more nervous than Melissa!

The crowd got quiet in anticipation of the starting horn and then….explosion! The place went nuts with cheering. I was screaming the whole time: “Swim! Swim! Go! Go!”

Unfortunately, as Melissa herself described in her blog, today was not to be.
Melissa swam her heart out but failed to qualify for the final round. She is a champion to us all! She races again tomorrow in the 100-meter freestyle.

We all got a chance to walk around the Olympic Village and take in the different sights. We even got a surprise chance to visit with our champ. We spent about 20 minutes in the Water Cube with Melissa. She was disappointed by the morning race, as can be expected, but looks great!

Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Day 3: The Great Wall of China

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

I met some of Melissa’s very nice friends and four of us chartered a mini-van and hired a tour guide to take us to The Great Wall of China.
We were very fortunate in that our guide, Snow, was very thorough and extremely knowledgeable in Chinese history. I truly enjoy learning and understanding about local cultures when I travel and Snow did not disappoint.

We learned about the different dynasties of Chinese history and why there was a need for the great wall. First, a staggering figure: The Great Wall is 5,000 kilometers long (more than 3,000 miles, roughly the expanse of the continental United States). It was built almost exclusively on the highest peaks around Beijing. The Great Wall protected the heart of China from invading nomadic tribes of the north, primarily Mongolian tribes. The peoples of the north were hunter/gatherers compared to the peoples of the south who were primarily farmers.

The Great Wall served to protect the less aggressive people of the south. To add perspective, 70% of modern Chinese are still of the peasant class (about 900 million people!).

The Great Wall is an amazing site to behold. What is more amazing is that this structure was built by hand, brick by brick. We climbed the wall and were able to see the different generations of bricks that were laid. The Great Wall was built and rebuilt from as early as 900 B.C. all the way to the 1600s when construction was finally abandoned.

The opening ceremonies took place this evening. Along with some others from the group who did not have tickets, I watched the ceremony from a big screen in the hotel. This was a spectacle that rivaled the Olympic opening ceremonies. It was absolutely spectacular. Future opening ceremonies will be hard pressed to top the grand theatrical productions that the Chinese put on.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Day 2: Arrival in Beijing

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Arrival in Beijing: Beautiful modern airport.

The Olympic ads and banners have all been changed over to Paralympic banners. The Chinese have created a distinct symbol for the Paralympics distinguishing it from the Olympics.

The infrastructure is incredible. There are multilingual volunteers stationed all over to help people. There is a huge corps of young volunteers for both the Olympics and now the Paralympics. There is even a mascot for the Paralympics, a colorful cow. Driving from the airport, I was very impressed by the wide-open incredibly clean modern roads.

You see people periodically cleaning on the sides of the roads. There are Paralympic banners that span the entire length of the main road from the airport leading towards the Olympic village.

Once arriving at the Olympic village the first sight to grab you is the Bird's Nest, or Beijing National Stadium, site of the Opening and Closing Ceremoniees as well as the track and field events.

There is heavy security all around, making it difficult for cars to navigate close to the hotels. My hotel is across from the Olympic Village and I had to walk a good distance as they would not let my cab in to the complex.

The hotel is clean and orderly. The staff tries very hard to be accommodating to the many tourists. The staff's English is marginal at best but not for lack of trying. I met Melissa Stockwell’s parents and a portion of her fan club (20 in total!).

We all had dinner together and retired for the evening.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Day 1: Flight To Beijing

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Flight to Beijing: No problems sleeping thanks to a previous week’s grueling schedule. I made a new friend on the flight by the name of Louis.

Louis lives in Aurora but was born in Beijing. He explained a lot of the history of Beijing to me. Beijing is an ancient city constructed in successive circles. The oldest circle begins at the center which is the Forbidden City, home of the emperors of China, which was ruled by emperors for millennia before the revolution of 1911.

Louis also helped me with some key words in Mandarin (the national dialect). Although I have my Berlitz book, Mandarin is different than English in many ways. One of the key distinguishing factors is the use of tones in the pronunciation of words. As an example cited in the book, the same word can mean four different things depending on how you emphasize the vowels.

Louis was nice enough to write the name and address of my hotel in Chinese characters so that I could show that to the cab driver when I arrived.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sight-Seeing At the Paralympic Games

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Well, today's the big (travel) day. China, here I come.

Lately, when people have learned of my trip to the Paralympic Games, they ask if I’ll be doing much sight-seeing.

And the answer, of course, is yes. There’s no way I could go to such an historic land and not take in the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and some of the other landmarks there.

But I am also looking forward to seeing the hundreds of Paralympic athletes representing the many countries there. With world-class athletes in 20 sports, ranging from judo and wheelchair rugby to wheelchair fencing and archery, I will be surrounded by a mind-boggling lineup of talent and determination.

Every time I see amputee athletes, or amputees in general, there’s always something to learn and then try to apply to my work to help patients. I am going to make a special point of trying to see as many track meets as possible. I think it’ll be phenomenal.

My main focus will be rooting on Melissa Stockwell. Besides preparing herself physically and mentally for her swimming competitions, she's been amazing at keeping updated with her own blog. You ought to check it out here.

Reflections on Ron Mann

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

In July, I had the opportunity to watch one of my patients, Ron Mann, at an event called the Extremity Games.

A motorcycle crash in 1996, when Ron was 24, resulted in an amputation of his left leg below the knee.

Ron was a key organizer of the event, and the exhibition he put on there was truly amazing. He arranged for mixed martial arts fighters from all around the country to converge on a town called Waterford, Michigan, between Detroit and Lansing.

So there they were, with the cage they’d put up for the bouts, and Ron and the other competitors had the crowd completely riveted with the action.

It’s another example of amputees that are very much not held back by their disability but rather focused on what they are able to do.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Meet Jason Wening, Paralympic Champion

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

At Scheck & Siress, we are proud to be associated with U.S. Army Veteran Melissa Stockwell.

She has inspired so many people across the country.

And if she earns a medal at the Paralympic Games, she won’t be the only one at Scheck with that distinction.

Jason Wening, the clinical research director in our Oak Park office, is a five-time Paralympic Gold medalist (plus one Bronze medal) before retiring after the Sydney Games in 2000.

He still holds three Paralympic world records, in the 800- and 1500- meter freestyle and the 400-meter individual medley.

I see a lot of similarities between Jason and Melissa. Both are tenacious when it comes to competition. There is a very strong drive in both of them to excel. It's humbling to work alongside both of them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thank You, Tammy!

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:
In my work, preserving the confidentiality and privacy of patients is a sacred trust. Taking the best possible care of them is my one and only focus.

But in some cases, patients are open, and sometimes eager, to share their stories with the public. Often it's because they have a passionate cause they want to share. Such is the case with Tammy Duckworth.

Tammy gave me permission to mention my care of her because she is fighting for something that goes well beyond her own situation. A helicopter co-pilot with the National Guard, she was flying a 2004 mission in Iraq when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grendade that struck her copter. Tammy lost both of her legs and suffered damage to her right arm.

After a close race for Congress, Tammy was named Director of the Illinois Veterans' Affairs Department two years ago by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That post has enabled Tammy to engage in public service by tirelessly advocating for a variety of issues, including the appropriate level of care for fellow veterans.

Along with millions of other Americans, I watched Tammy's speech on Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. My post yesterday includes a video of Tammy's speech, followed by Tammy using her prostheses to stride triumphantly off the stage.

Regardless of one's political leanings, I have to believe that there is universal respect and gratitude for the sacrifices that Tammy has made for us all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tammy Duckworth at The DNC

From David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist:

Last night, Tammy Duckworth, one of my patients, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She gave me permission to share more information, but for now, visit this site to see Tammy's six-minute talk.

Also the SouthtownStar had a nice feature that included mention of the role that I played in preparing Tammy for her trip to the convention. You can see that article here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cheering On Melissa Stockwell

David Rotter, Scheck & Siress prosthetist, shares the first of what will be many blog entries on his upcoming trip to the Paralympic Games in Beijing, China:

While there has been a huge amount of attention deservedly given to the Olympics in Beijing this month, I am excited to be headed there on September 4 for another global series of competitions: the Paralympic Games.

I’ll be there cheering on Melissa Stockwell, who is competing as a swimmer for the U.S. Paralympic Team. She is so sincerely looking forward to representing her country—I want to experience that and I want to support her in that.

I first met Melissa last year when she began an internship as a prosthetist here at Scheck & Siress. Since then, I have been humbled and impressed by her dedication. She is the quintessential success story of someone who believes with all of her heart and all of her soul.

When she enlisted in the U.S. Army, she was firm in her conviction that she was undertaking a noble endeavor. Later, when she was wounded in Iraq—losing her left leg in the process—instead of feeling like a victim or developing a negative association with what happened to her, she turned that around into one of the best possible positive things that she could.

She began swimming at Walter Reed Medical Center as part of her rehabilitation, and for the past year she’s expanded on that from being a therapeutic tool to a way to get a medal for her country.

She was a longshot to make the U.S. team. She really had to put the work in. As determined and as focused as she is, to cut her time in the 400-meter freestyle by 20 seconds (and set a U.S. record along the way) is astounding. amazing.

I am so proud that rather than view her disability as a limitation, she is using it as a motivator now to go to the fullest extent of her own capabilities. To learn more about Melissa, you can check out her blog as well as the video (below) from a May 2008 Chicago Blade Runners' session.