Humanizing Healthcare Recap, Maggie Baumer’s Story: Survival to Empowerment

In 2012 Maggie Baumer survived an accident and lost her left arm below the elbow. Over the years Maggie has built a strong support team and has started openly talking about her experience.

“For me, sharing my experience when it feels appropriate has been an important part of my recovery and healing process. It can often take time to gain confidence and comfort in discussing our stories, but when I do, it can be helpful to others who are going through a similar process. They might learn something new from hearing someone else’s story or feel less alone. It can also help others in a similar situation to feel seen and heard. In turn, sharing our stories can help those of us who have been through a trauma move along our healing path.”

For Maggie, her support team was just as powerful as her medical team. Maggie’s immediate care team consisted of her medical team, family, friends, and colleagues. As she healed, both physically and mentally, Maggie expanded her care team to peer support, community resources, and getting back to work once she was ready. This helped her build a new community – one that made a key impact in her life.

Peer support, through the Hanger Clinic, set Maggie up with a mentor who was also living with limb loss, helping Maggie navigate her new reality. Additionally, Maggie joined social and activist communities. This helped her make connections, build confidence and advocate for herself.

“Initially, I was advocating for myself in small ways – letting my family know what was helpful to me and what wasn’t, or by asking a list of prepared questions to my healthcare provider. Later, it evolved into negotiating bill payments and obtaining Social Security Disability benefits when I was out of work. As time moved on, I became more of an advocate for others by running a limb loss/limb difference support group and currently working with organizations like the Amputee Coalition to advocate for fair insurance coverage for prosthetics, along with other laws and policies. My advocacy efforts have essentially expanded from a focus on my own needs to a focus on the needs of those in my community.”

When Maggie was asked what she wanted attendees to take away from her presentation she said,

“I hope they took away a sense of hope. The goal was to show that even though our healthcare system isn’t perfect, we as human beings have an innate sense of resilience that can be supported or suppressed by circumstances. When we provide people with access to resources, including peer support and empathy in the healthcare we provide, we enhance their ability to lead empowered lives.”

Although the presentation is over, the dialogue continues as we prepare for our exhibit opening of Bespoke Bodies: The Design and Craft of Prosthetics in March 2019 at the Prudential Center in Boston, MA.

“I think the limb loss and limb difference community has received a lot more attention in recent years through various circumstances and recent films. I think the exhibit will help to provide a more in-depth look at a variety of personal stories, as well as illuminate the process of obtaining a prosthesis, highlight the latest technologies available, and what it’s actually like to wear a prosthesis. Overall, I think the exhibit will help to promote a dialogue about what it’s like to be a person with limb loss or limb difference and a person with a disability in our community. This dialogue will help to destigmatize disability and empower our entire community.”

From sculpting ocular prostheses to crowdsourcing affordable 3D printed hands, Bespoke Bodies: The Design and Craft of Prosthetics surveys the past, present, and future of prosthetic design on a global scale. Case studies featuring real stories from professional athletes, veterans, kids learning to live with limb difference, and more consider the contemporary world of prosthetic design from both a functional and aesthetic perspective. Visitors will explore the evolution and design process behind a range of prostheses through visual stories, historical surveys, videos, and interactive models. Over 35 case studies — spanning DIY-inventions to the development of mind-controlled bionic limbs—tell the stories behind the patients, clinicians, designers, and artists changing how we think about the impact of design, and ultimately, the future of our mobility.