By Dirk Hoffman firstname.lastname@example.org
Lee Ann Patterson counts her blessings each and every day.
Working at the Amputee Treatment Center, 8388 Lewiston Rd., Batavia she is reminded on a daily basis how fragile the human body can be. But she also witnesses the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
Patterson feels fortunate she has been able to enjoy a job that brings so much personal satisfaction from helping others regain their lives.
The Amputee Treatment Center is operated by Michael Love Associates, Inc., of which Patterson is vice president and Love is president. The center has been in business since 1983.
Patterson, an Elba native and Bergen resident, graduated from Genesee Community College where she studied accounting and secretarial.
She said she knew she always wanted to be self-employed and feels fortunate to have a ‘‘wonderful career.’’
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following interview with Lee Ann Patterson was conducted by news editor Dirk Hoffman Sept. 22 at the Amputee Treatment Center, 8388 Lewiston Rd., Batavia.)
What is most common cause of amputations?
Disease is by far the most common cause. And it is usually due to poor circulation, diabetes or cancer. Accidents are fewer, but we have a lot of younger and middle-aged patients due to motorcycle accidents. And of course, there are also motor vehicle accidents. The most common amputation is below the knee. About 70 percent of all amputations are below the knee.
There must be a heavy emotional component for someone who has lost a limb or part of a limb. Do you provide counseling services as well?
Sometimes we end up doing that because getting fitted for a prosthesis is a pretty intimate process. To get a prosthesis, you are going to be seen several times for the casting, the fitting and the final delivery. Now with the Internet, there is so much exposure it is not as traumatizing. It is still traumatic, but years ago when a person had their leg amputated, they felt completely alone because they did not know anybody else who had undergone the same thing. There is a lot of psychological interaction. You try to be positive. Sometimes I bring in other patients who are more than willing to talk to somebody who is a new amputee. It is something we provide if we think they need it.
And all the work from measuring and manufacturing is all down in-house?
Yes, thanks to the skill of Michael and George Hall Jr., the third member of our team. George, our senior prosthetist, has been in the field for 45 years. And every person is different, nothing is the same. So it is like a brand new project everytime. You cannot just grab something from a box and be done with it. There are a lot of different parameters and you need to think about what the patient is going to want to do and design it around that. Weight and activity are the two big things. When we take a cast it is like an hour process right there.
How has the landscape changed as far as billing insurance under Obamacare?
It is exponentially harder. I have worked with Mike for 32 years and when we started it was pretty basic, the patient came in and we figured out what they needed, what was best for them, and the insurance company paid, pretty straight forward. And now, the patient still needs the same thing, and yet it is another party, the insurance company, dictating how we’re doing it, what we are doing, every step of the way. It went from where the patient could get anything they wanted, basically, to now where they are restricting what the patient can get. It’s not even on their fee schedule. There are things out there, great technological advances, that we could be putting on a patient, but if the insurance company has an antiquated fee schedule, you’re not going to get it. For instance, Excellus/Blue Cross & Blue Shield, they seem so modern on the TV commercials, but they pay at the 2008 fee schedule. And Medicaid pays at the 1977 fee schedule.
That must be very frustrating for you?
Absolutely, because the bottom line is no patient comes to see me unless they need something in a bad way. You know, it’s not like cosmetic surgery. All of our patients are in desperate need of our services.
What is the absolute best part of your job?
Well, there is nothing better than the feeling you get when you restore someone’s life. A person who comes in and they don’t know what’s going to happen, they don’t know what it’s going to be like and then to have them come back in and say ‘‘hey, I was out on the dance floor’’ or ‘‘I’ve been to the casino now.’’ Whatever age it is, that is just wonderful. Despite insurance, that is the best part. It is truly rewarding and what job is like that? When it happens, it is just wonderful.
What about being self-employed appealed to you?
Well, I’m an only child. I just felt I was confident enough that I could do anything. And Mike hired me back then and we have built this company up together and it has been quite successful. I have been able to dip my hand into anything, honestly. I had to get our computers going from the ground up and all that that entailed. I designed our website, advertising. I do a little bit of everything. I handle all the payroll and all the healthcare billing, everything to run the office.
Family: Husband, Bob.
Pastime: ‘‘Enjoying nature.’’
Favorite Food: Seafood.
Favorite Book: Pillars of the Earth
Favorite Music: ‘‘I love the blues. We had The Ghost Riders play at our wedding.’’
Dinner partner of choice: ‘‘My deceased relatives that I never met. I would like to know more about them.’’
People would be surprised to know: ‘‘I’m artistic and I have a great sense of direction. I can be anywhere and know where north is.’’
Dislike: Hateful people, negativity.
Genesee County’s best-kept secret: The Bergen Swamp is right on the edge of our property. Most people don’t know anything about it, but it is beautiful.