Wounded veteran sings the praises of Hanger Clinic in Rio Rancho, the world’s premier provider of prosthetic devices. Read about it in the Rio Rancho Observer:

A helping hand to take the next step: Clinic wins award

Rio Rancho resident Daniel Nakitare said his life changed forever in late February 2013 after a truck he was in hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Nakitare said the explosion shattered his left ankle and heel, leaving him incapacitated in the field.

“They (the 101st Infantry) shipped me to the best orthopedic surgeon in the military at the time, and he basically he told me that he wouldn’t know if he could save my leg until I was on the operating table,” Nakitare said.

The surgeon asked him if he wanted to save the leg or if he wanted it amputated since he’d performed 300-plus amputations at that point in the war.

“He said, ‘I am really, really good at it since I’ve done so many,” Nakitare said sarcastically.

He said he was naïve when he asked the doctor to save his leg, hoping it would heal and he could go back to a normal life.

Instead, Nakitare said he went through a lot of pain for almost two years before he decided to have his left leg amputated below his knee.

“It was when my son started walking after crawling and he was doing it faster than I could that I knew I had to make a change,” Nakitare said.

His change began when he met with a certified prosthetist orthotist at the Hanger Clinic in Rio Rancho.

“My amputation was Veterans Day 2015 and since then, my life has been easier,” Nakitare said.

Gabrielle Brodehl, Hanger Clinic manager, said patient care is of paramount importance at all 800 Hanger Clinic locations nation-wide.

“Hanger is the premier provider, in the world, of prosthetic and orthotic services,” she said. “We provide services for infants all the way up to geriatrics.”

Brodehl said Hanger’s services are provided in hospitals, clinics and patients’ homes if needed.

“We will absolutely see people that walk in off the street if they need help; no referral is necessary to come in and speak with one of our specialists,” she said. “We want people to have knowledge so they can make informed decisions about their care.”

Brodehl explained that after patients have been set up with Hanger’s services, they are given custom care.

“We don’t just provide physical care; we also help each amputee with emotional care to help with the stresses of making a life change,” she said.

According to Brodehl, each patient is asked a series of questions that range from their comfort level with their prosthetic to how well they function in the outside world.

“We also have a national network of peer visitors that get together to promote health and fitness as well as mentors for those amputees that need some encouragement along their journey,” Brodehl said.

Hanger Clinic’s Rio Rancho location has done such an inspiring job of helping patients that it was given the Clinical Excellence in Outcomes-Based Patient Care award for 2018.

“We have become outcomes-based so we have measurable results to show others that we have been successful in certain areas and have the numbers to prove it,” Brodehl said.

Retired Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Gerard Barela said he thought he was doing fine until the day he began using Hanger for his prosthetic needs.

“In 2010 I was riding my motorcycle home on Fourth Street when I was hit by an older gentleman who made an eastbound turn and hit me at about 35 miles per hour,” Barela said.

Six surgeries later, Barela said, he made the decision to have his left leg amputated.

“My first time in a wheelchair was tough, because I felt like a loser,” he said.

Soon Barela was back on duty, working at the courthouse and learning to cope with his injury.

“It takes a lot of practice, a lot of work… Losing a limb and learning to walk again isn’t just something that comes to you and that’s it,” he said.

After having some trouble with his prosthetic foot, Barela made an appointment to see a specialist at Hanger.

“I actually thought I was doing well,” Barela said. “But when we sat down, we started using an outcomes-based score card that indicated that I was nowhere near I thought I was in my care.”

Almost one year after walking into Hanger to find a provider for a new prosthetic foot, Barela said his score went from 70 percent to 98 percent.

“Even if I get 100, I want to do more so I can continue to improve and get better with my care,” he said.

Brodehl said her biggest joy is watching patients enter in a wheelchair and, after their care, push that same wheelchair back to their car on their own.

“I get to see positive results every day in my line of work and it makes me wonder why more people aren’t doing this,” Brodehl said.

For more information, go to hangerclinic.com.

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