SeekFreaks is ecstatic to start February with a Spotlight Interview of a therapist who goes above and beyond to reduce wasted equipment, and giving them new life through her non-profit!
Marne Iwand, MPT, ATP work for Munroe Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska medical center. Pediatric therapist but we focus on the lift span for individual with intellectual disabilities. My areas of interest equipment, mobility with the six F-words in mind.
I have a non profit Mobility Equipment and restoration that my husband Hans helps modify and adapt equipment he is an engineer. We loan out equipment to family and local therapist. http://mobilityequipmentrestoration.com/
Why did you choose to become a physical therapist?
I had been a nurse medical assistant for several years to get my husband through his degree. I wanted more involvement in the medical field. I got accepted to PT school in my late 20s, found a particular likeness to pediatrics, and as I grew as practitioner, equipment is one of the areas that I enjoyed.
What settings do you practice in?
I do a combination – I do school-based, some outpatients, equipment evaluation, and closely with our muscular dystrophy association clinics and summer camps.
I work for at Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Hospital Center. I have an amazing place to work for that supports community outreach, and they strive for us to that work. I have a great job!
Can you tell me more about it?
We have staff that are on as faculty. We also have an ASD group, a feeding group, so it’s a lot of specialties. Within OT and PT, we cover the Omaha public schools for school-based therapy. We are also building an outpatient program. Within our outpatient, we have a seating evaluation clinic, and we also do the grant for muscular dystrophy clinics in Omaha.
How do you apportion your time to each of these responsibilities?
(Laughs) It can be challenging, especially at the start of the school year when I am organizing each of those little niches. Once or twice a month I work at a muscular dystrophy clinic. In the summers I am open since I am a 9-month employee. So I can do the camps and outpatient if needed.
What is your role at the muscular dystrophy clinic, working there only once or twice a month?
We work in an interdisciplinary consultative model where we evaluate as needed. I conduct regular testing, such as Timed Up and Go and manual muscle testing. I screen for equipment and safety needs. I also manage the loan closet, so if they need an equipment, I can loan them out of my closet or the MD clinic closet. I would then refer the clients to outpatient clinics in their local areas – which can be in Nebraska or Iowa. I empower the client to communicate with their local therapists, and I am always available to speak directly to therapists as well.
You were referred to SeekFreaks because of your own ‘side’ project – your equipment loan closet. How did that come about?
My husband is a mechanical engineer. Years ago, he has a very dear friend who is a machinist. They would help me modify equipment. Then I started seeing the trend of insurance companies not approving equipment; and families struggling, because they can use both a power and a manual wheelchair, but the insurance companies would only pay for one.
I started asking myself, what happens to the chair when children outgrow them? I found they either ended up in the basement covered in dust, they go back to the vendor and end up being thrown out, or we use to go on mission trips handing out old equipment. And then I realized, what about our local kids who can’t secure equipment?
My husband pushed me sooner than I would have (laugh), so we started a non-profit. Either via patients, DME providers or word-of-mouth, people would give me equipment. We refurbish it.
What’s the name of the non-profit?
It’s called Mobility Equipment Restoration. I would get calls from local therapists “I need to try out an EZ Stand for a 16 year old” and I provide them with what’s in my loan closet. Or a family would ask for an adaptive bike. Hans [Marne’s husband] would modify an equipment or build one from scratch.
Who pays for this?
Typically, it’s the Iwand pocketbook (lol). We also get some donations from local companies or families. People also donate on our website. Some equipment goes to public schools, so the school can then save some money and spend them on other essential things. There are many refugees who come to the area – so they do not have insurance right away. I provide them with adaptive chairs.
The only payment that comes back to us is that the equipment comes back to us after they are done using them so we can refurbish them again for others to use.
Wow. Can you share with me some success stories?
I’ve had a child who couldn’t afford a power wheelchair secure one through us so she can access her school better, and have more energy at the end of the day.
Hans built a cart for a child with ASD so he can sit behind his dad who likes to bike. Now they’re taking bike rides together.
We also had a visiting professor from Africa with a son with Cerebral Palsy. She asked around for equipment that would be useful, as he is usually curled up. We combined a tilt space frame I have and a seating from a local vendor. Mom was able to take it back to Africa so he can enjoy interacting with a family.
For the MD summer camp, I’m the safety and equipment person, fixing them as needed. I also work with a local vendor to ensure that the kids who go to camp can enjoy – power wheelchairs, scooters, bath equipment.
One of my original ideas is to try out equipment before they buy one. So families can find out if it’s useful for them, or fit their homes.
How do you deal with potential liabilities?
That’s always a concern. So when I loan anything, I have the family sign a waiver that it is a used equipment and that they are using it at their own risk. In schools, my work covers liabilities, since I am responsible to improve access. For example, I make bathroom accessible, make temporary solutions until permanent ones are provided to the child.
Where would you want your restoration non-profit to go in the future?
I am passionate about running. Running strollers for children are hard to come by, they are very expensive, especially for young adults – insurance would not pay for that. I would like to see more running strollers available, or for physical activities: more adaptive bicycles – equipment for those fun family activities.
What I have over the years, is that as children age out of school, there’s less and less social things for them to do. Then they end up sitting around, losing skills and strength. I would like for them to be moving around, having fun, being social and networking with other peers.
I work with local social non-profits such as Gotta Be Me, where I work with their choir groups to ensure kids are safe during transfers for plays and singing. I also lead an exercise group for them before they sing.
How many equipment do you keep, or have out there? How do you keep tabs?
We rent space. I house about 20 pieces bath equipment, 50-60 wheelchairs (small pediatric to adult power chairs). We have a lot of adaptive seating and strollers out in the community.
My husband and I work in the shop during the weekends. We have a lot of wheelchairs. The one thing that we are lacking are new tires and specialized seating. So there you have it.
What would you want other SeekFreaks out there to know?
I am available if equipment is needed. If I do not have it, I am a member of a group chat with other professionals. I am just here for the families to make sure they all enjoy.
Think outside the box! As therapists sometimes we get tunnel vision. It’s good to look outside – consider the whole family, the extended family – because that is important. I would like to help Jane, for example, and she has a grandma she likes visiting. Or she would like to ride bikes with her friends, but she does not have a bike she can balance on. We need to step up and be a resource to the family.
What’s the best way to contact you?
Via email: email@example.com.
Is there a national list of non-profits like yours?
There is a national MDA closet so individuals with MD going on a trip, for example to New York, can request equipment at another city when traveling. It can be delivered to their hotels. Other than that, there is no national list.
What would you recommend to those who would like to start a non-profit like yours?
Make sure they have a good support system – of DME companies, therapists and families. And learn to say no when it is appropriate – I still have a problem with that. Also, I get dirty when I go to the shop. I have no nails LOL. It’s one of those things that has to be your passion.
Maybe we should do a shout-out via SeekFreaks and start a list!
That would be great!
So there you go SeekFreaks! The ball is on your court. Comment below with equipment restoration non-profits or companies like Marne’s so we can start sharing a list.
A special thanks to SeekFreak Sanda Willett of UNMC for nominating Marne for this Spotlight Interview. If you would like to nominate yourself or a colleague for a SeekFreaks Spotlight, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catch the author, Carlo Vialu, at Everything’s Measurable! ICF-based Approach to Pediatric OT and PT Assessment on April 14-15 in Los Angeles or April 26-27 in Chicago. Register and save $60 during the February Special!