The National Federation of the Blind
of Connecticut
Necessary Medical Equipment
by Joyce Kane
Note from the editor: Joyce Kane is the Vice President of the Southern Connecticut Chapter of the NFBC. Joyce has been an active member of the Connecticut affiliate since 1998 and served as Secretary for the Southern Connecticut Chapter, during its early stages of organization. For the last year, Joyce has worked diligently to rally support for legislation requiring insurance companies to cover The Talking RX as a necessary medical item. Below she describes the reasons she feels so passionately about the product.

Different people can define necessary medical equipment in so many different ways. It can be as simple as a bandage for a child that has skinned his knee. There is the equipment used to deliver oxygen to the emphysema patient or the insulin syringe, which is used in the administering of that medication to a diabetic. No one would deny that these are part of the things considered necessary medical equipment. Insurance companies pay for these things without hesitation. They may not pay for that Looney Tune Bandage, but have you ever seen an itemized bill from the hospital?

What is considered necessary to one person may not be considered necessary to another. Recently, I advocated in support for Senate Bill 277. The bill would require insurance companies to cover the cost of talking prescription bottles for the visually impaired. The race was bitter to the end. Both time, and the insurance lobbyists, were working against the bill.

I consider myself fortunate to have met John Dobbins, a licensed pharmacist and the inventor of the Talking RX. During the year prior to the introduction of Senate Bill 277, I was a Beta tester for this potentially life saving device. The Talking RX allows individuals with visual impairments to take responsibility for the safe management of their own care. The unit comes complete with a microchip that holds a one-minute message. In that minute, the Talking RX can hold all the information necessary for a person to self-administer his or her prescribed medications. Through a very simple recording and playback system, one can record the voice of a pharmacist or family member reading such prescription bottle information as medication type, dosage, precautions, the prescription number, and the drug store phone number.

Other than the initial recording of information, the blind or visually impaired patient would not be dependent on someone else to do such things as call in for re-fills. It is independence, and self-responsibility, with a simple push of a button. The Talking RX, designed to also serve as a base for one or another prescription bottle, is reusable. One can record over old information if necessary. There are 3 batteries in each unit, which will last approximately one year. When battery replacement is needed, just simply take the batteries out, and replace them. Your instructional message will still be there until you want or need to change it.

The Talking RX has changed my life. It has given back to me a piece of my precious independence, a great deal, of which I had lost when I suddenly went blind six years ago. I was a diabetic for the thirty-nine years prior to my bypass surgery, from which I awoke to total darkness. My blindness occurred while I was on the heart and lung machine. It was a result of small artery disease, which allowed for an insufficient supply of blood to my optic nerve. I also had two silent heart attacks, which is a common phenomena with diabetes, within the two years prior to the surgery. Silent they were, as I had no feeling of pain or discomfort.

There I was, leaving the hospital as a newly blind person, recovering from open-heart surgery, on nine medications, and forty-six years old. The medical professionals had not given advice or guidance concerning the management of my diabetes. I was expected to administer my insulin and my numerous medications.

Finding accessible information was quite a challenge. My introduction to the National Federation of the Blind and my first National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia was overwhelming. However, I have made friends and allies, and determination continues to push me ahead. Connecticut Senate Bill concerning talking prescription bottles for the visually impaired is a bill that I will fight for and be part of until it is in the law books. I will be there to testify in front of our lawmakers at the next go-around, and until this bill becomes law. I will see to it that all of the visually impaired citizens, and Medicaid patients, of Connecticut will have the opportunity to regain this piece of independence.

Do not let others make the decision for you concerning what is "necessary equipment" for your well being. Contact your state Senators and House of Representatives, and tell them this is necessary for "you"! One voice can be heard, but many can be heard so much better. For any further information on the Talking Rx, please contact Joyce Kane, Blindhands@AOL.com or call 203 378-8928.

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Updated August 16, 2002