Former Montgomery Co. Teacher Fights Insurance to Regain the Use of Her Hands

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A retired Montgomery County elementary school teacher is excited at the opportunity to hold a washcloth. After losing her limbs and part of her face to a potentially deadly blood poisoning, she is learning how to live with prosthetics.

On her first day with her prosthetic hand, Sherron Couldren can’t take her eyes off it — staring at it as she flexes it.

“I can pick up a washcloth and wash my face! I can brush my teeth now. I can pick up a coffee cup in the morning! That’s going to feel so good,” Couldren said with pure joy.

The Gaithersburg, Maryland, resident barely survived a deadly diagnosis. Her husband discovered her mouth, hands and feet turning blue one morning in February 2016.

“I had septic shock syndrome, which is a disease — the blood poisoning type,” Couldren said. “When that happens, all the blood rushes to the internal organs and leaves the extremities and they die,” she said.

Doctors saved her life, but they had to amputate Couldren’s hands, both legs below the knee, part of her face and her tongue. She has worked with a speech therapist to regain the ability to speak clearly, and uses prosthetic legs to walk. But until now, she had no fingers; her insurance company didn’t deem them necessary.

“They said they wouldn’t pay [up front] for anything with movable fingers,” said Tyler Manee, with Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics. “So basically, sticks on her hand is what they felt was appropriate. And imagine trying to brush your teeth or something with fingers that can’t move.”

At their new Rockville, Maryland. office, Manee fitted Couldren for the prosthetic hand.

“I think they see heart patients and they’ll do a triple bypass and do open heart surgery in a minute,” Couldren said. “Because it’s known; it’s common; it’s accepted. But prosthetics are a very small part of the population, and with this help, I am going to be able to have a job again. I can actually be able to contribute and make a difference now, have a purpose again.”

Manee said the hand is valued at $125,000, and Couldren’s insurance company said they wouldn’t consider paying for it until it was fitted and in use. If they decline, Couldren would have to come up with the money herself. It’s a response many patients get, Manee said.

“It’s really disheartening sometimes that there are things a person clearly needs and that insurance should pay for but they don’t want to. It makes sense they don’t want to, but still it’s very hard,” he said.

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