Washing machine accident leaves woman in need of prosthetic armWritten by Amy Biolchini | | ABiolchini@toledofreepress.com
Trusting the safety mechanism of her washing machine, Louise Heintschel of Jerusalem Township began to clean a stain on a tablecloth she had placed in the washer.
“I really didn’t put my arm in the machine,” Heintschel said. “Everyone thinks I did.”
As the machine filled with water, Heintschel held part of the tablecloth under the stream of running water to clean the soiled area. No sooner had she put her hand under the water then she heard the click of machine starting its cycle.
Within seconds, her left hand was caught in the spinning tablecloth. Acting as a lasso, the tablecloth twisted her arm until it broke just above the elbow. The machine stopped spinning moments later. Heintschel turned the washer off.
“It happened so quickly. My mind quit working. Everything stopped. I don’t remember thinking anything after I heard that click,” Heintschel said.
With a home in the country and three grown children, Heintschel was alone. Using the tablecloth as a sling, Heintschel walked to her neighbor’s house for help, where they called 911. She was taken by medical helicopter to a hospital in Toledo, then to the medical center at the University of Michigan. Doctors decided the irreparable damage to her left arm could only be solved through amputation at the elbow.
Heintschel spent 15 days in the U of M hospital after her July 9 accident, and now has to return two to three times a week for appointments. Heintschel’s search for a prosthetic arm has been difficult, since her insurance pays less than 10 percent of the cost of a prosthetic.
“The biggest challenge is to get something that will give you the most freedom. The prosthetic arm, for it to be able to function as normally as possible, is really expensive,” Heintschel said.
Louise Heintschel’s son, Kevin Heintschel, said a basic upper body prosthetic that could simply pick up objects would cost from $20,000 to $25,000. For models that are more complex, allowing for a better range of function, prices jump from $40,000 to $120,000.
“Arms and hands are so complex. The difference in cost between prosthetic lower limbs and upper limbs is astronomical,” Louise Heintschel said.
The type of prosthetic she wants is a hybrid of cable-based prosthetic that runs from the elbow to the wrist and uses body power, and a myoelectric system from the wrist down that uses impulses from the nervous system to fire all of the digital function.
“From my perspective and talking to doctors, a lot of it will come down to willpower and initiative,” Kevin Heintschel said. “It may be a stumbling block, but it’s not going to stop her from living life.”
Her son has organized a series of benefit events to raise money for his mother’s prosthesis. Yeeha’s Bar and Grill will host a benefit concert Sept. 25 and will feature the reunion of local Oregon band CEILING. A portion of the door admission and raffle proceeds will go toward Louise Heintschel.
A community spaghetti dinner from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m Oct. 23 will be at the American Legion’s Christ Dunberger Post. Dinner is $10 and includes drinks, dessert and snacks. There will be a reverse raffle, games and a silent auction, including items like tickets to University of Michigan, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toledo Walleye games. On Nov. 13, three buses will take participants to the Greektown Casino in Detroit. Tickets are $40 with a $20 voucher given to each person at the casino.
“The only thing I pray for is to be able to get back to living life as normally as possible,” Louise Heintschel said.
She misses working in the garden and cooking meals for her family.
Her son said there has been an outpouring of support from family, friends, the community and his mother’s co-workers. The washing machine involved in the accident is no longer in her house and is destined for the scrap yard, Louise Heintschel said.
Contact Kevin Heintschel at email@example.com for information on fundraising events.