Moving the HME Industry Forward

Legislative/Advocacy

The Fab Four and More

August 12, 2013

FORT COLLINS, CO – Back in 1999, I spoke with a “dealer” who had a particularly successful wheelchair business. She mentioned “Invacare” and I said, “Inva-what?” and asked for a spelling. True story.

With credibility obliterated, I forged on and wrote my first DME-related article. A few years later, I took over as editor of an HME industry magazine (now defunct). The rest is history—in the making.

Thousands of articles—and 100 Medtrade Mondays later—I asked for a bunch of “Medtrade Memories” from some familiar faces. Check them out in this special 100th issue. When I ask myself the same question, it’s the people and the passion I remember most.

In 2005, I headed to Medtrade Spring knowing no one. The magazine had its contributors, so I sought them out not knowing what to expect.

The outgoing editor wanted me to go out to dinner with three attorneys who had been contributing their wisdom to the magazine for quite a while. Fortunately for me, Jeff Baird and the lawyers at Brown & Fortunato made me feel welcome. They shared their knowledge, expertise, and friendship.

They graciously invited me to The Fab Four Beatles tribute show, and a friendship was born. So many others have taken the time to educate me on the nuances of this amazing business over the last 15 years. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of them.

It has not always been pretty. I have gritted my teeth as criminals tarnished the reputations of HME providers throughout the nation through fraud and abuse. These are not the people I met at so many Medtrades. Unfortunately, the media and CMS often painted the industry with the same filthy brush.

I know better. We know better. My own 85-year-old dad knows better because he now relies on home medical equipment to live an independent life.

In addition to the great Fab Four show back at that first Medtrade Spring, I remember meeting David T. Williams, who had only recently retired from his post as head of government relations for Invacare. David was obviously in some pain from the cruel effects of multiple sclerosis, but he took a lot of time to answer my questions.

David wrote a book called Battling the Beast Within (foreword by Invacare’s Mal Mixon), which stills sits on my office shelf. It’s filled with many of David’s favorite aphorisms, a few of which he shared with me that day in 2005 during a long discussion about the industry’s legislative challenges.

“You can’t hit a home run if you don’t come up to bat,” he said. “I have always liked that one, and it applies to everyone at Medtrade who is on the fence about contacting legislators.” David co-wrote a monthly column for my former magazine with Cara Bachenheimer (current head of government relations for Invacare), and it was always a pleasure to read their work. They were always brutally honest.

David passed away in 2011 at the age of 62, 35 years after being diagnosed with MS in his mid 20s. I think of him often. His courage rubbed off on many in the industry, and his resilience still inspires.

At this point, we all could use some inspiration, and I’ll try to provide some in the virtual pages of Medtrade Monday. What will the industry look like when issue 200 rolls around? That depends an awful lot on you—and us.

For my part, it is an honor to edit and write this publication. I have cheered through the triumphs, shook my head at the defeats. Through it all, I believe the best days are still ahead for this fantastic industry. See you in Orlando, Fla, from Oct 7-10 at Medtrade. If you have suggestions for articles, give me a ring at (970) 206-0071, or send me an e-mail at greg.thompson91@yahoo.com.  

Greg Thompson is editor of Medtrade Monday, a publication of Emerald Expositions.