After his legs passed through the power boat's propeller, 16-year-old Jordan Thomas looked down and saw that his scuba fins were gone and blood was spilling into the water.
"I knew immediately that I could possibly die pretty easily," he said in a phone interview Thursday.
He didn't and, four years after losing his feet in the boating accident during a Florida vacation, the Missionary Ridge resident has received numerous awards for his efforts to help children access prosthetic equipment through his nonprofit Jordan Thomas Foundation.
Mr. Thomas also recently received the national "Courage Award" from the Courage Center, a rehab and resource center in Minneapolis, beating out fellow nominees Mohammed Ali and Michael J. Fox, said Janet Jobe, director of the foundation.
This week, Mr. Thomas, now 20, was interviewed for a CNN Newsroom profile, scheduled to air next Thursday, that will cover his rehabilitation and recovery from his accident, as well as his philanthropic accomplishments. The scheduled air-date is subject to change, a CNN producer said.
The profile also will highlight his support of recently introduced national legislation that aims to help more people afford prosthetic equipment.
The Prosthetic and Custom Orthotic Parity Act of 2009 would require private insurance companies to pay for prosthetic devices and custom orthotic devices at the same level at which they would cover other medical treatments. Insurers could not impose a lifetime limit on prosthetic or orthotic benefits.
Some insurance companies will place $5,000 caps on prosthetic benefits, Mr. Thomas said. That would cover only a fraction of most prosthetics, which in some cases can cost upward of $80,000, said Mr. Thomas, a rising junior at the College of Charleston. His two lower leg prosthetics cost $24,000, he said.
ON THE WEB
A feature on Jordan Thomas is scheduled for Thursday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on CNN Newsroom with Tony Harris. The scheduled run date is subject to change.
WHAT IS THE PARITY ACT?
In response to insurance companies increasingly limiting reimbursement of prosthetic equipment at "unrealistic" levels, the Prosthetic and Custom Orthotic Parity Act of 2009, or H.R. 2575, would require private insurance companies to pay for prosthetic devices and custom orthotic devices at the same level at which they would cover other medical treatments. Insurers could not impose a lifetime limit on prosthetic or orthotic benefits. The bill was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
More than 1.8 million people in the U.S. are living with limb loss and 130,000 Americans annually undergo an amputation, according to the legislation.
Others companies limit the number of prosthetic devices they cover, even though amputees often need a number of different prosthetic devices over the years, he said.
"That's like giving a kid a size 4 shoe and saying, 'Wear this forever.' It's just not possible," he said.
Eleven states have passed legislation related to prosthetic parity. In Tennessee, a number of bills addressing this issue have been introduced, but none have passed.
The Jordan Thomas Foundation has raised has raised $350,000, about $100,000 of which has gone to supply prosthetic equipment for three children in need, Mr. Thomas said.
Six-year-old Noah Parton, of Dayton, Tenn., is one of the recipients of prosthetics through the foundation.
At 3 weeks old, Noah underwent an operation for a heart condition which led to a blood clot in his right leg. The leg had to be amputated above the knee shortly after, said his mother, Nancy Parton.
Their insurance plan would only cover a prosthetic that did not have a knee joint, so the leg would stick straight out when he tried to crawl, his mother recounted. But the Thomas Foundation helped Noah get a bendable prosthetic, she said.
"Now that he has bendable knees, he can climb stairs by himself, he can go to the park and play as a normal kid," she said.