RIO RANCHO — On Nov. 30, 6-year-old amputee advocate Hope Burnett received a special surprise visit from Santa Claus during a prosthetic appointment at Hanger Clinic in Rio Rancho.
“It was a joy to end this fantastic community event with Hope and her family, and as it turns out, a Christmas miracle happened … Santa arrived and let Hope know she was on the ‘very good list,’” said Gabe Brodehl, Hope’s clinician and the clinic manager at the Rio Rancho location.
In attendance for the surprise were Hanger employees, local news people, Hope’s parents and Santa Claus.
The man in the red suit was actually Hanger Clinic Prosthetist Doug Wacker, who is also a professional Santa Claus performer.
“They helped me with my prosthetic, so it was kind of funny to see Santa,” Hope said. “He [Santa Claus] gave me some candy, an airplane to build and some pencils and a bear and sunglasses.”
Hope was born without her right leg at the hip and has used a prosthetic since she was 1 1/2 years old.
“When she was asked what she wanted for Christmas, Hope mentioned that she was hoping for Furbies and to have a running leg. We shall see what happens,” Brodehl said.
Hope was instrumental in helping get House Bill 131 passed at the Roundhouse. In April 2023, she testified about the importance of having access to activity-specific prosthetics that could help her run, play and dance.
The bill passed unanimously and will go into effect in January 2024.
The bill will ensure that state insurance plans have to provide coverage for orthotics and prosthetics at a level that is equivalent to the federal Medicare program, and it will also create coverage for a second orthotic or prosthetic device intended for physical activity.
The bill helps 25,000 New Mexicans who have mobility impairments or limb loss and are unable to afford orthotic and prosthetic care.
“I want a running leg so I can catch up with my friends at school … and so I can run fast with my friends,” Hope said.