A shortage of aluminum prompted the Mankato Clinic to ask community members for crutches, so the first new delivery in months was welcomed on Thursday.
The clinic posted the call for crutches on its Facebook in January, reporting that they were in short supply due to supply chain disruptions. August was the last time he received a new shipment of adult crutches.
In response to the crutch situation, the community came out in gear.
Supplies haven’t run out since August, said Robyn Naumann, supply and purchasing manager, thanks in part to community members who donated gently used crutches.
“We had a good number of people who came to help us,” she said. “We were lucky not to miss any.”
Initially, the clinic asked employees in October if they could donate any crutches they had at home. This allowed employees to donate 23 older adult crutches, 14 standard crutches and three youth crutches.
Typically, the clinic receives an allocation of crutches from a distributor and keeps enough on hand to last a few months. As the next planned expedition seemed to continue to be pushed deeper into the future, Mankato Clinic’s demand extended beyond employees to a broader appeal to the community.
“Since that time, we’ve gotten about 17 or 18 more pairs of that (adult) size that we were specifically looking for,” Naumann said.
To further help the situation, she soon learned that a new shipment was on its way for the first time since late summer. He arrived Thursday morning, with buying agent Roxanne Krautbauer opening boxes containing 16 pairs.
Crutches are an example of how supply chain disruptions hit locally, a more common problem during the COVID-19 pandemic. A similar problem arose with masks early in the pandemic, Naumann said, when community members stepped up to make face coverings when supplies were tight from distributors.
Before the pandemic, Naumann only once recalled that the clinic had had a similar supply problem during her 22 years with the Mankato Clinic. The devastating hurricane that hit Puerto Rico in 2017 caused an IV solution shortage due to the island’s many manufacturing plants.
Unlike crutches, community members couldn’t really give IV fluids. Many patients end up keeping the pair of crutches they use to leave a hospital or clinic and no longer need them once they have recovered – reused crutches have been given to patients free of charge.
The Salvation Army was among the local sources that helped find and provide crutches to the clinic. His family store, along with other thrift stores in the community, would alert the Mankato Clinic when crutches were arriving — Naumann estimated the Salvation Army accounted for about 10 pairs right away.
Mankato Salvation Army Lt. Andy Wheeler said he was glad the nonprofit could help.
“We feel like we’re here to help as many people as possible, and that was a really cool thing we could do,” he said, adding he was proud of his team.
Although Thursday’s new shipment raises hopes that crutches will start arriving with more regularity, Naumann said donations will still be accepted. Additional donations provide a solid boost amid continued supply chain uncertainty.
“We’re so grateful to the people who bring them in, drop them off,” Naumann said. “We just got a pair with kid’s stickers all over it, so we’re going to clean it up and reuse it.”