Monday, March 29, 2010

Emphasis on Early Prosthesis Fitting in Haiti

Haiti - Our day started at 4:30 AM..."O-Dark Thirty Hours" as my Operations friends at Project HOPE would say. And of course I had no choice in the matter. My alarm clock was the bronze breasted, red crested rooster crowing, the chickens cackling and the goats bleating. “What to do, work is awaiting, might as well get up and get an early start, there is much to be done.”

The morning began with an early conference at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer’s (HAS) La Bibliothèque with a clinical presentation by Jay (and his team), the senior Prosthetics Technician on loan to HAS from Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, Inc.

It was an excellent professional continuing medical education presentation (which translates to capacity building for our Haitian staff members) stressing the importance of patients being fitted for their prosthesis as early as possible, thereby encouraging self confidence, improving self image and increasing mobility. We all re-learned an important lesson learned in rehabilitating patients. “The EARLY return to everyday activities is vital in expediting the integration into the population with decreased stigmatization often experienced by a handicapped person.”

I am so happy to be a Project HOPE volunteer contributing to the early and modern rehabilitation and reintegration of patients in Haiti society. You need to be here to see the daily difference we’re making in people’s lives…one patient at a time.

At the morning conference, Mr. “M”, a patient and recipient of bilateral above the knee (ATK) prosthetics, expressed his sincerest appreciation by saying that his life had changed significantly. Patient “M” said: “I no longer have a life in a wheel chair. Without my legs and being stuck in a wheel chair, my life was pretty much over…it was like living in a corner with much activity going on around me, but no one seeing or hearing me…to everyone around me I pretty much didn't exist because I was disabled. Now I have a life, I have legs, I can walk just like everyone else…I can do what everyone else is able to do." (Tears in my eyes when I see him out there walking, laughing… truly joyous moments!) One patient like Mr. “M” is sufficient compensation for my volunteer activities and enough to make me do it again year after year.

I’ve learned that having a disability, such as an amputation, in the country of Haiti, culturally subjects a person to stigmatization, ridicule and seclusion. “M” is very proud of his new legs and he is not afraid to show them off by playing soccer and now wearing what he has always desired most…a pair of long blue jeans! For thousands of individuals recently suffering from amputations as a result of the January 2010 earthquake, HAS is providing dramatic life changing alternatives to what otherwise would be a hopeless, depressing alternative.

Again, I am proud to be associated with Project HOPE’s partnership with HAS and Hanger, Inc., offering the first and currently only modern, well equipped and trained prosthetics lab and staff in Haiti, offering free rehabilitation and prosthetics to its citizens.

Today we had a visit from Mr. Ivan Sable, CPO, Chairman of the Hanger / Ivan R. Sabel Foundation and many members of his staff. Hanger members chatted with the Haitian prosthesis recipients, HAS staff and technicians and asked many questions, collecting ideas for resources needed to make the HAS Prosthetics Clinic better than it’s already become.

Thanks for reading-Joy Williams

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  1. Joy - What a privilege for you to be able to make a difference in the lives of the people in Haiti. Keep up the great work. Miss you.

    Love, Anita

  2. Joy, you're a superstar. I love reading your daily entries and see what you're up to each day...which seems like an adventure. Keep up the good work and stay healthy.