Guest post by Sue Klappa, PT, Ph.D., via Physicians for Peace
Physicians for Peace is a founding member of the Haitian Amputee Coalition and the grateful recipient of a $500,000 grant from ChildFund International. That grant, and support from individual donors and other partners, helps fund our work in Haiti.
I have just returned for my second tour of service with Physicians for Peace here at the Hanger Clinic in Dechapelles, Haiti. (My first mission was in October 2010.) We have completed our first of two weeks here, and I use this blog to reflect on what has occurred since my last trip to Haiti.
At the clinic, the staff and I had a wonderful reunion. Several patients from last fall had also come by for adjustments and it was great to see them as well. It is wonderful to see the staff at the clinic taking on such ownership of their roles as prosthetic technicians, office coordinator and translators. They are a great crew who are eager to learn and serve the people of their country!
This last week we were able to work with several interesting patients. One of the patients was a small boy named Baby B. He was eight months old when the earthquake hit Haiti in January of 2010. He had been buried under the rubble for six days and was found only when crews were going in to remove bodies of those who had perished. Baby B was pulled from the rubble and sustained only a small wound on his leg.
Unfortunately, the wound became infected and his leg was amputated below the knee three days later, rendering Baby B to amputee status. He is now 23 months old and had never been able to pull himself to stand and cruise or take his first steps on two feet because of these unfortunate circumstances.
Baby B’s mom was very involved and interested in his care. She described the hopes and dreams she had for her son in our initial evaluation. She wanted him to be like any other boy. She wanted him to be successful in school and life. She wanted people to see him for who he was and not for his disability. She wanted him to be able to fully participate in life here in Haiti.
The prosthetists had completed making his little leg and we were all excited to see what Baby B would make of it all. Would he adapt well to it or would he reject it? We all gathered around as Baby B’s mom was taught how to don and doff the little leg.
At first, Baby B looked a bit puzzled at his new leg. Then he broke into his exploratory mode! Baby B moved into a “bear walking” position with his hands and feet on the floor and his bum up in the air. We rolled him a ball and up went his hands on the ball, still with his feet on the floor and his bum in the air. One of the prosthetists encouraged Baby B to kick the ball. Baby B put his hands down on the floor and then cleverly kicked the ball sideways from his bear-walk position!
We then encouraged Baby B to stand up, which he easily did with a look of awe on his face. Baby B was putting all the pieces of the puzzle together! He then began to play with the bubbles we blew his way and took his first steps on two feet! He kicked balls. He blew bubbles. He colored on the walls of the Hanger Clinic!
Then we went out walking, up and down ramps and stairs. No problem for this boy! It was time for a great challenge, that of walking the rugged terrain outside the clinic. Off we went! Several goats and a big pig ran by. There were also several chickens and roosters! Now this was community reintegration! Baby B began to chase the goats! “Cabrit! (Goats!)” he called as he chased after them. With his new prosthesis, Baby B was now all boy. On the way back to the clinic, Baby B stopped to say, “Poo-poo cabrit! (Goat poo-poo!)” He was warning his mom and me not to step in it! He was definitely a charmer! Later, after lunch, Baby B slept for a good three hours! Clearly it was a good day in Haiti!
At the end of the week, when it was time for Baby B and his mom to return to Port-au-Prince, we were excited to see him regain his mobility but also a little bit sad to see him go. He inspired the other amputees with his many funny antics, and they him. Baby B will return to the clinic several times in the coming year as he grows and needs modifications or a new prosthesis. The technicians do certainly look forward to seeing him again, and it is clear what a difference the Haitian staff here is making in the lives of their countrymen!