Haitians Need Prosthetics

Doctors Perform More Than 2,000 Major Amputations, Treat Tens of Thousands of Broken Bones

Outside St. Damien’s Children Hospital, an older man was struggling to push a woman in a wheelchair who had her legs amputated. Without a sidewalk to walk on, the skinny man was battling foot and vehicle traffic, rocks and stones piled high, and giant potholes filled with grey, smelly water deep enough to make car tires disappear.

Since the earthquake, officials estimate doctors have performed 2,000 amputations of major bones (not fingers or toes) and treated tens of thousands major bone fractures. Half of those amputations were performed on people less than 20 years old.

For these reasons, a meeting was held to discuss the need for prosthetics and orthotics in Haiti. There isn’t a prosthetics clinic in Port-au-Prince, and there is a part-time facility in the southern part of the country. This is according to Al Ingersoll of Healing Hands for Haiti, who has organized meetings to consider what to do about servicing those with amputations. But there are groups on the move, including Healing International, which has plans to distribute 300 temporary prosthetics over the next three weeks, to help this struggling population. The group is setting up a temporary location that will become operational next week. A Leg to Stand On, based in New York, has a team headed to Haiti later this month to scout out a potential compound for prosthetics and orthotics. There are also reports that Italy wants to build a long-term facility in the country.

Direct Relief International announced earlier this month that it has committed $1.2 million to “support the establishment of prosthetics and orthotics services and the provision of needed assistive devices and rehabilitation to enable long-term response efforts,” according to a press release. The nonprofit is also expected to announce even more money for the cause at some point down the road. But aside from funding, the convening group agreed that two things were equally as important to help the amputees: personnel and devices. The group agreed that previously owned and used prosthetics would not work well for those who recently lost their limbs, but also noted that the proposed cost of new devices is less than $1,000 per device. The group also stressed rebuilding, with people like the woman in the wheelchair in mind.

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