Bon Jour Zamni (Hello Friends)!!!
As many of you know, we have just returned from our first One Leg Up On Life Trip to Haiti. Finally 10 months of planning and starting the foundation has resulted in our first prosthetics delivered. The trip went amazingly well, especially considering all the things that didn’t go as planned. Our main goals of the trip were to find a place to do our prosthetics work, and to build our first five kids their prostheses. We arrived in Haiti one man short, cough cough, #passportsneededtogettoHaiti, however due to later mishaps this ended up being a blessing.
Meet our team:
Alicia-Christy’s physical therapist, Haitian prosthetic technician, wrist brace extraordinaire, and allstar running coach.
Andrea-MVP of the trip our only prosthetist.
Orthopedic Motion Inc-Prosthetics and Orthotics Company from Las Vegas, Nevada who ordered and donated all the prosthetics supplies. Huge thanks to them!!
Christy-Haitian prosthetic technician, fellow amputee, amputee work out leader, and videographer.
Me (Jess)-photographer, coordinator, interpreter (my Creole isn’t great).
Wilfred-Haitian Prosthetic Technician, Translator, manager of the Trantulas Haitian Amputee Soccer team.
Ronald-Haitian prosthetic Technician.
We arrived to Bernard Mevs Hospital with Project Medishare where we found a great prosthetics set up. The prosthetics shop is a large tin building on top of the hospital (super hot, but other than that great). We were happy to find all the equipment working and quite a few supplies. The other half of our prosthetics team was set to arrive Monday, but due to some airline issues they were not able to come. Luckily they were able to get all the bags of equipment to us thanks to Christy bringing it down on her delayed trip.
Throughout the week we were able to help our four planned patients, all children now grow up who I met and spent lots of time with in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake. During that time, I stayed with them for a solid three months while we nursed them back to health after amputations and severe crush injuries.
Kervens is a now 17 year old above the knee amputee who we were able to make a new prosthesis for. He had not had an update on his prosthetic limb in two years, and it was pretty worn down. After building his new prosthetic socket we also found the parts to make him a running leg which we were not expecting at all. Kervens ran for the first time in six years since the earthquake, this was definitely the highlight of our trip. With the help of Wilfrid, the Haitian prosthetic technician we were introduced to his Haitian amputee soccer team. The team was pretty amazing, and played with forearm crutches. They can run faster on crutches than I can on two feet!! The most exciting part was that we were able to take Kervens with us and introduce him to the team of more than 25 other Haitian amputee soccer players. I have never seen Kervens look so happy since I have known him, as he used to love playing soccer before he lost his leg. He is on the team now, and One Leg Up On Life will continue to follow and support this team (please let us know if you can donate forearm crutches to the team).
The three other arm amputees Mikerline, Luciano, and Woodline were also with us all week. They were so patient, coming every day to get casted and to check out their old prostheses. Luciano’s prosthetic arm was made back when he was five years old, and six years later the prosthetic fingertips reach about the forearm of his other hand. Mikerline’s arm had just a hinge left. In attempt to build these arms we encountered some problems because the plaster we were using to fill their molds was five years old and just would not stick together. Even my surgical techniques and will power could not get the molds to stay together, so we had to bring back their cast shells in our luggage to build their arms in the United States. We are hoping to take them back down to Haiti this summer.
Andrea had her work cut out for her this week as our only prosthetist, and it was not easy working in a hot tin building. While she was diligently working, Christy, Alicia and I set out to be useful ourselves building arm braces, repairing prosthetics, building running legs, doing physical therapy and running training with the kids. Alicia did amazingly well training Kervens how to walk with his prosthesis. Kervens has never had much gait training and had a pretty severe limp after six years of walking incorrectly. He and Christy were both walking much better after one week with Alicia!
To end the trip we organized a dinner at what is equivalent to a Haitian McDonald’s with all the 15 kids that I had known from six years earlier. It was so encouraging to see these children, some of which we had to take back to tent cities after the earthquake now all grown up and thriving. Steven, one of the children who was extremely malnourished when I first meet him, was actually taller than me!! God bless the work that Children of the Nations is doing in Haiti in order to help these special kids and families thrive.
Working with Bernard Mevs Hospital and Project Medishare went really well, and we are now planning on supporting their prosthetics shop full time by bringing teams every six months and sending supplies in between the six months. Wilfred and Ronald did a wonderful job as prosthetics technicians and will keep the shop open year round a couple times a week. They will also screen patients for us so we can find new patients who do not already have prosthetics. Already we have found two new patients who are awaiting prosthetic limbs when we return. We are desperately looking for prosthetists who would be willing to join us on a weeklong trip to Haiti, please contact us if you know of anyone.
When we return to Project Medishare in Haiti, we hope to bring a well-rounded team again. It was great this time having the combination of a prosthetist, Physical Therapist, fellow amputee, and translator. In future trips we would also like to bring an occupational therapist as we encountered my upper extremity patients, and a surgeon who could do limb revisions for many of the patients who were not yet ready for a prosthesis. Thank you for all of your prayers and support. It was absolutely amazing to be in Haiti at the one year anniversary of my sister’s accident. It has been a hard year, but a good year as well. Christy absolutely blessed the lives of those kids. It was funny because here I had been working with them for 6 years, but in the first day of her meeting them they had an instant connection. She could not understand them, but they told me that she was an inspiration to them. To me, they are all an inspiration, living through horrific events and not giving up, that is why we are here and why we will be going back.