Far too many amputees in our world remain disabled not because of a missing limb but because of a missing prosthesis. The Range Of Motion Project (ROMP) is a nonprofit organization providing prosthetic rehabilitation and education in the developing world where people currently have no access to these services.
|Miguel Angel practices on the first day with his prosthesis. It has been almost ten years since he last had a usable prosthesis.|
The city of Zacapa, Guatemala, conjures up thoughts of the Wild West. A twisting four-hour drive from Guatemala City will get you there. Fields of melon, corn, and cattle sprawl across the Rio Montagua valley. People make their daily commute to and from the business center of Zacapa from the small surrounding villages or "aldeas." Riding in jam-packed microbuses is affordable but sometimes a deadly proposition. Last February, three-year-old Alyson and her grandmother traveled on such a microbus. The microbus became a rattling tin can filled with people, glass, and metal shards when it crashed. Nine passengers died. Miraculously Alyson and her grandmother were spared. Alyson did not walk away from the crash though; her right leg was amputated above the knee.
New Clinic Opens
In October, 2005, ROMP constructed a prosthetic clinic on the grounds of the Regional Hospital of Zacapa with the support of O&P businesses and private donors. Until then, prosthetic rehabilitation was never available in the immediate region. For ten months, care was delivered by one visiting volunteer team working every two months, for one week.
In July, 2006, the Zacapa clinic opened full-time. This move was made to address the growing number of patients and conveys ROMP's dedication to the Guatemalan disabled community. I left my position with Scheck & Siress, sold my things, and landed in Guatemala July 7. Co-founder of ROMP Eric Neufeld, CPO, came to Guatemala that first week to make the move. As I was transitioning to a new life, ROMP redesigned a new lab with greater capabilities. Our partner, Hearts In Motion, increased our workspace within its rehabilitation center by almost threefold. Nationwide, ROMPsters are taking ownership in this project. Donated inventory of materials and recycled prosthetic components is being shipped almost every two months. From October 2005 to August 2006, 105 patients were seen for O&P services at the ROMP Zacapa clinic.
Alyson Receives Treatment
|Prosthetic student volunteers Daniela (Ecuador) and Luis (Guatemala) proudly display their work.|
Remember Alyson? I met her in August. She is patient 103 in a list that will never end. Alyson's needs remind me of the difficulty of working in a place where very specific prosthetic resources are hard to find. She is full of energy—a sparkplug of life. She came to us in a baby stroller, and by a stroke of luck, left with forearm crutches. She waits for a leg—not for a lack of will but for a shortage of pediatric components at the time of her arrival. A generous sponsor is providing her treatment through the ROMP October prosthetics team.
Online Prosthetics Program
Besides patient services, ROMP is hosting an online prosthetics program designed by the Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR), Chicago, Illinois, for three Ecuadorians and Luis Aragon, our volunteer technician in Guatemala. "Sustainable Empowerment through Mobility" is only possible with a new wave of well-trained local O&P professionals throughout the developing world. Our small class represents but a tiny piece in a large puzzle filled with holes.
Eric Neufeld likes to say that "we are all in this together." This couldn't be more obvious to me today. My ability to walk through the clinic doors and start the workday depends as much on the worldwide ROMPsters as do the patients of the clinic. Thanks to The O&P EDGE for requesting an update from the field. This publication and the awareness it has already raised has indirectly benefited many people.
I hope to see you some day in Guatemala.
David Krupa is the CEO of Range of Motion Project (ROMP).
For more information on CIR, visit www.cirnetwork.org
For more information on Hearts in Motion, visit www.heartsinmotion.org