Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Arielle's Story

There are no coincidences in Haiti
By Lauren Lyons, MSPT

I had the privilege of spending two weeks at HAS working with the staff of the Hanger Clinic and HAS's Rehabilitation Services Integration Initiative (which includes the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program). My time at HAS was preceded by a week teaching rehabilitation to nurses at the Justinian Hospital in Cap Haitian.

During our time in Cap, we met two journalists from an organization called Food for the Poor, who were staying at the same hotel. Upon hearing that we were therapists, they immediately brought out their cameras to show us a child they wanted us to meet.

Six-year-old Arielle both sustained an injury to her right hand and lost her left leg below the knee in the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. After the quake, her family was relocated to Cap Haitian for medical care and since their formal discharge had been living in a makeshift shack in a swamp. Her mother had been severely injured in a car accident eight years prior, and had also sustained a partial foot amputation.

Our new acquaintances wanted to know what we could do, if anything, to help. However, our time in Cap Haitian was limited, and so we did not have the chance to go meet Arielle. Even so, we took her name and contact information, as we were aware that there was no one in that area doing prosthetics.
In a short time, we left Cap Haïtien for Deschapelles and HAS Haiti, without having seen the little girl, and not sure whether we ever would. However, after the first two hours that I spent in the Hanger Clinic my first day at HAS, I knew it was the right place to bring her. Food for the Poor helped us contact her, and even arranged transportation to HAS. She arrived two days later. Our incredible prosthetists, Chris Blades and Eric Ramcharran, cast artificial limbs for both her and her mother, turning them around in less than twenty-four hours. Arielle and her mother lived in the LaScale housing community so that she could receive physical therapy and training with her new leg. She quickly made progress, building strength, and soon she was able to walk. Within a very short period of time she even started running and climbing the steps.

Although Arielle was experiencing having an artificial limb for the first time, this was not the case for her mother. This woman came in with an ancient prosthesis, which had been almost completely destroyed and was hardly usable. She was also fit with new bracing, and as a result she was able to get rid of her crutch and walk with an almost normal gait pattern.

And, what is more: Food for the Poor is in the process of building them new housing so that this small family has a home to return to. The amazing work being done by the Hanger staff, in partnership with HAS and this collaboration with Food for the Poor is truly putting people back on their feet again. It was my blessing to be a part of the amazing work being done there.

Tout moun gen you bwa dèyè bannan yo ~ Everyone has someone to support him.

About the Images:
Top Left: Arielle and her sister upon arrival
Middle Right: Arielle being fitted for a cast by Chris, Mom being cast by Eric.
Middle Left: Arielle's cast ready for socket fabrication.
Bottom Right: First steps with Lauren and Chris.

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