This article stresses the disastrous numbers of amputees in post-earthquake Haiti and the damaging stigma they suffer: “They are known in Creole as ‘ko kobe,’ or ‘crooked body,’ those Haitians shamed and shunned for their twisted or missing limbs, eyes that do not see, brains that move too slow. But since January’s earthquake, thousands more have joined this band of the socially outcast disabled, the victims of crush injuries and raging infections that led to the amputation of an arm or leg.” Ed Epp, executive director of Christian Blind Mission Canada, an organization that works to improve the lives of people with all types of disabilities in impoverished countries, estimates that the number of people with amputated limbs range from 2,000 to 4,000 and as high as 7,000. Here are some excerpts with a link to the full article below.
What’s critical now, say medical aid organizations, is for rehabilitation and prosthetics specialists to reach the throngs of these newly disabled and help them. Indeed, scores of physical and occupational therapists from Canada and other countries have made their way to Haiti and continue to arrive to volunteer their services, but their numbers are still too few to meet so great a need.
“Our rehabilitation infrastructure in the country was very weak to start with,” says Canadian physiotherapist Shaun Cleaver, who worked at the Hospital Albert Schweitzer for three years during the last decade and returned there in early February to co-ordinate rehab services. “There were only a few clinics, most of the acute-care hospitals did not offer rehabilitation.” [. . .] “For the most part I’d say our rehab needs are quite straightforward, but what’s not straightforward is being able to get the services in place for this huge wave of people who have come at one time,” says Cleaver.
For those who have had an amputation, the first priority is to make sure the bottom of the residual limb heals cleanly and in a shape that makes it fit comfortably in the socket of a prosthetic arm or leg. Of critical importance is getting the person up and moving to prevent bed sores and potentially life-threatening illnesses that arise from immobility, such as untreated urinary tract infections and pneumonia, says Rob Balogh, a physiotherapist at Toronto Rehab who volunteered his services in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake. “They have to relearn life without a limb,” stresses Balogh. “How to handle crutches, how to handle a walker, how to handle their prosthetic, how to make sure their prosthetic is not causing pressure sores, making sure they’re doing the proper exercises.”
[. . .] “There’s a huge stigma on people with disabilities,” says Epp, whose organization has been in Haiti since 1976, working with two hospitals and running schools for physically disabled and mentally challenged children. Both schools collapsed during the quake. “It’s easy to stereotype them as cursed or [. . .] less than human,” Epp says of pervasive attitude in Haiti towards the disabled. Cleaver agrees the stigma of disability is so ingrained in Haitian culture that people worry more about appearing “normal” than they do about the loss of physical function related to a missing limb. [. . .] The irony is that the ones that get a prothesis are the lucky ones. What I see far more is those who are amputated and then don’t get one.”
For (photo) and related article, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8488792.stm. Also see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8475806.stm and http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/03/09/378249/states-surplus-prosthetics-go.html