Haitian Amputees Needed Help Before Earthquake | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Haitian Amputees Needed Help Before Earthquake

Play associated audio

By Sabri Ben-Achour

The January earthquake that shook Haiti took countless limbs as well as lives. Volunteers continue to care for thousands of amputees there. They've found that many of those being treated have been in need long before the earthquake.

Anna Avakian holds what will become someone's leg against a grinding machine.

"We're grinding the edges and rounding them so they're smooth," Avakian says.

Avakian is with Hanger Prosthetics in Northeast Washington. She just spent three and half months in, Haiti, creating prosthetics like this one for people whose limbs had been crushed in the earthquake, or lost even before that.

"While I was there, I think we saw 200 to 300 patients," Avakian says.

Avakian remembers one woman, 21 years old, who'd lost much of both legs to infection when she was 5.

"Fitting with prostheses she was able to stand up for the first time in 16 years and I just had to hold back - still gets me choked up - and I had to hold back the tears, and she just beamed," she says.

That patient might well represent the be the bigger share of reality in Haiti. Al Ingersoll is Prosthetics and Orthotics Program Director with Healing Hands for Haiti and has worked in the country for years. He says many people who lost limbs in the quake didn't survive.

"A fair number of the injured passed away because of infections or other conditions," Ingersoll says.

He estimates maybe 10,000 people in Haiti currently need new limbs - the vast majority, 80% from before the quake. And he says the quake - and the efforts of volunteers - are actually reducing the stigma previously attached to amputees.

"You know someone who's had an amputation or an injury from the earthquake so you accept them now as they are," Ingersoll says.

Amputees will continue to be a visible presence in Haiti for many years to come. Ingersoll suspects it will be several years before all those who need new limbs receive them.

NPR

What's A Writer Gotta Do To Get A Little Health Care Around Here?

When you're making plans to become a famous author, just remember that you're going to want health care — especially when 40 rolls around and your body is no longer made of rubber.
NPR

When Zero Doesn't Mean Zero: Trans Fats Linger In Food

One in 10 packaged foods still contains trans fats, according to a new study. The problematic oils give foods a rich taste and texture and extend shelf life, but have been linked to heart disease.
NPR

Rep. Ryan Calls For 'Culture Of Inclusion' To Tackle Poverty

Congressman and former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan discusses his new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.
NPR

New Amazon Series Pilots Fall Short Of A TV Revolution

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans ranks Amazon's new batch of five series pilots, asking why none of them seem break the rules of TV quite enough to draw attention.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.