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

An 'Epilogue' That Makes Sense Of The Chaos Of Memory

In his episodic memoir, Will Boast meets the siblings he never knew while navigating family deaths and secrets. Critic Ellah Allfrey finds Epilogue conceptually ambitious, but lacking in execution.
NPR

Giving Chickens Bacteria ... To Keep Them Antibiotic Free

What does it take to get chickens off antibiotics? According to Perdue Farms, an added dose of the "good bacteria" known as probiotics can help crowd out the harmful microbes that make a chicken sick.
NPR

Hillary Exhilaration Helps Energize Generation Z

Many young people are excited about the 2016 presidential election — and the chance to make history.
NPR

Some Tech Firms Capitalize On Privacy

Steve Henn of NPR's Planet Money team profiles some entrepreneurs who are working on a novel business model to start up a new tech company. It's pay for service. What a concept.

Leave a Comment

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