By Jennifer Browning
Project Medishare began fitting amputee patients with prosthetics at the beginning of April. As part of Project Medishare’s Amputee Rehabilitation Program, volunteer Certified Prothestists Orthotists (CPO) not only go down to work each week with amputee patients at the Project Medishare field hospital, but they have also been training locals to be prosthetic technicians.
CPO Mark McVicker said he really enjoys working with patients at Project Medishare’s field hospital.
”It’s a privilege to work with patients that are so thankful for all they have left and for everything you do for them,” he said.
Mark said that while the team is doing good work, that they are limited since they currently don’t have a prosthetic lab in Haiti.
“There’s a huge need for prosthetic fitting here. When we have the laboratory [in Haiti] we will be capable of doing more things, for the moment we are very limited, it’s working but it’s a fact that we could have be doing more with a real prosthetic laboratory.”
Cedieu Fortilus, 34, began working with volunteer CPO’s when prosthetic limbs began arriving at the field hospital in April.
“The training is going well with Cedieu, he’s a fast learner, and he’s also our interpreter,” Mark said, “we are getting him up to speed, but there are already a lot of things that he can do already.”
Not only does Cedieu fit patients with new limbs, he will also take care of coordinating future prosthetic fittings. Cedieu is provided with the amputee patient’s contact information in order to reach them to make an appointment for their fitting.
Cedieu has already learned how to prepare a prosthetic leg, adjust it for the patient in order to connect it to different components of the patient’s leg. He is also assisting patient’s with basic physical therapy exercises, as well as teaching them how to use their new prosthesis in order to help them feel more comfortable using their new limb.
Cedieu said he is excited that he is able to help at the field hospital.
“I like the fact that I’m helping the patients,” he said, “that I’m helping my fellow Haitians.”
Before being hired by Project Medishare, Cedieu was a health agent with Oxfam at Hospital Clinic in La Croix Perisse, he also had part-time work as an interpreter for the UN/Minustha, the Navy, and the US Air Force.
“I’ve being helping for the past 11 years as an interpreter for some medical groups. I’ve been in the medical field for so many years now, so that’s why I feel very comfortable in this job,” he said. “I like my job as an interpreter because I feel that I’m helping the doctors that are coming here to help us Haitians. I can bring comfort to [the patients] when I help with the communication, because I help the communication pass better between the patient and the doctors.”
With his translating skills, he is also able to talk to the patient in regards to helping them understand what their prosthetic limb can do for them.
“Many times I see a patient that thinks that because they have an injury from the earthquake, like an amputation, they think that it’s over for them, that their life is done, and that society will reject them,” he said. “I try to help them understand that with this new limb, they have a second chance, and a chance to have a better future.”
Cedieu realizes how important it is to have prosthetic technicians in his country, and he is eager to continue learning. He said he is eager to continue his education and learn how to perform the more complicated fittings.
“I want to have a better knowledge in fitting prosthetics, and I am happy that Medishare is helping me,” he said. “I hope that Medishare will start training more Haitians to be prosthetic technicians.”
It is important to have local prosthetic technicians on the ground, not only to do the initial fitting, to change a prosthetic limb in the future. For instance, if a technician fits a prosthetic today for an 8-year-old, that limb will need to be replaced when the child turns 12 because the kids are continually growing.
Cedieu said would like to see Haiti have a real rehabilitation hospital, especially for patients with spinal cord injuries.
“With a rehab facility amputee and spinal cord patients can get help in order to get back to their old life….a better life.”
*Laurene Leger contributed to this story.