A month in Tonga has flown by, and we have much to show for it. I have included a few of the highlights from the past two weeks, as well as some pictures.
During the two weeks that we didn't have a prosthetist in Tonga, we continued to move forward in working with the many amputees that were coming to the clinic. Over the past month, we have had around 35-40 amputees come in requesting our services. Since many of these people haven't had prosthetic legs before, and because the clinic is still getting started, we have been able to fabricate legs for about 7-10 of these people and plan to fit all of these people over the next month or so.
One amputee that we were very excited to see walk away with a leg last week is Kalesita, the 7-year-old girl who lost her leg in a car accident. Because she has been wearing an old, broken prosthesis that works basically like a peg leg, she had a hard time walking normally when she first put on our leg. She had grown so accustom to walking straight-legged with her old prosthesis, so we had to teach her how to bend her knee again and roll from her heel to her toe. After some practice, she was able to really catch on (see attached pictures). We are so excited for her to be able to run and play like a normal kid again!
Sione, Feinga, Freddie, and Tevita have become proficient and fabricating and fitting below-the-knee prostheses over the past few weeks. With the help of Sean Zeller (CPO of New Jersey) this last week, we were able to show these men how to properly align and fit a leg. Thankfully these men are good at and dedicated to what they do, which is vital to the long-term success of the clinic. In addition to Sean's help this past week, we also received great support from the volunteers that arrived: David and Rachel Chinn, and Devee Churchill.
Last Thursday, thanks to the coordinating efforts of Sita Harris and Sione, Tonga TV visited the clinic. They interview Sione and myself, as well as filmed everyone working in the clinic. Also Doctors Siale and Tuakoi from the Ministry of Health spoke to the news station to express their gratitude for the newly-opened clinic. This news story was seen on Tonga TV that night, as well as broadcast over the radio. Later that day Sione received a phone call from an amputee interested in coming to the clinic because he had heard about it over the radio.
Also thanks to Sita Harris, we were able to meet with Prime Minister of Tonga on Friday. At the meeting we were able to breifly explain what we have done, as well as our future plans for the clinic. He expressed his gratitude to everyone for making prosthetics care avaliable in his country. This was a great way to top off a successful week and month.
As for now, Mary Goodrich and Chris Doxey are in Tonga for one more week. After July 2nd, the Tonga Prosthetics Clinic (TPC) will be running free of volunteers. Of course 2ft Prosthetics, Deseret International, and all volunteers will continue to provide TPC support as needed.
Please forgive the length of this email, but most importantly I want to express my gratitude to everyone for helping make this clinic successful. Thanks to all of you, there is now a functional prosthetics clinic in Tonga that will be able to help many disabled people have more freedom and self-confidence. Four men -- Sione, Feinga, Tevita, and Freddie -- now have a new, valuable technical skill which they can share with the rest of Tonga. This project wouldn't have been possible without all of your efforts and support. Thank you!