Well, our trip Guatemala has come to an end. What an amazing trip and adventure! I can't believe that everything came together so well and that we were able to pull it off. I will try to update you on the rest of the trip and hopefully you can get a feel of how great it was.
In a previous email, I gave a description of the first several days in Guatemala. I am going to pick up where I left off.
Wednesday morning we showed up at the clinic at 7:30 and made final preparations of the legs. Julio the prosthetist, had an appointment at 8:00 and he had to spend a lot of time with him so our patients didn't start showing up until about 10:00. Carlos was the first to arrive, He is only eight years old. His mom mentioned that they didn't have a lot of time because she needed to get home to prepare the house for after Carlos' operation. The bones on his stump have started to grow and it makes it very uncomfortable for him to walk. His current prosthesis is also too short and it is starting to make his knee grow sideways. Julio made Carlos' mom promise her that she would not let the doctor cut off his knee because that would cause so many more problems and more expensive prosthetics. When he put his new foot on, he was able to walk normal and the sharp bones didn't rub on the bottom of the socket, making his walking so much more comfortable. He was a happy little boy!
Eddy was next. Eddy lost his leg trying to come to the States seeking after the "American Dream". On his journey, someone pushed him under a train. He said he remembered counting seven train cars and then he passed out. When he woke up, he was in the hospital and his leg was missing. His was a special case because he was amputated just above the ankle which didn't allow for a lot of room for us to work and create a foot. But because of the dynamics of our product, we were able to adjust and make something work for him. As he put his leg on, he walked for the first time in a year and a half. We had to tell him to slow down and take it easy and he was ready to go and run a marathon! The first question he asked us was if he could ride his motorcycle again! We said yes, but it either had to be an automatic or his gears had to be moved to the left side as his right leg is the one that is missing. He told us that the first thing he did when he got home was switch his gears over, hoping that one day he could ride it again! His dreams came true!!
After those two, things got really crazy around the clinic and I don't remember who was next. I just remember working, working and working some more. Melvin was super happy about his leg. He said that he was going to use it for everything that could, that it felt funny but he was super excited to have a new leg!
Carlos, our double amputee, was so quiet and shy as he walked back to the fitting room. He slowly took of his legs, rolled up his pants, and climbed up on the examination table. He was kind of quiet about the whole process. We fit the sockets on and they were a perfect fit. We held up the feet to show him what they looked like and a smile showed up on his face. He got kind of serious and then he asked us a question, "Can I be a little bit taller?" I had never thought about it before, but his height was limited by the size of his prosthetics. He was so sincere and so humble, and of course we said yes! When we made his legs, we made sure that we added five to six inches. He was super happy that he was as tall as he was, so was his mother. With tears in her eyes, she said thank you! He truly was an amazing story.
On Wednesday, we ended up fitting 10 amputees, giving away 11 legs. Of the 13 people in our group, 9 had to leave about three in the afternoon to go on to the next project. I stayed back with Jon, who is making a documentary of the project, Leoni and his wife Silvia. We finished fitting around 8:30 and I went home and went right to bed.
Thursday morning we woke up and were at the clinic by 7:30 as our patients started showing up then. We thought we only had three more people to fit, but we found an extra mold that hadn't been modified, nor had the foot been made. We had a lot of work to do and there was no one there to do it as Leoni, Jon and Silvia went to the house of Blanca to film her in her element. I stayed at the clinic with Julio and his sister Luky to meet with the four patients. They all had to travel about 4-6 hours to get there and they were super tired.
Maria lives up in the mountains and has to cross a river daily to complete her chores. She brought us pictures of her in the river with her crutches as she has to remove her current prosthetic so it doesn't get ruined by the water. She is one of Julio's favorite patients and so when we were making the socket, he put a transtherm leopard print on the plastic! It was pretty cool. When she saw the leg, she was a little shocked because it didn't look anything like she had expected. She was so grateful that she would now be able to walk without her crutches and be able to use both her hands while walking. She couldn't believe that she would be able to walk through the river with her current leg.
All in all, it was an amazing project. We had dinner at Julio's house on Thursday night. He thanked us for coming down and said that he would love to have us back again. He has over 350 people on a waiting list who are financially in need. When I ask him if he was going to use our product, he said that he would, but that it was going to have to be an a limited basis because they still needed to make the money that they did to provide for their families.
I hope that we will be able to go again next year and follow up with those that received legs. There is such a big need for prosthetics, not only in Guatemala, but throughout the world. When we drove down town, there were many people who were sitting on the sidewalk or in wheelchairs who were amputees that were forced to beg because they couldn't do anything else. I hope that this project will continue on and that we will be able to help more people realize their dream. Thank you all for your prayers and support in my behalf and on behalf of 2ft.