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  • Nacogdoches Woman Fits Haitian Aumputees with Prosthetic Limbs

    Naogdoches Woman Helps Fit Haitian Amputees with Prosthetic Limbs

    Nacogdoches prosthetist Sherrie Anderson, center, helps an 11-year-old Haitian girl stand up on new prosthetics. Anderson said the young girl, Alexandra, lost both of her legs in the earthquake, but was a “real trooper.”

    
    		
     

    Posted: Monday, September 6, 2010

    After two weeks helping the residents of Haiti - particularly those who lost limbs in January's 7.0 magnitude earthquake - get fitted into new prosthetics, Nacogdoches resident Sherrie Anderson says she is seeing needs versus wants in a whole new light.

    "After going there and being back, you realize how little you need to survive," said Anderson, owner of Professional Prosthetic Care.

    In August, Anderson traveled to Haiti to work with Lumiere Medical Ministries to fit residents of Les Cayes, a seaport town in southwestern Haiti, and its surrounding areas with new prosthetic limbs. The experience had her working long hours in a medical facility that was not air-conditioned, washing clothes in a bucket and hanging them out to dry on a tree, and basically living without most of the modern conveniences she was used to in Nacogdoches.

    "I could see myself literally living out of a backpack after doing that," she said. "I definitely will be going back."

    Anderson and several of her friends, who also work as prosthetists or other similar occupations, learned about Lumiere from a colleague who had gone years before and spoke highly of the experience.

    With the organization's facility in Port-au-Prince demolished from the earthquake, the group set up shop in Les Cayes and saw residents, not only to fit them with new prosthetics but to provide braces and physical therapy as well.

    Anderson said a typical day started at 6 a.m. with a prayer and Bible lesson at the clinic before patients started arriving. Anderson said she saw patients for 10 hours straight most days.

    "The Haitians didn't eat lunch. They just eat breakfast and dinner, and so that is what we did," she said. "After they left (for the day), I would do my modifying and paperwork and then go back to where we were staying at 7 or 8 p.m."

    While it was hard work, Anderson said she greatly enjoyed it, and she cannot wait to return.

    Some of the patients Anderson saw lost their limbs or were injured in the earthquake, but others had lost them long before it occurred.

    "There was already such a need there, the earthquake just amplified it," Anderson said, referring to the need for prosthetic limbs.

    One of the main differences Anderson noticed in the prosthetics of Haiti was that they were made from plastic material instead of titanium, as is common practice in the U.S.

    "They use plastic, so it doesn't rust, and so there are not so many moving parts that can break," she said.

    Anderson said at her Nacogdoches office, she often sends her patients home with a wearing schedule to gradually work them into their prosthetic, but that wasn't possible in Haiti.

    "Everybody gets around there by either walking or motorcycles, and so you'd give them a prosthesis and they'd hop on the back of a motorcycle and take off," she said.

    Anderson said another difference she noticed in health care there was that hospitals do not provide meals or services such as bathing, as is done in the U.S.

    "A family member is there to do all of that and take care of you when you're in the hospital there," she said. "The hospital just treats you for whatever you're there for."

    Anderson said one of the questions she has gotten a lot of since she returned to Nacogdoches is ‘Did it feel safe?'

    "In Les Cayes, it did. It felt very safe, but we weren't in Port-au-Prince where people were so desperate for food and shelter," she said.

    When asked what she felt she took away from the experience, Anderson said she has a deeper gratitude for the liberties and material things available to her here in the U.S.

    "There are so many things we take for granted here that are actually privileges, and we think they're rights," she said.

    Anderson said she is not sure when she will return to Haiti, but she is looking forward to making the trip again.

    Michele Marcotte can be reached at mmarcotte@dailysentinel.com

     

     

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