Thursday, May 24, 2007

Real Life Prosthetics Returns to Barranquilla, Colombia for Humanitarian Aid

Each year, the Real Life Prosthetics Global Missions Team conducts a two-day humanitarian mission, traveling to the remote mountain village of Barranquilla in Colombia, South America. There, the Real Life Prosthetics Global Missions Team uses its skills and donated resources to help restore the bodies and spirits of amputees who would otherwise face bleak futures and lifetimes of severe disability.
The patients travel too‹ some by bus, some by mule‹ for hours or even days across the rugged terrain to receive treatment from Real Life Prosthetics. Many of the amputees have lost a limb, or two, due to conditions that might seem incredible to those living beyond the Third World. For example, Martha Dabila's leg was amputated due to poor medical treatment after a fall. Mr. Altozar lost his right leg below the knee due to infection from snakebite. Martha Luz's leg was amputated because of lack of medical care following an accident.

Real Life Prosthetics, known for cutting-edge prosthetics work that utilizes highly advanced technology, completes its work under less than ideal conditions in the tiny South American village. International travel and portability limitations restrict the technology and tools available to the team, so they make do. Facilities are rudimentary at best, so they perform gait analysis in a hallway, and they fabricate sockets and joints in any empty room available.

To defray cost, the Real Life Prosthetics Global Missions Team contributes its time, skills and materials and uses donated supplies: prosthetic feet from the World Limb Bank, prosthetic components made available by the Maryland Amputee Network, and ICEX sockets and liners provided by Ă–ssur.

To facilitate patient communications, the team relies on local interpreters, medical personnel and ministry groups.

Despite these constraints, the Real Life Prosthetics Global Missions Team gets the job done. During its whirlwind annual two-day mission, the team provides new limbs for 12-15 patients. It also conducts one-year follow-ups for an equal number of past patients. Since 2001, the Real Life Prosthetics Global Missions Team has provided free treatment and prosthetics to more than 60 patients.

Moreover, the mission reaches beyond the physical needs of its patients. The expertise of the Real Life Prosthetics Global Missions Team helps patients vanquish hopelessness, and its compassion helps them defeat fear, as they begin the process of healing body and spirit.

According to Jonas Seeberg, president of Real Life Prosthetics, the annual mission seeks to follow the same philosophy that is practiced at the Real Life Prosthetics office at home in Abingdon, Maryland.

"We strive to treat the whole person, body and spirit," he explained. "We want to address the physical needs of the patients, so they can live more productive lives, but we also want to bring them compassion and hope for the future. For many of these people it's the first time in a long time that they have been treated with respect and dignity."

The 2007 Real Life Prosthetics Global Missions Team consisted of Jonas Seeberg, Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist, Chuck Fleming, Technician, and Greg Michalov, Certified Prosthetist.

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