Thursday, November 7, 2013

New hands

Seeing patients without a finger or two is pretty common in PNG.  Many folks lose them in injuries with bush knives, or chop them off themselves as a sign of grief when a loved one as died.  At times, we see folks have amputations of part of their leg as a result of a cancer or a chopchop (machete) injury.  Up until today, I didn't know that there were so many people with missing arms in the area.  They lose their arms the same way they lose their legs - from machetes.  Some were sorcery victims, another a rascal chopped him in the market, others were from fights with family or enemies, but most got chopped and have been living without the use of one of their arms for a number of years.

Dr. Larry Hull is a retired orthopedic surgeon and now PNG coffee plantation owner who has been a friend of Kudjip for years.  Volunteering here numerous times and offering his expertise many times over the years.  Recently, he brought Dr. James Ham to us.  James is an ER doctor in Hawaii who is exploring ways to help out in the 3rd world and he introduced us to the LN-4 Hand.  The hand is made by the Ellen Meadows Prosthetic Hand Foundation seeks to help folks in 3rd world countries get a practical prosthetic hand at low to no cost.

We put up signs and made announcements to our patients that false hands were coming.  We invited physical therapists and surgeons from neighboring hospitals to come and learn how to fit patients with the hand and to see how the hand works.  We initially were suppose to get 4 hands, and we weren't sure if we could even find 4 patients who needed them.  Instead of 4 patients, there were over 27 people with their name on the list to see if they qualified for a hand.  James was able to bring 12 LN-4 hands to Kudjip and in a few hours, we had more patients then he had hands for.

After a few minutes of explanations, we had patient with new hands.  When asked what they wanted to be able to do with their hands, they talked about writing, swinging a bush knife and gardening - just basic household activities for them.  We got some props and started seeing how it might work.  There is still some tweaking that can be done, but we had some happy patients with new hands when James and Larry left.  Thanks for helping our patients in this way.