Local companies help create prosthetic lab in Haiti

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

Haiti continues to be a challenge, with hurricanes, mudslides and cholera, according to Dr. John Lovejoy, a retired orthopedic surgeon who lives in St. Nicholas. But due to the support (to the tune of more than $250,000) from local companies such as Atlantic Marine, Suddath Van Lines, Jack Becker Distributors, Exact Inc., Lambs Yacht Center, All Saints Episcopal Church, the Meninak Club, Advanced Prosthetics and others, the prosthetic lab is a shining star in a dark sky.

Lovejoy, as many readers may recall, has been volunteering for more than 10 years at the Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti. He and his son, Dr. John Lovejoy, III, were part of a response team when the 2010 earthquake devastated so much of the Haitian community.

Lambs Yacht Center was one of several local companies and nonprofits, including All Saints Episcopal Church, that helped get a shipping  container turned into a prosthetic lab in Haiti

Lambs Yacht Center was one of several local companies and nonprofits, including All Saints Episcopal Church, that helped get a shipping container turned into a prosthetic lab in Haiti

To continue the work of supplying prosthetics to amputee victims, an old insulated shipping container that had been converted into an office was
purchased and then transformed into a state of the art prosthetic shop. “There were so many amputees from the earthquake and, as the medical team later realized, over 1,500 untreated amputees in northern Haiti,” said Lovejoy. “With a population of more than a million, there were no certified prosthetists to treat them, and it is not just a matter of making a one-time prosthesis because each one needs to be serviced and replaced every year or two.”

To make the lab sustainable, the CRUDEM Foundation, which supports Lovejoy’s volunteer efforts, needed to train Haitians to become certified prosthetists. This required enrolling them in a university, and the University of Don Bosco in El Salvador had such a program designed for Central America and the Caribbean. “Eventually we found Oscar, a certified prosthetist from El Salvador, who had trained in the UDB, worked in Haiti after the earthquake, and was willing to come and work and teach students,” Lovejoy continued. “In a very professional way, he developed a screening process and exam for potential students. The response to the announcement was overwhelming, but he narrowed it down to two students.

Dantus and Daniel have proved themselves by passing the first of six sections to become certified with the highest marks. This is a real tribute to Oscar’s tutelage and involvement in their education.”

The first year is near completion, according to Lovejoy, and he says that Oscar has agreed to stay on for another year. The program takes three years and has six modules the students have to pass. “So far we have been able to support the project with donations to CRUDEM designated for the prosthetic lab. It is expensive, about $26,000 for the educational component, $22,000 for operational expenses and $31,000 for the prosthetic components annually – we do not charge the patients anything. When you consider what it costs in the U.S. for prostheses, tens of thousands of dollars per patient, we are providing a service at a phenomenal price. So far this year the lab has produced 42 artificial limbs, 15 orthosis (braces), 20 repairs or replacements of existing prostheses and has a waiting list of 10 patients who need prosthetics,”
he concluded.
The students agreed to stay on for three years after getting their degrees to teach three more students. With continued support, says Lovejoy, “hopefully it will be an ongoing project. It is near the end of the year and any financial support you would like to give to the prosthetic lab would be a blessing.”
To help, visit http://www.crudem.org/give/

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