Out on a limb

Namira Hossain, who visited the Jaipur Foot Initiative camp organised in NITOR last month, writes how donations from people are helping amputees in Bangladesh to change their lives for the better 



As a result of irresponsible driving and lack of accountability for those behind the wheel, scores of people get injured from hit and run incidents all throughout the country every year. Impoverished victims of such accidents do not have the means to access adequate medical treatment for their injuries, leaving them in terrible pain and suffering with the risk of infections such as gangrene.
The only option that remains for them is amputation and a lifetime of despair and suffering as they are unable to search for employment, or in fact even complete their normal day to day chores with their missing limbs.
The Jaipur Foot Initiative in association with the Moyeen Foundation has set up a camp at National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Hospital (NITOR) in order to restore the dignity and hope for such amputees who had lost their limbs due to unfortunate circumstances. The initiative has already helped more than 600 such amputees in the country changing their lives for the better.
The camp ran from May 7th till May 30 after some delay as the materials for the limbs were stuck at the Chittagong port. The initiative was taken by Sadia Moyeen of the Moyeen Foundation who were the main organisers and sponsors to bring this camp to fruition.
‘People are so insensitive to challenge people,’ she says. ‘They have no respect for others and those who are disabled are treated as though they have no rights. I wanted to bring this camp to Dhaka to help restore hope and dignity to the amputees whose lives had changed through no fault of their own,’ she adds.
Moyeen shared that they raised Tk 52 lakhs through their family and friends, targetting 700 limbs for amputees this time. We hope to raise more money and have these camps at least twice every year.
The amputees come from various segments of the society with their own unique stories.
For example, Ekramullah (25) from Rajbari shares with New Age Xtra, ‘Seven years ago when I was a cadet I had gotten a job with the army in Khulna. I was walking to work when I was hit by a car which crushed my right leg. This soon caught gangrene as they left me on the operating table without treating me for two days.’
Ekramullah continues, ‘My life completely changed – I could no longer wear shoes, or pants like others. People started treating me with disgust and looking down on me. When I went to give my exam for the army, they laughed at me and turned me away.’
As he wipes the tears from his eyes while talking to New Age Xtra, the attendees in the hospital bring his prosthetic leg for him to try on for the first time. They help him strap on the rubber leg which slips on easily with a strap, with metal shingles for flexibility. He hesitatingly takes a few steps on a ramp, walking for the first time in seven years.
Overcome by emotion, he sits down again. ‘This does give me some hope. I felt it is better to die than to live like this, but now maybe I’ll get to make something out of my life. I completed my Master’s and plan to work in a bank. I know I can’t give up even though I want to,’ he says.
Ekramullah has tears in his eyes, as he remembers the immense suffering he had to endure over the past seven years, ‘the government has done good work though for the disabled people. There is now a one per cent quota for disabled people such as myself. I have so many pressures in my life – supporting myself and my mother, that I was unable to do all this time. Life is truly very difficult for those of us who are disabled.’
According to NITOR’s statistics, as of May 24, 2015, they have had a total of 627 amputees. From them, a total of 505 had lower limb prosthetics and 122 upper limbs.
Amna Rahman who has also worked tirelessly with Sadia Moyeen on this initiative says, ‘many people get injured each year as a result of accidents. They do not offer below the knee operations here as they are very hard. These people are sent home without any counselling or further treatment.’
Rahman informed that the limbs they offer are very cheap at $45 each – because it is plastic piping baked into an oven. ‘The amputees who came from all over the country having heard of this camp simply come in and fill up a form. The next day they come and give all their measurements – height, weight etc,’ she says.
Rahman points out that the limbs are then baked in an oven with plaster of Paris molds. ‘The rubber provides maximum support and traction and the metal shingles provide flexibility. These limbs provide balance and agility, and people have even completed the 100m dash wearing these prosthetic limbs,’ she says.
She goes on to add, ‘those who want to contribute can do so through the Moyeen Foundation. The next camp is going to take place within the next year hopefully.’
The man behind the Jaipur Foot Initiative is Dr G R Mehtab. Pointing out that this initiative runs solely on donations, he jokes that he’s the world’s biggest beggar. He is also collaborating with Harvard and MIT so they can help improve on the initiative.’
Champa Rani Mondon (30) from Bikrampur lost her leg in an accident four years ago. She says, ‘It’s better to die than to live like this. I have to depend on others. I can’t even save my child if he’s getting beaten by someone else. My four year old daughter says to me “Ma I would give you my legs so you don’t have to go through this suffering’. She will be very happy today.”’
Dr Wahidur Rahman of NITOR Hospital tells New Age Xtra, ‘Road accidents is like a disease – it is a sensitive and burning issue. Through training and funding, we can be self-sufficient. If more people contribute, we can hold this camp throughout the year.’

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