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Jan 5, 2012

Project Hope Belize gives prosthesis to kids

With amputations increasing due to accidents and diseases, the demand for prosthetic limbs is growing. In Belize, such services are only available at one clinic, Project Hope Belize in Orange Walk Town. For over a decade, medical teams from the U.S. have been travelling to Belize at least three times a year to assist amputees with artificial arms and legs; giving them the gift of mobility. While the center welcomes donations, it also does prosthesis pro-bono for those who simply can’t afford it. The team is already in Belize for the New Year and News Five’s Andrea Polanco stopped in at the clinic to learn more about the work of these good Samaritans.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Meet ten year old Obed Cob, who was born with Spina Bifida. Today Cob is at the Project Hope Belize Clinic to obtain the Orthotics Services. He is doing his brace-fitting to help improve stability in his right leg.

Obed Cob, Orthotics Patient

Obed Cob

“When I walk with that I don’t have pain.”

Andrea Polanco

“Where is it that you have the pain, in your back?”

Obed Cob, Orthotics Patient,

“My back.”

Jennifer Klein

Jennifer Klein, Orthotics & Prosthetics Specialist

“He basically had what you could think of as a spinal chord injury at birth so it affected his whole right leg so he has weakness and no feeling so he needs a brace and also a lift because the prosthetic side is shorter to try to help him walk.”

Andrea Polanco

“They’re going to adjust the orthotics for you; will it make you walk better?”

Obed Cob

“I think so.”

Andrea Polanco

“So it will lessen the pains that you’re having and so forth?”

Obed Cob


Andrea Polanco

“So is it something that you are excited about, looking forward to getting it?”

Obed Cob

“Yes, excited.”

Andrea Polanco

“So, now that he has that brace, will he be able to move around a little quicker to play more with his friends and so forth?”

Jennifer Klein

“Mhmm. It will give his ankle some more stability that he needs and a shoe lift little longer on that side to make his legs more even and it will last him about a year or so and then he will need to come back and be fit for a new one.”

While orthotics is a new service offered by Project Hope Belize, for the last fifteen years the clinic has been offering prosthesis services to patients. Today, forty-seven year old Aurelio Cawich is doing his fitting for his artificial leg:

Aurelio Cawich, Prosthesis Patient

“A bit exciting you know, looking forward because it’s been six months since I got an operation and first then I didn’t think it would heal and some friends told me about the prosthetics clinic in Orange Walk.”

Andrea Polanco

“So how do you think this will change your life compared to the past six months?”

Aurelio Cawich

Aurelio Cawich

“Well, at least I think I will have mobility again not as perfect as first because mentally I feel strong  but physically I feel okay just that my left foot I feel a bit cripple because I cannot move how I want.”

Andrea Polanco

“So at least with this new leg you are hoping to go back to work and resume life as normal?”

Aurelio Cawich

“Well with the help of God and Grace, I hope to go back to work and try to be an asset to the department again instead of just staying home.”

Rob Kistenberg

Prosthetic legs are usually in higher demand because an amputated leg deters mobility, but Rob Kistenberg, Clinical Director, says that prosthesis for the arm is equally important:

Rob Kistenberg, Clinical Director, Project Hope Belize

“For someone who has an arm amputation, it’s a little different because most persons can get by one-handed so it really depends on what type of tasks they do and so getting a prosthesis for the different things that they do would be helpful. The other thing to be aware of is if that you are doing everything one–handed than you may suffer injury to that one hand so it is very helpful to have that other hand to help the hand that you lost to do the tasks that you do.”

Adrian Camara

But before getting prosthesis, Adrian Camara, Clinical Manager, says patients need go in for a consultation:

Adrian Camara, Clinical Manager, Project Hope Belize

“The first step that they need to do is to come here to me so I can do an evaluation to see how fit they are physically to receive a prosthesis and also we need to prepare the stump so that whenever the team gets here and we are ready to do prosthesis their limbs are well shrunk down to the size that we need it to be so that we could have a good fit on it.”

At the clinic, the team of doctors fabricates the artificial arms and legs along with adjustments of braces.

Rob Kistenberg

“We fabricate everything in the country so that we don’t have the delay. We take the impressions here; we do the fabrication and then we do the fitting and training and the adjustments here. When there are not teams in town making the devices, we have the clinical manager here, Adrian Camara to help assist with adjustment, fittings, and repairs and things that are necessary to happen between the time that we are making new devices.”

And while using prosthesis may seem daunting, Camara says it’s not so:

Adrian Camara

“Let them know that not because they have an arm or leg missing that the world is over and that is why we are here to provide and help everybody that we can and I don’t ever turn around anybody. We try to help everybody that comes in through the door and because you don’t have a limb missing, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay like that for the rest of your life.”

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

For the past year and a half, Project Hope Belize has partnered with Care Belize and World Pediatric Project to offer Orthotic Services. To date the clinic has seen over two hundred prosthesis patients and about fifty-five children for orthotics services. If you’d like to contact the clinic, you can reach them at 660-1768.

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3 Responses for “Project Hope Belize gives prosthesis to kids”

  1. Woody says:

    How heartwarming it is to see the positive side of what a few good people can do for Belize
    instead of all the maim and shame that is reported each day.
    this group should be nationally recognized for their work in assisting the people to get back a more positive life.
    come on corporate sponsors, put up some money and expand this needy service to other parts of the country.
    Well Done to all the folks there Project Hope Belize.

  2. OriginalWoman says:

    Nice article, and cudos to all who are making this project possible!!!

  3. Jim Braden says:

    I live in the St. Louis, Missouri, USA area.

    I have met Adrian and have been to his shop to see first hand the amazing things his shop does! I have done a little fund-raising for him and hope to do more.

    I love the pictures he has hanging in the shop of the success stories. The smiles and grins on their faces are priceless. In one picture frame is 3 pictures of a young boy – being fitted with his prosthetic leg, displaying the prosthetic while standing on crutches, and the 3rd pic of him playing (no crutches!).

    Nice article for an amazing little shop. And good job, Adrian!!!!

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