I have written so many “success” stories that includes children, and every time one experience the same feelings of amazement, and the sense of wanting to help. The fact is, that prosthetics is expensive and a financial burden for every parent and for a long period of the child’s live!
A few weeks ago, Simphiwe and his father came to see me with little hope in their eyes. Simphiwe is a 7 year old strong boy who was born with a rear transverse disease where both his legs were under – developed and both his arms.
To give him a chance of walking with prosthetic legs, his one leg had to be amputated above the knee and the other one through the knee. His hands are basically non – functional as he has no fingers. Previously he did receive prosthetic limbs in a government set up as they don’t have the financial capabilities to pay for Bi – Lateral Trans Femoral (TF) prosthesis.
To rehabilitate a Bi - Lateral TF patient, one need high end componentry, proper rehab and lots of guts and effort from the amputee to make a success of the rehab process. Providing the patient with adequate prosthetic knee joints to give him a chance of walking, is expensive, and not affordable for many parents.
After consulting with Simphiwe and his farther, one just felt the need to be help. After explaining to him what he needs, they left and I realised that we need a sponsorship from someone, if we don’t want the child to stay wheelchair bound for the rest of his childhood or life.
I contacted Le Roux Viljoen MD of Őssur Africa, telling him about Simphiwe and asking if they might be able to help with better prices on their prosthetic componentry for kids. Őssur has many products available for kids, but Simphiwe needed the Total knee, and Vari Flex foot for kids. The Total knee would give him a lot of safety as the knee is designed in such a way that it will lock when you put weight on it and unlock for swing phase when the amputee roll over his foot and put weight on the front foot. The Vari Flex foot for kids is also a new addition to the Őssur prosthetic kids range and will provide the amputee with proper energy return when they walk and adapt better to uneven terrains, providing him with better balance.
Both of these items are expensive items, and as Simphiwe is a Bi – Lateral (Double) amputee, he needed 2 knees and 2 feet. Őssur came back to me and offered me all the componentry Simphiwe needed, for no charge! This was a massive gesture from their side and made it possible for me to help Simphiwe to walk again. The total value of the prosthetic componentry is valued at R 100 000.00, as we needed two of everything!
So, this sponsorship made it possible to start the process and everybody was exited. Like many disabled children, Simphiwe has a fantastic personality and is very positive. In the prosthetic socket design we did not use silicone liners as it is an expensive item that needs to be looked after well and with the typical life of a child, it most properly would not last long. By using PE – Lite liners we have the chance to make changes if volume changes takes place within the socket, i.e. if the sockets becomes too stiff or loose, we can add or take away material to accommodate the volume changes, thus increasing the life span of the sockets and period of a comfortable fit.
The first fitment did not go according to plan as Simphiwe walked on his residual limbs the week before and injured him in such a way, that when we wanted to fit the prosthetic legs, it was too painful.
We postponed the appointment with 2 weeks, and fitted the prosthetic legs again. The strange thing was to determine his height and shoe size as nobody were really can tell you his height was or should be, nor his shoe size.
So, we measured the distance from his one hand to the other when holding them apart to determine his length and thanks to Google, got the average shoe size for buys 7 years old.
The whole process of walking with above knee prosthetic legs is very intense and takes a massive effort and proper training. One could see that it was not going to be an easy road for Simphiwe, but definitely not impossible. We arranged one Physio gait training session as well to help him understand what he must do to be able to walk without any aid.
The road ahead could be good for Simphiwe. He will be able to live more of an active child’s life than ever before. Hopefully his prosthetic limbs will last him long as kids plays in all environments, sand, water climbing trees etc..
I will do a follow up report in a few weeks' time to see how he has improved in his walking and what he is up to! Thanks again to Őssur for being so generous and making this possible and well done on Simphiwe, for being so brave!