SSLDF has been working with Arms Around Sierra Leone, an American funded project, to continue the implementation of a prosthesis initiative for amputees within Bombali District.
The project ran between 2010 and 2012, restarting in 2017 and ongoing during 2018, supporting those who have become amputees for a variety of different reasons including accidents; war and sickness.
Arms Around Sierra Leone is divided into phases for each group of patients, fundraising; publicity on the local radio and newspapers; outreach field assessments; measurements; casting; fittings and physiotherapy.
Working with both lower and upper limb patients, our most recent group of 8 lower limb patients have just had their prosthesis cast at the Makeni Regional Hospital physiotherapy department.
Sharing some of their stories, Lamin explains how he lost the lower part of his leg in 1996 during the Civil War; “The rebels shot me, the ECOMOC soldiers found me and took me to Connaught Hospital in Freetown.”
Another patient, Ibrahim, similarly lost his lower leg; “My house was ambushed by rebels in Bo and I was shot at. My friends took me to the Government Hospital where the doctors had no choice but to amputate my leg. This was 22 years ago and I still think about what happened every single day. I am blessed not to have lost my life, others weren’t so lucky. I have taken my disability and used it in the best way I could; a few years ago I was the Captain of the National Team for the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club, now I help coach the local amputee football team in Makeni.”
Speaking about past experiences isn’t so easy for everyone. Shaka was in a car accident in 2007. The medical team at the local hospital in Lunsar tried their best to save his leg but due to a lack of specialists and equipment to perform the relevant operation on the damaged tissue, was not possible.
One of the prosthetic cast fitters, Mr Sesay, has been working as a rehabilitation officer for the past 10 years, assisting patients through the most painful phases after amputation, especially with emotional support. Mr Sesay is an amputee himself, losing his leg as a child in 1989 after he was bitten by a snake. Snake venom attacks the tissue and damages the nerve. Due to delayed treatment because of a lack of accessibility to antivenom, his lower leg was amputated. He explains that there is a traditional primary course of action after a snake bite in form of a black stone; the stone according to his explanation, draws the venom out of the body through the bite area.
“The challenges amputees are facing right now in Sierra Leone are basic and sufficient medical equipment, for example ovens to bake the casts. In health facilities, the orthopaedic departments lack specialists who can reduce the cases of amputations. Projects such as Arms Around Sierra Leone make life that little bit easier for us and give amputees the opportunity to have an active future.”
Foday, a local farmer, is the most recent patient to have an amputation procedure among this group. A tree fell down on him during a thunderstorm. He still bears emotional and physical trauma symptoms. “I would like to continue my work in order to feed my family but the pain is too much when using a crutch. I try and put on a brave face amongst my friends but soon, thanks to this project, I will have a prosthetic to help me. I have really been encouraged by this support and I am so grateful to the donors.”
The most fascinating story is that of Mohamed, who was shot 3 times by a rebel in Makeni in 1999 with an AK47 Kalashnikov gun. The people around him put him in a coffin believing he was dead. They took him to the rebel controlled Arab Hospital to double check, on arrival a doctor observed the extent of his injuries and immediately amputated his lower leg. “I thank God for life. I just want to encourage others to appreciate the chances they have in life. I have seen too many young Sierra Leoneans lose their limbs to road accidents, everyone needs to be careful.”
SSLDF express their sincere thanks to Arms Around Sierra Leone for their continued support of this project. We look forward to sharing the stories of our ‘above knee’ amputees in the coming weeks.