Young Afghan amputee gets new arms
March 28, 2011
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- After being struck by an insurgent' improvised explosive device earlier this year, a 12-year-old Afghan boy lost both of his arms and captured hearts, resulting in a collective effort to get him new limbs.
Firstst Lt. Allyson Lawson, the discharge coordinator for Afghan patients at Bagram Airfield's Heath N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital, made it her mission to get better prosthetic limbs than what is currently offered in Afghanistan.
"The International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan does not make a functional hand, just a hook. I thought (the hand) would help him more," said
Lawson, a National Guardsman from Colorado Springs, Colo. "I wanted this young man to be able to continue his education and ease the difficulty he will face in doing so."
A company out of California called Helping Hands makes the prostheses and ships them to several developing countries who would not otherwise receive any assistance, said Lawson. It is all charity-based and doesn't cost anything.
Lawson reached out to the nonprofit organization to request the prosthetic limbs.
The boy stayed at Craig Hospital until he was stable and fitted with his new arms. He was then transferred to the Egyptian Hospital at Bagram Airfield to receive more training before he and his family went home.
"I visited him frequently to check on his prosthesis and encourage him to practice using them," said Lawson.
"I thought we were going to have to make something for him," said Col. Robinette Amaker, occupational therapy consultant to the U.S. Army surgeon general currently attached to Intelligence & Sustainment Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. "The prostheses we put on him are very crude prosthetics, but they are functional and he will be able to take care of himself."
Amaker said the love and honor of his family made it difficult for her and Lawson to get the child to train with his new arms.
"In their culture, when they have a devastating injury, the family wants to take over and take care of the injured person's needs. For example, his brother said during our last visit that he will feed him until his dying days," Amaker said. "However, we had to convey to the brother and the rest of the family the importance of independence because this child has the ability to learn. And if something happened to his brother, it would leave him helpless unless he has acquired the skills he needs to take care of himself."
The boy left Bagram March 24, to head back home with his family. Lawson and Amaker are completing a plan to support the boy and his training.
Though the prostheses will last him a while, Amaker said he will eventually outgrow them.
"Lieutenant Lawson is currently looking for a therapist near the boy's hometown so he can continue his training throughout his life and, when he gets new ones, he should be able to get the training he needs there instead of having to come back to Bagram," she said.
Lawson has decided to continue her efforts in helping amputees in Afghanistan.
"I'm hoping to connect this company with [International Committee of the Red Cross] so they can mail prostheses directly to Kabul and help other people with hand amputations."