In April I visited The Gambia with a fellow UK based prosthetic technician to provide technical assistance, training and support to the prosthetic rehabilitation team based in Banjul. Our arrival into Banjul Airport was briefly delayed due to them being concerned that one of our bags was completely stuffed with prosthetic arms …a quick explanation of the purpose of our visit and we were allowed to continue on our way.
The prosthetic team based at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul consists of Gabu, a prosthetist with almost 30 years experience and Morrow, his apprentice. The service they provide to amputees in Gambia is invaluable especially in a country with a large proportion of amputees (due to issues ranging from diabetes, poor health education as well as accidents and virtually no health and safety laws). Whilst they provide a basic but very functional service to lower limb amputees they have so far been unable to provide any help to those who have experienced an amputation in an upper limb due to the training required to manufacture and fit arm prosthetics and the complex components required.
We saw our first upper limb patient on our first day at the centre. Sarjo Colley is 10 years old and lost his arm due to a fall out of a tree. Due to his amputation being above the elbow the limb he required needed an intricate set of components for it to be functional.
The first step was a cast of the residual limb, Sarjo’s humerus had continued to grow despite the amputation and space needed to be made in the socket to make sure the bone was not under pressure. After the casting process we then had a positive model of Sarjo’s arm and we could manufacture a socket with the correct attachments to complete his prosthetic arm. Specialist modular paediatric components were bought over from the UK to complete the prosthetic.
After the socket was finished a tube was connected to the socket and then to a modular elbow which will allow Sarjo to either have his arm straight or to have it bent so he could hold something to his chest or for it to sit more naturally whilst seated. It was then finished with a hand that matched the size of Sarjo’s hand. The whole arm was finished with cosmetic foam to recreate his other healthy arm and a prosthetic glove was fitted to match his skin tone.
After a very successful fitting webbing straps were completed to suspend the arm and Sarjo was able to take his new prosthetic arm home. He was very excited to receive the arm and he liked that it looked almost like his other arm once he had clothes covering it. He will continue to use the prosthetic at home and school, working up the hours wearing it to get used to the weight of the arm and wearing a socket.
This life changing prosthetic was only able to be completed due to the work of Legs4Africa who tirelessly advocate for the african amputee community as well as provide donated limbs components, source donated materials as well as training and support. This was also possible due to the generous sponsorship of Opcare to fund our trip as well as provide the much needed specialist components. Hopefully this will just be the start of assisting Gambia’s upper limb amputee’s as well as those in other African countries.
If you would like to help people like Sarjo receive a prosthetic there are many ways to help!
- You could buy a piece of much needed equipment from our Wish list for the Gambia here.
- Do you work for the NHS or in a healthcare setting? Do you have equipment that’s no longer used and could have another purpose.
- Are you an amputee or know an amputee? They can donate any limbs that they no longer use either directly or through their limb centre.