Less than four weeks ago our storage room was full of feet, knees and a lot of other prosthetic parts. I was asked to count and organize all the components to start preparing the shipment to Senegal, that was coming up within the next few weeks. It was such a great opportunity to learn how legs are manufactured and composed. We counted all of the prosthetic components in our store room, we estimated more than three thousand items and all the efforts we made to sort everything out were paid off as soon as we managed to send half of the components to 8 hospitals in Senegal.
I followed the shipping process since the beginning, and I thought a lot about how every single component is essential to provide people with the opportunity to get back on their feet. Even the smallest prosthetic element plays an important role and it can help to give a new life to limbs that would otherwise end up in landfill. Every part is necessary to build up prosthesis that are unique to the individual person.
What made me think the most is that every prosthetic leg belonged to one single person, with one unique and irreplaceable story. This person decided to donate part of his story-life to someone in need, someone who can restart writing down his own story thanks to this donation. Sometimes it seems easier to use some sort of categorization and to talk about amputees referring to a general and abstract group of people, but when you count every single prosthetic leg and you make sure that everything is in the right place, you realize the classification is not necessary. Every prosthetic component has one peculiar story behind and one ahead, thanks to Legs4Africa and all its partners.
That is why I think it’s worth sharing some personal stories, so as to get a glimpse of the amazing people we are collaborating with.
Sokhna is the head of orthopaedic department at the national centre of Dakar and she helped us to organize the shipment to Senegal. She’s the first and only woman orthotist and prosthetist in Senegal. She shared her personal story with us and here’s what she said:
“I am a disabled person (I was a victim of polio at the age of 3), I fought to succeed in my studies, after my baccalaureate and with a grant from Handicap International I was able to go abroad and train for 3 years. When I returned my integration into work was not easy because in Africa, especially in Senegal, this is a profession reserved for men, but I did not give up, I continued to fight and claim my place, after a few years of further training and hard work I obtained another fellowship from the International Society of Orthotics and Prostheses (ISPO). I am still going to do my Bachelor in orthosis and prosthesis at a university in Tanzania, and today I am the only woman in Senegal and also the whole of West Africa with the accreditation of the ISPO. But the fact remains that at the constitutional level there has been no diploma recognition of our profession, but I love my job, I like to take care of my peers who need my expertise. I would also like to enhance this noble profession at its highest level, help my colleagues who need my support and I rely on partners like Legs For Africa to try to propel our field.”