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Bangladesh: A doctor in the making

09-01-2014 Feature

In Bangladesh, about 10 per cent of the population live with a disability. The ICRC is providing training and making available raw materials and high-quality appliances so that the Centre for the Rehablitation of the Paralysed (CRP) can enhance its services for the neediest of the disabled. While impaired physical mobility is usually the result of accident or disease, a number of Bangladeshis have lost their limbs in politically motivated violence. Here is the story of one such young man.

Standing on his own (prosthetic) feet


Robin stayed some weeks at the CRP, which provided him with a new limb and gait training. ICRCI/O. Shadman

The chirping of sparrows and magpie robins heralded the dawning of day at the CRP in Savar, Bangladesh. In a tiny cabin in the patient wing, nineteen-year-old Robin Miah finished carefully packing his bag for his departure. Noticing that his uncle, Abdur Rouf, and friend, Nazmul Hasan, were following his every move, the shy teenager asked them to wait outside while he changed his clothes.

After a few minutes, Robin stepped out in a pair of khaki trousers. Rouf and Nazmul's joy knew no bounds. They snapped photos to capture Robin’s wearing trousers for the first time in a decade. Robin ceremoniously handed his crutch to Rouf; showing that he was ready to face the world with his newly fitted prosthetic leg and foot.

Flashback to 7 December 2003

On a chilly night in December 2003, nine-year old Robin went to a village fair near his remote home town of Dariapur in the Tangail district, 70 kms north-west of Dhaka. The fair, called "failya paglar mela", was the biggest winter event in the region. At the time, cinemas and other public places had become targets of bomb attacks.

Just after nine o’clock that night, while little Robin was mesmerized by the pink clouds called candy floss, a bomb exploded. The weapon took the lives of seven people and injured 15 others. Both of Robin's legs were injured. He was rushed to the local hospital and later transferred to Dhaka, where his left leg had to be amputated from above the knee. Surgery took place on the right leg but it never became fully functional.

The indomitable

Robin Miah beams as he shows off his khaki trousers, which cover a prosthetic left leg and foot. 

Robin Miah beams as he shows off his khaki trousers, which cover a prosthetic left leg and foot.
© ICRC / O. Shadman

Physical disability, however, could not quench the flame of determination burning inside him. Last year, Robin’s dedicated studying allowed him to pass his high-school certificate exam with flying colours and gained him coveted admission to a public medical college in Faridpur.

During Robin's interview with the admissions committee of the college, one of the faculty members referred to the dress code of the medical school, which Robin would have to adhere to were he to attend the institution. This particular comment worried Robin. Ever since the misfortune of 2003, he had customarily worn the traditional sarong-like lungi, which disguised Robin’s body contours and thus shielded him from stares.

The CRP and Red Cross there to assist

In November 2013, Robin sought artificial limb support at CRP so that he could abide by the medical school dress code. The technicians made a left leg for him from scratch. In the following weeks, Robin took gait training with a physiotherapist to ensure that the limb fitted smoothly into his stump. During his two-month stay at the CRP, Robin and Nazmul Hasan forged a deep friendship.

"We spent quality time playing chess and watching movies. I'm really proud of Robin and hope he will be a famous doctor someday," said a jubilant Nazmul, who is taking a tailoring course at the CRP.

Robin does not like to plan too far ahead. Nevertheless, as the first and so far only medical student from his village, he would like to improve the health services in his rural area.

His uncle shed light on Robin’s success. "The locals really look up to him. They make way for him in the tea stalls out of reverence. After all, he is our first doctor in the making."

 

Physical rehabilitation helps physically disabled people regain their mobility so that they can lead a life in dignity and play an active role in society.

Physical rehabilitation programmes of the ICRC are designed to strengthen the rehabilitation services in countries where the ICRC works.

In Bangladesh, the ICRC has partnered with the CRP to help the most vulnerable of the disabled to rebuild their lives.

The programme involves:

  • providing high-quality, low-cost prosthetic and orthotic appliances (artificial limbs and assistive devices);
  • supporting local ortho-prosthetists (technicians) with internationally recognized training;
  • improving the capacities of local partners and authorities so that they can ensure sustainable orthopaedic services;supporting local physiotherapists as they help people needing prosthesis or orthosis to walk independently.

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