Srinagar's Artificial Limb Centre – offering a second chance for a normal life
Among its activities in Jammu & Kashmir, the ICRC supports an artificial limb centre that provides hope for the disabled, both young and old. The ICRC's Mike O'Brien reports from Srinagar.
Kurshid Ayub Mattu and Sajad Ahmed are orthopaedic technicians with 38 years of experience between them. They are finishing work on prostheses (artificial limbs) that will soon be fitted to young boys sitting expectantly by the window of their small workshop. Christof Bode, a German-born ICRC prosthetist, works with them, offering advice here and there. It's a small team.
The workshop and fitting room is also small. In three rooms on the ground floor (making access easier for amputees), new machines for making artificial limbs were recently provided by the ICRC. This 1.5 million rupee (nearly 45,000 Swiss francs/USD 36,000/EUR 28,600) investment by the ICRC is one of the ways that it is working to assist people in Jammu and Kashmir.
Teenager Irfan Dar has his artificial limb fitted and takes his first tentative steps between two horizontal bars that enable his young arms to take the weight. Asked what difference the limb will make to his life he says: " It will make a difference to everything! "
Nazmeena Banu cannot be more than seven years old. She sits quietly by a window, not sure what to expect from the artificial limb that is about to become her new leg. Her father stands nearby, his face showing the concern of a loving parent for his child. At such a young age the traumatic loss of a limb in a road accident, and the measures to replace it, are not easily understood. But she too will have a fresh start to a near normal life.
The centre has been providing limbs since the 1980s; in January 2006 it turned out its first " joint production " with the ICRC and since then more than 30 patients have received limbs.
Typically, it takes a week to manufacture and fit a limb, and a further two to three days before the patient can begin to walk on it. Physiotherapy services help patients learn how to get the most from their new limbs. As in many things in life, the young adapt more quickly than the old.
Professor Mohammad Ramzan Mir, the senior orthopaedic surgeon, is energetic and very focussed on providing top quality medical assistance. While he is happy about the support provided by the ICRC, he explains: " We would be even happier if the ICRC expanded their support so that we could develop the rehabilitation centre in the areas of prostheses, physiotherapy and orthoses (orthopaedic appliances, such as leg braces). "
Two other Kashmiri colleagues are currently undergoing training, funded by ICRC, in Bangalore and will join the technician team in June this year.
Christof Bode has worked with half a dozen orthopaedic workshops in his nearly seven years with the ICRC. " We are proud to work with the Bone and Joint Hospital and with the Jammu and Kashmir Branch of the Indian Red Cross Society, to make a small contribution to helping disabled people here in Kashmir, " he says. " Along with an orthopaedic workshop the ICRC runs in Jammu, this is yet another way that we assist the local population. "