Low-cost artificial limbs offer amputees a new lease of life – 23rd September 2012

Artificial limbs are given every week to a specific number of beneficiaries (Article from The Hindu – Olympia Shilpa Gerald)

For truck driver Sreenivasan, a victim of a road accident, the loss was not just a limb but his source of livelihood. Similar are the tales of a schoolboy, sanitary worker, butcher, and vegetable vendor who make it to artificial limb distribution camp every fourth Sunday at a hospital in Tiruchi. All foot amputees, they limp back to normal life, with the new leg, read artificial limb.

Artificial limb distribution camps by the government and not-for-profit organisations are not uncommon, but the initiative by Hindu Mission Hospital supported by the Rotary Club of Tiruchi Midtown aims to “benefit the maximum number of people by providing optimum use through minimum cost”. Artificial limbs sponsored by individuals and organisations are given every week to a specific number of beneficiaries, mostly from lower economic sections. To many of these people, the limbs, albeit free of cost, spell a new lease of life.

Least cost initiative

While there are more expensive prosthetic devices priced from anywhere between Rs.30,000 to Rs.1lakh, the initiative provides only the “Jaipur foot”, a rubber-based prosthesis which is less expensive and easy to manufacture. This device does not allow sensation travels down the leg and often the user may walk with a slight limp. “For people from the lower strata it is not cosmetic value that matters but functional value,” says V.V.Subramanian, secretary of the hospital. “They are not bothered about limping a little. It is about fulfilling the important requirements of helping amputees walk, drive and importantly return to school or work.” The artificial limb also helps them move without stigma or being made an object of pathos.

So far, of the sixty identified, 36 have benefited. The age varies from 15 to 72. While for those above 60, mobility is the main function, for the others a limb has greater functional value. Major causes of amputation include accidents, diabetic foot ulcers, blockage of blood vessels, and bone cancer.

While a limb may cost around Rs.8,000, the mission hospital through its sister concern in Chennai that conducts weekly camps is able to provide it for a cost of Rs.2,500, which is borne by donors. As the hospital orders material in bulk, the cost is minimized.

Some beneficiaries are even recommended by the district differently abled welfare office, notes Mr.Subramanian. The advantage the monthly camp has over mass government distribution camps is that en masse distribution recipients may not get the right measurements. Even incompatibility by an inch may lead to discomfiture in walking.

As the foot is tailor-made, the camp restricts to a specific number of candidates among the total registered who are intimated by call or postcard.

Measurements are taken by expert technicians who receive ample time to make the device and fit it in the following month’s camp. A follow-up at the subsequent camp ensures that any glitches are corrected by technicians. As the life of the device is less than three years, such regular camps allow beneficiaries to get back for a replacement.

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