Press Release, 4,297 characters
medi for help
Aid for Earthquake Victims in Haiti
Bayreuth, September 2011. The Bayreuth company, medi, a leading manufacturer of therapeutic appliances, has been offering support to leg-amputated earthquake victims in Haiti since early 2010. Since that time, over 1,000 patients have been fitted with leg prostheses. Victims are still coming in at a rate of 30 to 40 per week. medi, wishing to continue the flow of aid in the future, founded the non-profit organization ‘medi for help’ in 2011.
Over a year and a half has now passed since the earthquake on this Caribbean island took its devastating toll. Over 220,000 people did not survive the tragic event. Estimates put the number of injured at more than 300,000 – a great many of them children. The total amputation of arms and legs was necessary in many cases – no easy task considering the conditions of limited medical care and poor hygienic standards that prevailed.
“Following the earthquake, the American Hanger Ivan R. Sabel Foundation asked us to provide support in the field of prosthetics for Haiti. The catastrophe was so overwhelming that we decided to help right away “, recalls the Managing Partner at medi, Dr. Michael Weihermüller. A prosthetic rehabilitation centre was then quickly established in Deschapelles in February of 2010, where the needed medical care is available to Haitians at no cost. medi for help cooperates closely on the ground there with the local Albert Schweitzer Hospital and the Hanger Ivan R. Sabel Foundation. Carsten Stauf, a trained prosthetist who has worked for medi for the past eleven years, is the Project Director of medi for help. He went to Haiti himself to make leg prostheses and manage the aid programme on site. “What I experienced there is difficult to put into words. Many people who came to our centre had lost their future and were without hope. Seeing these people take their first steps with their new prostheses, proudly walking up to me, really touched me deeply,“ says Carsten Stauf.
„The positive response received early on from various quarters encouraged us to continue our activities in Haiti over the longer term,“ reports Dr. Michael Weihermüller. ”Our experience there showed us that a certain level of administrative and logistic structure is necessary. We therefore founded a non-profit GmbH to give us a formal and transparent support platform that is available to other donors as well and can be used to manage tasks that may arise in other crisis regions.“
medi provided the initial startup capital for the aid programme. In the long term, the plan is to fund the initiative through donations. Useful material donations are also welcome: These include walking canes, crutches and shoes for amputees. Trained staff are also needed to ensure that the donations are put to good use. medi for help also cooperates with the Ivan R. Sabel Foundation to recruit volunteer orthopaedic technicians, who donate their time and experience by working for two to four weeks in Haiti free of charge. During this time, the prosthetists make plaster casts and prostheses and carry out any necessary technical adjustments. They also supervise the victims’ first attempts to walk with the prostheses and help prepare them for their new life. As a further contribution to active self-help, Haitian personnel are also trained as prosthetists in Deschapelles in specifically targeted training programmes. This creates new jobs and ensures long-term patient care.
Ralf Sommermann, prosthetist from Hof an der Saale in Germany, spent two weeks as a volunteer in Haiti in June of 2011. He provided patient care in the prosthetics workshop: shaft fittings, readjustments and plaster casts were among the many tasks he took on during his stay. He summed up his experience as follows: „On the last day, I had a sense of accomplishment, but I would have liked to have done so much more. Haiti was an unforgettable experience for me and I am happy that I was able to help.”
Anyone who would like to support medi for help with a donation can obtain further information on the aid project at www.medi-for-help.com. The blog also includes the diaries of volunteers with detailed narratives of on-site help.