A few special people have been spending time with us over a longer period here in Haiti, and keep cropping up in our daily lives. One of these is Fleurimene, our own special ray of sunshine here in Deschapelles. She had already enchanted my predecessor Cornelia, Andrej (the doctor who treated her and performed her operation), and me with her big wide eyes.
I got to know Fleurimene in November 2014, during our consultations in the lab. Fleurimene, who was still not yet four, could only crawl around on the floor – her little legs really didn’t look strong enough to carry her. The little girl had never walked, she crawled around, or was carried. In those circumstances the preconditions for an orthoprosthesis were poor. The situation was compounded by the fact that Fleurimene was just under 3 feet tall and had never walked.
She had dysmelia (also known as congenital limb reduction), and the foot on her affected side had a pseudo ankle joint – visible on her X-rays – a hand’s width below her knee. We thought long and hard about what a prosthesis would have to look like. Andrej (an orthopaedic specialist from Basel) who was also working at the campus at the time started planning the surgical options.
To cut a long story short her parents were informed, and an appointment for the operation was found at short notice. The operation was a complete success. A silicone liner in hospital and a compression stocking at home were the treatments of choice for healing the wound. This was followed by an evaluation appointment we had arranged: a diffuse neurological problem at the end of the residual limb initially made providing a prosthesis look impossible. Luckily Hans, another orthopaedic specialist from Basel (what a happy coincidence) worked at the HAS until the end of January 2015. He agreed to my request to overcome Fleurimene’s neurological problem.
Following weeks’ of wound healing and treatment with compression stockings, at last we could make up the plaster mould and provide her with an interim prosthesis. After a brief period of learning to walk Fleurimene was able to walk around our workshop on her own two short legs – what a beautiful sight!
After another three weeks father and daughter finally arrived at the lab for the next planned evaluation appointment. We couldn’t believe our eyes: the little whirlwind was laughing and dancing around our workshop. The wound on her residual limb had healed beautifully, neurological problems were a thing of the past, and she could weight bear fully on the end of her residual limb. So we were able to make up the final prosthesis, including the cosmesis, for the little one. I donated my Atrix hand cream for the contralateral kneecap to help her young but long-suffering skin recover a little. A yardstick on the wall in the workshop shows just how much the little whirlwind has grown – almost three foot three!
Even now I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing little Fleurimene for another evaluation in three months’ time.
Last but not least:
A very special “thank you” to Andrej and Hans for their fantastic, uncomplicated and friendly co-operation with our workshop, our little patient, and me.