Artificial Limbs, A Sudanese Accomplishment

Artificial Limbs, A Sudanese Accomplishment

By: Rogia al-Shafee
Photographer: Majdi Abdalla

 

KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Aalya Mohamed of the Nahr al-Neel State, was about forty years old in the year 2005 when she underwent a leg amputation surgery because of a chronic sugar wound. She felt broke and did not know what to do to feed and look after her children. But her doctors told her not to worry and seek an artificial leg when her wounds have completely healed. Six months later her doctor relegated her to the Sudanese Foundation for Artificial Limbs where she was carefully looked after and, most importantly, she broke the fear barrier.

Facility trainers trained her on how to regain her ability to walk with her new-found limb. The compassionate trainers kindly and very patiently took her out of her predicament until she, after a month-long training on the ground, on staircases and on stone barriers, was able to walk around without even the need for a walking stick. She became able to commute in her local town and take the bus to and from Khartoum for medical follow ups every six months.

No one may imagine the degree of happiness that descends on a person with disability like Aalya when he finds that, with the help of his artificial limb, he can go around with the daily routine of his life after being glued to his bed because of his disability. Without these artificial limbs, men cannot earn a decent living for their families. Similarly, women cannot go about their daily household duties without them. And for children no one can imagine the happiness these young people feel when they realize that they can play with their peers once again after they have lost hope to do so.

In Sudan the institution which restores hope of new life for those who had lost precious parts of their bodies, due to disease, war or accident, is the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics. The Authority has started in 1946 as an artificial limbs unit for rehabilitating the 2nd World War victims who lost their limbs. The unit was part of the mechanical corps. The unit was later on affiliated to the state-run mechanical transport department and in 1974 it was affiliated to the Ministry of Health. In 2002 it was awarded ‘the Order of Accomplishment’ by President Omar al-Bashir and was renamed “the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics”. 

Authority General Manager, Major General Salahuddin Mohamed Mustafa said his agency had been in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to render psychological and social help to persons with disability before and after they receive artificial limbs and prepare them to accept and live with disability “This is one of the Authority’s objectives. Here the disabled receives psychotherapy and rehabilitation sessions, conducted by a qualified group of technicians that includes a bone surgeon assisted by highly-qualified artificial limbs technicians, physiotherapists, social and psychological specialists in addition to statistics and information unit”.

General Manager, Major General Salahuddin Mohamed Mustafa

He told Sudanow in an interview that these cadres oversee the installation of the artificial limb and its support systems in the foundation’s quality unit and in keeping with up-to-date international technology of artificial limbs.

Sudanow camera has toured this grand monument, starting from the workshop for the manufacturing of limbs, back stretchers, splints for patients with broken bones and Parkinson disease, paralysis and polio. Beside this workshop there is a workshop for making accessories that include elbow sticks, underarm walking sticks and the white stick of the blind and for the maintenance of equipment as an initial step for indigenizing treatment in Sudan. There is also a workshop for special needs shoes. The Foundation also contains a unit for physiotherapy and psychotherapy and social rehabilitation where the patients are rehabilitated and trained on the use of the artificial limbs and the compensatory systems. Here the specialists have a look at the psychological and social wellbeing of the disabled, in particular those who do not accept the use of artificial limbs or cannot cope with them. The Foundation also presents social backing for those who cannot afford the cost of artificial limbs. In some cases persons from this category are given the limbs at minimum cost or for free in many cases.

Sudanow met during the tour one of the most disheartening cases the Authority has dealt with; the young girl Fatima al-Hadi who lived with her parents in a village in Kosti district of the White Nile State. Fatima had lost all her hands and legs due to a stop in the blood circle in these limbs. This has caused her limbs to contract and sustain deep wounds, forcing an imputation of the four limbs in the Kosti and Omdurman hospitals.

Her doctors then sent her to the Authority on a wheelchair to get artificial limbs fixed. The limbs were prepared and fixed for her for free. Fatima then returned to her village and now leads a normal life therein. The rehabilitation and training she had received were of great help to her. She had learned how to take off and return the limbs and how to write with her artificial hand. When she received the new limbs, Fatima was just eight years old. Now she is thirteen years old. Her artificial limbs had continued to be changed as she grew up and gained more size.

The Authority’s locally made artificial limbs are manufactured from light natural substances that cope with the Sudanese bodily formations, and the country’s weather and environment; therefore they are the best for the locals. A well-to-do elderly woman who lost her two legs was taken by her family to Germany where she fixed two artificial legs. Back from Germany she used to sustain bruises and wounds. This had forced her to do away with the artificial legs, moving around her home on a wheelchair. Then when she saw many persons normally moving around with artificial parts she headed to the Authority and got two artificial legs fixed. After the necessary training she started to walk without any problems.

The Authority has its own characteristic accomplishments. One of these is the mobile workshop. General Mustafa has indicated that Sudan is the first country in the world to introduce such workshop. It was endorsed by the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics. The German Ottobock Healthcare, that has technical and commercial partnerships with the Authority, has initially rejected the idea of the workshop, but the latter has proceeded with it unheeded. The mobile workshop was supervised by Engineer Jamal Jad and had toured the country’s regions offering service to the persons with disablity. One of the workshop’s important contributions was the service it rendered to victims of the war in Yemen who receive medical care in Meroe Hospital in the Northern State. After four years of success the same Ottobock Healthcare agency applied the experiment, using mobile containers during the Olympic Games, said Major General Mustafa.

He said the mobile workshop set was presented to the foundation by the Sudan’s Jiad industrial group. The workshop stays in an area that has no center for artificial limbs for one month to disseminate the culture for coping with disability and train the locals on the use and maintenance of prosthetics. The workshop has so far fixed over 500 new limbs to those in need, scoring unprecedented success. The workshop has constituted a nucleus of branches for the Authority in the country’s regions, namely in Kassala, Dongola, Damazine, Nyala and Kadugli. In the future centers will be opened in Atbara, el-Obied, Port Sudan and Sinnar.

Another accomplishment is launching of the Faculty of Prosthetics, the first such an academy in the Arab World and preceded by only two such colleges, one in Africa and the other in India. The faculty was set at the al-Neelain University, with the ICRC as a basic partner. It has enrolled 21 students after its curriculum was endorsed by the Ministry of Higher Education and after its lecturers were recruited. The college has commenced studies in December 2017. Before the establishment of the faculty there was a college established in 2005 and graduated two batches with diploma degrees after a three-year study.

Fatima and her parents

The Foundation has participated in a lot of functions abroad, reflecting Sudan’s efforts in the domain of disability, including the 13th World Congress organized by the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics. It has also attended the founding meetings of the Arab union for artificial limbs in Jordan and has taken part in the meetings of the African federation of prosthetics in Côte d'Ivoire and others. It has established partnerships with the ICRC, the UN Mine Action, the Humanitarian Aid Commission and Action on Disability and Development.

 

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Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...

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