Increasingly, hundreds of Belizeans have lost legs to gunshots, traffic accidents, and other causes, in addition to those born without legs. In all between 150 and 175 Belizeans have had legs amputated annually at the local hospital. But Belize does not have a regular service to provide prostheses, or artificial legs.
That is where Dr. Rob Kistenberg and a new organization, Prosthethic Hope International Belize, come in. The Belize chapter is an offshoot of the main organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, and hosts Dr. Kistenberg and his team twice a year to evaluate local patients and begin the process of fashioning new limbs.
This year’s evaluative phase took place today at the offices of Helpage Belize in Belize City, in conjunction with the Belize Association for Persons with Diverse Abilities (BAPDA). BAPDA’s administrator, Eva Middleton, is an amputee herself who shared her experience.
She replaced her prosthetic leg three times in three years and paid increasing costs each year – from US$10,000 to US$20,000.
Dr. Kistenberg tries to keep costs to a minimum. He says many of his patients are returning for replacement prosthesis, some very old, but a few are newcomers. Consultation is done on a sliding scale, meaning those who can pay at least a part of the cost – up to a $1,000 – are asked to do so, but a majority receive free service.
The doctor and his team make the prostheses themselves. The PHI team returns in October and November to see new patients and fit prostheses for successful patients.
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