Sierra Leone 2013 was the inaugural trip for New Life with Limbs. We partnered with Indian Creek Christian church, who travels to Sierra Leone to serve the Bombali School for the Blind. We worked with some local pastors in Makeni and Freetown to find amputees in need of our services, and we were provided a list with 8 below-knee amputees to fit while we were there. We were provided limited measurements for the amputees, and we brought appropriate supplies to fit the amputees. We also worked with Bump, an organization that makes low-cost, rapid-fit prostheses for below-elbow amputees. They provided us 8 arms for the journey. Our team included a prosthetist, a student prosthetist, a technician, and an occupational therapist.
Once we arrived in Makeni, the amputees flocked to our temporary prosthetics clinic, an old butcher house with no power or water supply. James immediately set to fitting the below-knee amputees that had arrived. He quickly found out that the language barrier meant that we had assumed the wrong side for all the amputees, so we had left feet for all the right amputees and visa versa. He quickly adjusted to the error, putting all the feet into a single bag and pulling out the correct one for each patient. (Even with the miscommunication, we had the correct foot available for every patient, thanks be to God!) Sami, the student prosthetist, had originally set out to assist James in fitting patients, but an additional 30 amputees showed up on the first day, hoping to be measured for future trips. Sami quickly set up in another corner of the Butcher House, measuring each amputee as they came.
In the next few days, we were able to fit the below-knee artificial limbs to the amputees on our list, and we were able to measure all those who showed interest. During our final day in Makeni, we brought a baptismal with us and set it up in the butcher house. We counseled with those interested and had a wonderful baptismal service in the butcher house. It was amazing to think the old butcher house, a place of death, became a place of new births on that February day in 2013. 39 people responded to the call, accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The amputees of Makeni also used this final day to thank us for our efforts. They performed a few songs in traditional tribal attire and dancing. They thanked us for the prostheses we were able to fit this year, and they encouraged us to come back in future year with more “hands” and “feet”, as well as mobility equipment, like crutches.
The team then returned to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, to meet the final patients and provide the Bump arms to below-elbow amputees. We worked in an old compound set up by Mercy Ships, which had plenty of rooms to organize patient interviews, measurements, and fitting. James fit an additional 2 legs in Freetown, and Sami set to fitting the Bump arms to arm amputees. Most upper limb amputees were due to the Sierra Leone Civil War. Rebels would raid a village, capturing all the inhabitants they could. In order to prove to the Sierra Leone government that they were still active, they would use machetes to chop the hands off of individuals. If you complied as a victim, they would only cut off one of your hands, but if you tried to fight or run, they would cut off both of your hands. They would leave the victims to walk to find help until they could make it to a hospital for care. Some of the amputees walked all night and day before being picked up by the Red Cross or another organization. It was horrible to hear their stories, but it was wonderful to show Christ’s love to bring hope to their future.
Overall, the trip was quite a success. We were able to fit 1 above-knee prostheses and eleven below-knee prostheses. These people were excited to be able to walk again, so that they could return to work as traders. We were also able to fit 6 people with Bump arms to provide them assistance in their daily lives. In addition, 50 others were measured for future trips to Sierra Leone. We were also able to provide baptismal services to the people of Sierra Leone, baptizing 39 souls for God. It was a truly remarkable trip, and it validated to us that God was calling for us to fill prosthetic needs to third world countries around the world.