Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

Doctors Who Heal And Bear Witness

Friday, February 05, 2010


“We should not leave Haitians with unmet needs for prosthetics” write Partners in Health doctors in the current New England Journal of Medicine, calling attention to what may be one of the most profound legacies of the January earthquake.

After returning from visiting the general hospital in Haiti I called former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey, who lost his leg in Vietnam, had nearly a dozen surgeries, and eventually returned there to help establish prosthetic clinics. I used to be his chief-of-staff and knew how well he understood the need. This is what he explained: “Making prosthetics is not complicated, but there is artistry involved. A five year old girl that needs to be fit for prosthesis will need to be fit for another when she’s seven, and again when she’s 12, and then every six months for awhile. She’ll need prosthetic services for the rest of her life.

“In the US that would cost at least $15,000 a person, but it can be done less expensively in Haiti and elsewhere. We wouldn’t have enough expertise here in the U.S. to ship to Haiti even if we wanted to. What we need to do is build training centers for prosthetic technicians so we can help kids but also employ Haitians” Kerrey offered to chair a national committee to bring such expertise and resources to Haiti.

For expert medical dispatches from doctors in Haiti, see New England Journal of Medicine @