Abbottabad: This fall, a team of staff including International Program Coordinator, Joe Harrison travelled to Pakistan to visit local health care partners. Much of the trip was an eye-opening experience for Harrison, but one particular girl’s story will always remain in his memory. He shares his uplifting reflection below:
At just one year old, Ain-Ul-Haya was one of the millions severely injured when a 7.5 magnitude earthquake decimated northern Pakistan in 2005, killing an estimated 80,000 people.
She was left unable to walk after the roof of the schoolhouse she was inside collapsed, crushing her right leg and requiring its amputation, says a report by CHAL Foundation, a charity running a rehabilitation centre.
As a young child, she underwent multiple unsuccessful surgeries at a general hospital in Abbottabad. Consequently, she was left with a conical stump – painfully uncomfortable in a prosthetic – and a heavy left foot instead of the right.
It wasn’t until Ain-Ul-Haya’s family found the CHAL Rehabilitation Centre six months ago that things began to improve for the now seven year old girl.
The CHAL Foundation is a collaborative of international organizations focused on serving the physically challenged population of Pakistan. The organization partnered with Direct Relief after the earthquake to establish a rehabilitation centre in the impacted region.
The goal was to provide CHAL with the funds necessary to build and sustain the centre for three years. Today four rehabilitation sites are open and fully operating, offering free services to thousands in the areas most heavily affected by the quake.
During our trip, we visited the CHAL Rehabilitation Centre in Balakot. As Dr. Bakht Sarwar showed us around, I found myself surrounded by smiles and curious glances. Between the patients and the staff, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive.
Dr. Sarwar told us more about the services themselves and what he said has resonated with me ever since.
He told us that treating a patient, like Ain-Ul-Haya, who has suffered the loss of a limb, is different than treating any other ailment. A prosthetic is forever.
CHAL approaches their work with this in mind. It means manufacturing prosthetic limbs and other assistive devices on site, then adjusting them further to fit the specific needs of the patient. It also means providing physical therapy, psychological counselling, and even occupational therapy. Additionally, the home of the patient often needs to be retrofitted with ramps and other fixtures designed for physically challenged individuals.
In short, what they provide to their patients is a future.
Upon meeting the bold and confident Ain-Ul-Haya, it was clear they have given her just that.
The young girl has been to the centre seven times since the first appointment. She is now outfitted with a new, more comfortable prosthetic. A physical therapist is working with her to improve overall movement and meticulously monitors her progress.
Moreover, a team of talented surgeons are preparing her for one last corrective surgery, insuring that she thrives as she grows. A CHAL outreach worker has visited her home nine times to follow up on the treatment, track educational development and promote social integration.
The loss of a limb presents lifelong challenges indeed. But as Ain-Ul-Haya shows us, a little assistance offers a future full of possibilities.