Forty-Nine Legs and Six Arms

By Dick Duerksen

Photo by Dreamstime

Most of today’s news is of the “wars and rumors of wars” variety. However, there are occasional bursts of hope, even where the odor of exploding munitions still fills the air.

“You can’t travel 50 feet in Afghanistan and not see an amputee,” says Hugh Panton of the Hanger Orthopedic Group, the world’s leading maker of prosthetic limbs for amputees. “Every day we saw eight to ten amputees on the street.”

Panton, along with three other Hanger employees, arrived in Kabul on October 20 for a ten-day mission of restoration. Using an abandoned Russian clinic next to a hospital, they created a prosthetic center in the midst of the devastation of Afghanistan, where land mines have left a large portion of the population with missing arms or legs.

According to UNICEF, there are still more than 9 million active land mines strewn across Afghanistan, many of which will maim children who stumble upon then while playing or caring for the family animals.

Although Panton and his team would love to provide new legs and arms for all of the injured children, they have to focus mainly on the adults. While a 10-year-old child injured by a land mine would have to get sized for 25 different prostheses during his lifetime, adults can usually live with one well-made prosthesis for many years.

Not content to just repair broken bodies, Panton and his partners set up a website to teach schoolchildren about mines, amputees and prosthetics. That site, www.hanger.com, is a bright point of encouragement that is being used by teachers around the world. Panton’s team made 49 legs and 6 arms in ten days. That’s 5 legs per day—built, molded, fitted, adjusted and attached. Imagine, 49 people crawling into the clinic, and walking out!

It is as if the Biblical miracles are still continuing: And the lame shall walk!