Mikeley is one of thousands
of Haitians who survived the Jan. 12 disaster with injuries that required
amputation and who will have to deal with their new handicaps in a third world
country where disability services are not a top priority.
Amputees must learn to
function with their new disabilities by maneuvering around mounds of cement,
crumpled sidewalks, and unsteady stairways as their homeland struggles to clean
up and rebuild its very basic infrastructure.
Just two years old, Mikeley
toddles around the hospital in diaper and clogs, giggling at American visitors.
Mikeley lost both arms in the event that also killed his four-year-old sister.
His mother and three older
siblings made it out of their home in Leogane alive, but there was no chance to
save his arms when he arrived at the hospital six days later.
Susie Ransbottom-Witty is an
occupational therapist from Dillsboro who specializes in hand therapy and
volunteered in Haiti through N.C. Baptist Men.
She spied Mikeley playing in
the courtyard and knew when she saw him scratch his nose with his toes he would
Susie went to work with a
piece of thermoplastic material she found in the hospital. She heated water
over the stove, which softened the plastic enough that she could mold a cup
holder to ergonomically fit Mikeley’s foot.
He could slide either foot
through the handle and it has some room for his little foot to grow.
He was so proud when he
drank from the cup that his eye gleamed with a smile from behind the new
They also experimented with
a spoon between his toes. He could hold the utensil but when he brought the
spoon to his mouth the food would slide off.
When he gets older and his
toe coordination improves, Susie hopes he will be able to keep an ordinary
spoon level, but for now, she will send a swivel spoon from home that will help
him eat by himself.
Susie and Mikeley worked on
carrying objects between his toes, transferring things from one foot to the
other and passing an object to someone else. Another big accomplishment was
getting Mikeley to carry something under his left stump, which was amputated
just below the elbow.
He was very hesitant to use his
stump because it was still tender but he finally gave it a try and was seen
carrying a rattle under his left arm and a beanie baby in his left foot.
Susie grew tearful when she
talked about Mikeley and the countless others who will need to figure out how
to survive following such potentially debilitating injuries.
She was struck by the sweet,
selfless attitude that so many of the Haitians demonstrated through simple acts
of kindness to each other.
And her heart ached when she
saw many former patients put on a bus and sent back to their villages, which
may or may not still be standing.
“Part of the difficulty for
me emotionally was knowing that all these people with amputations and casts
were being discharged from the hospital with absolutely no place to go,” she
“I heard the story again and
again from interpreters that they didn’t want to leave the hospital” because of
the uncertainty they faced.
Unlike many survivors,
Mikeley has his family to nurture and guide him as he navigates life outside
They will mourn their own
losses and, like most people in the earthquake devastated areas, will begin to
figure out how to live a life of some normalcy one small step at a
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ransbottom-Witty was among medical
personnel on a recent visit to Haiti. Medical volunteers are still needed.
There is also a need for construction and other disaster recovery specialties.
To find out how you can volunteer, visit www.ncmissions.org.)