Fifty prosthetic limbs for Low Income amputees

by Bolivians Without Disabilities
Fifty prosthetic limbs for Low Income amputees

Juanita received a prosthetic limb donated by Bolivians Without Disabilities.
Here is what she told us:

“My leg was amputated on October 21st 2016, but the full story begins months before that. I was an employee at a Silver Mine in Potosi.” (Historical note: Potosi was one of the richest cities in the world in the 1600’s due to the abundance of silver that was found there – and thousands of Bolivians still eke out a living there today toiling under dangerous conditions in the mining industry.)

“My job was to tend the machine that would melt silver, to make sure no one would come in during this process. I enjoyed my job and family life. Then one day I fell and fractured my femur just above the knee and had to go to the hospital where I had surgery to correct the bone. In most modern procedures, one would put a plate and screws into the bone to ensure it healed correctly. But due to a lack of resources, knowledge or skill, the doctors cut corners and decided that putting only screws in, without the plate, would be enough to heal the fractured bone. As you may guess, it didn’t solve the issue, but it caused me a great deal of pain. I wasn’t even able to move my knee following the surgery. After some time passed, the immobile knee and leg became increasingly painful. I went back to the doctor who did the surgery and asked for help. This doctor was rather curt, rude, and mean. He didn’t take the time to listen to my problems. So he insisted on forcing my knee to bend. Instead of helping me, he caused not only a second fracture but also caused the screws to tear out of the bone and into the flesh. This caused me such significant pain that I required a private doctor’s visit. I have 3 children and a luxury like that was an absolute last resort. But the pain was so awful I felt like I had no other option.“

“At this visit, the doctor discovered a very large lump on my leg, but his office did not have the resources to be able to do a biopsy. He recommended that I go to a hospital in La Paz to seek further treatment. This private doctor even asked me “who did that last awful surgery to you???”. I followed my second doctor’s instruction and traveled a long distance from Potosi to La Paz to have more tests completed. After a week an oncologist declared that it was a tumor and they would need to amputate the leg. Less intensive options were not given to me. I had no choice, the leg had to go to save my life. I had to keep on living for my children’s sake. “

“My life changed dramatically from this loss. I have three children to support, no job, and no husband since he died years ago. I have a lot of stress and concern to manage. In addition, I now rely on my children’s help for almost everything. I rely on my oldest daughter to travel with me to help support me up and down steps. I am dependent on others help as I am not able to independently interact with my community. I frequently get laughed at in the market due to my amputation. I have endured a lot of physical and emotional pain from this injury, but I refuse to give up and I try to maintain a great deal of hope, and look forward to all the things I will be able to do again with my new limb.”

“I have two primary goals that I look forward to doing. First I would like to get my dignity and self-respect back by retaking my role as the primary caregiver of my household. Secondly, I would like to increase my independence – I would like to return to working in the silver mines and earning money to support my family and all this will help me to put an end to the discrimination I feel every day as a helpless amputee”

(Note, as always, this story was translated into English and the name was changed to protect her privacy).

Every month your ongoing donations will give ever more amputees like Juanita a new lease on life and an opportunity to regain their livelihood and happiness.

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Ricard showing his residual limb
Ricard showing his residual limb

This patient story regards Ricard, a young man who lost his leg to a severe infection:

Ricard was 15 when he had a wound on his ankle that wouldn’t heal. Eventually, his father took him to the hospital where they opened up the wound and found that he had a cancerous tumor in his leg. The doctors were too nervous about operating on it so they left the wound open and Ricard was left with no other option but to go home. To make matters worse, Ricard’s family was too poor to take him to another doctor so he couldn't do anything but wait. Three weeks went by during which the open wound became so severely infected, that when he finally saw a doctor, they had to amputate Ricard’s leg above the knee.

Ricard’s family was very poor, only having enough land to grow food to feed their immediate family. With his new disability, Ricard was unable to attend school or work to help his family. This made Ricard feel like a horrible and useless burden on his family.

However, his father heard about our prosthetic clinic in La Paz Bolivia, and he was able to save enough money to bring his son for help.

Once Ricard reached our clinic, he met 3 other young patients who also had above-knee amputations, and we watched Ricard change completely. He had not socialized with anyone outside his family for 7 years so he was shy, timid, and unsure of how to behave. However, after spending 5 days with 2 beautiful vibrant girls from Tarija and an ex-boxer/model from Cochabamba, he was a completely different young man. He got a haircut, and some new clothes went out for lunch, smiled, joked, and laughed like he was getting his teen years back.

As part of their physical and emotional therapy, we played volleyball, did obstacle courses, walked around the block, and even stopped for ice cream, and sat in the sun so Ricard could get used to his new prosthetic and gain confidence being out and about under his new conditions. In fact, at the end of his time at our clinic, he had so much fun he didn’t want to leave!

Now he is excited and motivated about his potential future.  He wants to study and get a job to help his family. He has many dreams but the most important dream, we helped him to achieve. He will be able to achieve the rest of those dreams on his on.

walking down stairs using his new prosthesis
walking down stairs using his new prosthesis
Ricard standing with new limb
Ricard standing with new limb
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Mariana accepted to share the story of her childhood. She grew up in a small town in Bolivia and studied up until the fourth grade. She had many friends with whom she played with balls and dolls. As a child, she wanted to become a music teacher and a journalist and she really enjoyed dancing and singing.

Unfortunately, she had a horrible accident only days after she started working at her new job. She worked in a sawmill and due to the lack of safety equipment she cut off her own hand.

After the accident, her father, who now has to support Mariana, accompanied her to the prosthetic office of our Bolivian partner. He explained that after finishing school, she decided to work to save for college and be able to help her family financially. But the horrible accident destroyed her dreams and plans.

Mariana both expected everything and nothing from life, as she was only a student when the accident happened. It was tough for her loving father to see his young daughter at the hospital without a hand, while she still had her entire life to live.

After the accident, Mariana did not want to live anymore. She felt depressed and sad. Worst of all, she was not able to support her parents because of her missing hand. But as time went by, she realized that “life is full of adversities”. Because of the accident, Mariana saw how difficult it is to have to depend on a person to do simple activities. Sometimes, Mariana’s sister has to help her brush her hair because she cannot manage it on her own.

Mariana now dreams of studying petrochemistry and finding a job to help her parents. She imagines that a prosthesis would boost her confidence because, without a hand, she often feels discouraged. She describes how sometimes, people stare at her which discourages her from going out on the street. With a prosthesis, Mariana will be more independent and she will be able to lift objects and go to university.

“A prosthesis will open doors for her”– Mariana’s Father

She sees herself as a punctual and responsible person as well as a dreamer. We at Bolivians Without Disabilities were moved by her story and donated a functional forearm to Mariana on April 27, 2021. She then told us that one of the first things she would do with her new arm would be to write again!

Mariana said:

“I can’t wait to practice with my prosthesis, I can’t wait to show it to my family. I will be able to lift some things, carry some objects in my hand like my keys, grab a glass and drink water. I am very excited to start using it.”– Mariana

Indeed, Mariana sent us a very touching picture of her sharing a meal with her family and lifting a piece of bread soon after. This may seem like something incredibly simple, but she did it with the brightest smile you could imagine.

Mariana and her mother are very grateful for BWD:

“Thank you very much! May god bless you very much. The prosthesis will help me a lot, the most important thing is that I will be able to look for a job with more confidence and security above all. And I repeat, thank you for supporting me with this prosthesis.”
– Mariana (May 13th, 2021)
After. Lifting a bottle with her prosthetic hand.
After. Lifting a bottle with her prosthetic hand.
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Juan, an active 41-year-old Bolivian man, worked very hard for 15 years and enjoyed his job as an electrician.  However, one day, while on the job, he got caught up in some live wires which sent huge voltage levels through his body. This tragic accident caused massive burjuan-in-wheelchairns the full length of Juan’s right arm, up his right foot, up his left leg and blinded him in his right eye. Juan was rushed to the emergency department of the local hospital, but the tissue was so badly burned the doctors were unable to save any of the burned extremities; the physicians had no choice but to remove the limbs.

Juan was left with no right arm, only half of his right foot and a below- knee amputation of his left leg, leaving him unable to even stand without assistance. Juan had to move home as he was confined to a wheelchair and unable to do anything for himself, wash himself or do any daily actijuan-ppam-aidvities independently.  Juan was completely unable to work, and he felt like a child again. Juan was forced to rely on his mother for all of his daily needs.  Although he was grateful to be alive, Juan felt extremely depressed and wondered about the point of living. As with many of these amputees, Juan contemplated suicide many times.

Years later, Juan discovered our partner, FUNPROBO, and he went for a first consultation in his wheelchair, accompanied by his parents.  Juan was full of expectations and also very anxious as he felt this was his only chance to get his life back. On the first day in the clinic, Juan was able to get up and walk using an innovative physical therapy aid which is an air-filled temporary prosthesis.  It was the first time he had walked in almost three years. Juan’s face lit up and suddenly you could see his self-esteem and optimism grow as he started to believe he could live again.

In less than a week he was fitted with his final below-knee prosthesis, and an orthosis for the other foot to allow him a stable base to be able to walk again. With this support, he was able to walk short distances assisted only by a cane. He left the clinic vowing to practice and to get back to his previous life.  This past November we contacted Juan again for a follow-up.  He is walking well—no pain, no problems, and his score on our quality-of-life index had vastly improved.

Juan is just one of the 50 amputees helped each year


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Freddy standing on his new prosthetic leg
Freddy standing on his new prosthetic leg

With the funds we have raised so far we were able to pay for some of the materials to make a prosthetic limb for one of our patients named Freddy.

When Freddy was 10 years old he was very mischievous. One day he was with his friends and two of them climbed up a lamppost because they saw a cable there and they wanted to remove it. However, when they touched the cable it was still live. The friend was killed by being thrown by the force of the voltage and Freddy was electrocuted, but he lived.

At that time his father was working in the mines and his mother lived in the city. Since the accident took place, Fredy had to go to school without a leg because they couldn’t afford a prosthetic. His four sisters moved in with his mother and he stayed with his father. At aged 15 he came to la Paz. He met a priest who took him to a disability charity who taught him how to make his own his own prosthetic but it didn't last very long. He didn’t enjoy making prosthetics so the priests took him to Sucre to learn to sew. He was in Sucre until a group of strikers in the Disability Movement strike marched to La Paz in 2015 and asked him to come to. This was how he found out about the centre. However, during the strike his crutches were stolen and he could not return to the centre for a few weeks.  He finally came back and is now able to walk again and return to a job.


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Bolivians Without Disabilities

Location: melbourne, FL - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Bolivians_Disab
Project Leader:
matthew pepe
Indn Hbr Bch, FL United States
$320 raised of $32,000 goal
6 donations
$31,680 to go
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