Set to walk again

It has been eight years since Gibson Mangulenje, previously a farmer from Yepa Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chitukula in Lilongwe woke up with a swollen toe on his right leg which later led to the amputation of both of his legs.

After a visit to the hospital when he could not bear the pain of the swollen toe, he was given some medication, and the toe was well again.

However, two years later the swelling was back on the same toe, and it was on and off for six years until he was diagnosed with cancer at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).

Experts preparing prosthetics to be fitted on people with disabilities

“I lost that toe, and later all my toes were gone,” said Mangulenje.

Nevertheless, his ordeal did not end at losing all his toes. The cancer had already spread, and in 2016 both of his legs were amputated at KCH.

He was meant to get prosthetics or a wheel chair after the amputation and physiotherapy but two years on, the 58-year-old who can no longer do anything to generate income, is still waiting.

“After physiotherapy, they told me I would get a wheelchair when discharged. That time came, and the hospital only had wheelchairs for children and none for adults. They told me to go home, promising that they would give me a call when they had them in stock. It was the same for artificial limbs, and I am still waiting,” said the father of six.

Life has not been the same since he lost his lower limbs. His once thriving farming venture died a natural death after selling his field to fund medical services. Now he relies on his wife, Esther, to go out and find some piece works and earn income to support the family.

“She sometimes helps in preparing people’s fields for cultivation, planting the fields, applying fertilizer and other things. The money she gets is what we use to buy food. And when my clothes are worn out, it is also her earnings that help us to buy new clothes,” he said.

As if that is not enough, the former farmer is at risk of losing the house his family lives in. With the illness, his family moved him back to his village so that they could easily assist his wife and children whenever they needed help.

“The house is my sister’s. Now, she and her husband want to renovate it and put it up for rent. I told them to wait a little longer so that we can look for some money and find another house to rent. I do not have any idea how we are going to pay for the rented house,” he added.

However, he is sure that a wheelchair or the prosthetics would help him to be able to work again and help his wife in generating income and transform their household.

“That would help my wife to have some time to rest,” said Mangulenje, who apart from cultivating maize, ground nuts and paprika, used to operate a vegetables dimba before the amputation.

Esther, his wife, indicated that without her finding piece work they can go without food.

However, KCH distanced itself from Mangulenje’s claims about prosthetics shortage at the referral hospital.

KCH director, Jonathan Ngoma argued that with the help of 500 Miles, a Scottish non-governmental organisation which is operating from the hospital premises, prosthetics are provided to anyone who needs them.

“500 Miles produces over 150 devices per month, so artificial limbs are not a problem at KCH. We subsidise the service and patients can contribute whatever they can for the prosthetics,” Ngoma said.

Apart from that, the Indian Government recently launched a 30-day camp at the hospital, offering artificial limb fitments to people with disabilities.

Indian High Commissioner Suresh Kumar Menon said the camp, which was launched under the India for Humanity Programme, targets to offer 500 artificial limbs to Malawians during the 30 days.

“This programme offers 500 artificial limbs to Malawi called Jaipur Foot. Jaipur Foot is an indigenously developed technology to provide low cost but highly efficient and technologically proficient artificial limbs. The programme is ideal for Malawi considering that the hospitals have low capacity for the provision of prosthetics.

“Initially, we thought we would only get people from around Lilongwe, but we are getting people from as far as Nsanje, Karonga and Chiradzulu among others. That, I think is very encouraging to the technicians that have come, and we are happy,” Menon said.

Getrude Manda, 43, from Area 23 in Lilongwe who was among the first group of people to get their turn, was very happy with her newly fitted artificial limb and said she now finds it easier to walk long distances.

Very soon, Mangulenje, just as Manda, will also get artificial limbs next week and hopefully, he will ably fend for his family after that. When The Nation told him about the Indian Government initiative, he went to see for himself at KCH and was advised to go again next week.

Incidences of lower limb amputation are high across the globe and it continues to be a major threat to morbidity. As a result, the provision of high quality and effective prosthetics services has been known as an essential component for a successful rehabilitation outcome.

International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) describes lower limb amputation as a form of physical disability which impairs body structures and results in activity limitation and restricted participation.

Lower limb amputations account for 84 percent of total amputations, while upper limb amputation account for 16 percent. n

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