15 FEB 2008 Wheelchairs for Iraqi Children
Today M. and I read a wonderful story about Brad Blauser, a American contractor who has organized to donate wheelchairs to disabled Iraqi children. As I watched the report, so many aspects resonated with things I had seen in Iraq. There are such poor services for handicapped children in Iraq. A disabled child is likely to live their life, tucked away from the world in a bed or on a couch. There is great value to the Iraqi culture's focus on the private life of the extended family. In some ways this precious oasis protected by the strong bonds of family is something that we experience far less in the US. However, families often reported to me that their disabled family members were essentially at a dead end with no expected future of interacting with the world outside of the family home or any chance starting a family of their own. For children in particular, this is tragic because they long to follow siblings and friends into the larger community.
Providing wheelchairs to these needy families makes a huge difference in these children's lives. I aggree with Mr. Blauser's observations that these children unable to walk went nowhere unless they were carried by a family member. On the day of our Iraqi clinic, there would always be one or two disabled children bundled in the arms of a parent, patiently waiting in our office. Our ambulance driver J. and Iraqi doctor A. would go out to the fortified gate of our base and pick up the children who were coming for visits each clinic day. Once a father came to us with a child whose legs had been shattered in an explosion, and had healed into bent, twisted limbs. He also had lost the nerve function to his legs and couldn't move them. Over time the unused muscles had contracted and given the legs their useless alignment. Nothing we could do could restore the nerve function to his legs. We did teach his father exercises to stretch his legs and try to regain some flexibility. The only thing we did that was of any use was to give the family one of the hospital's older unused wheel chairs. His father told us that without the wheelchair, he was sure that his son would have spent the rest of his life inside the home where he would die of sadness. We felt so helpless since we couldn't fix the damage to the boy's legs, but it was a measure of relief to know that a simple wheelchair that we took for granted could have a positive impact.
If you want to learn more about Mr. Blauser's program, his website is here:
and here are stories from ROCwheels, a partner that helps produce the wheelchairs donated to Iraq, and other sites in need around the world: