Feature Stories

Walking—and Dreaming—Again in Haiti

MDA therapist helps Oscar gain balance and mobility with his new prothesis
Port Au Prince, Haiti, MDA therapist helps Oscar gain balance and mobility with his new prosthesis. photo: Lee Celano / Getty Images

Ever since Oscar was old enough to kick a ball across a dusty sports field in Port-au-Prince, his dream has been to play professional soccer—and also follow in the technological and philanthropic footsteps of his idol, Bill Gates. Those aspirations were very much alive for Oscar, now 23, in the moments just before the January 2010 earthquake tore through the walls of his three-story high school, killing all but two of his classmates. Oscar escaped with his life, but he lost 250,000 of his Haitian brothers and sisters—and his right leg—to one of this century’s worst natural disasters.

Oscar was sitting in economics class the morning of January 12 when the building started shaking violently, echoing sounds of falling debris and squeaking rebar.  He saw the staircase and center of the floor collapse, swallowing dozens of his friends fleeing toward the exit door. Clinging desperately to the building’s external wall—the only one still standing—Oscar made his decision: he jumped out of the building to safety on the rumbling ground.

Oscar did not have time to react to the massive pillar that came crashing down on his leg.  He spent the night pinned to the ground; 54 of his dear friends lay dead just a few feet from him.  By the time his father reached and pulled him out of the rubble the next morning, Oscar was one of three survivors from his 12th grade class. His right leg was amputated two days later.

The first thing that went through Oscar’s mind when he saw his severed limb was that he would never play soccer again; he would never play on a team that made it to the national soccer championships like he did last year.

“I saw so many amputees after the earthquake that I was sure I would never walk again,” Oscar said with a soft and regal tone that belies his devastation. “I figured, if they don’t have legs, I, too, will never have a leg.”

But then Oscar was referred by a friend to the Haiti University Hospital, where top Israeli medical professionals from JDC field partner Magen David Adom (MDA)/Tel HaShomer Hospital fit him for a state-of-the-art prosthesis. Through intensive physical rehabilitation with Israeli specialists, Oscar stretched, worked on parallel bars, and learned how to take one step at a time—again. With sheer determination and grace that impressed the therapists, Oscar soon graduated from two crutches to one, and then began to walk independently.

“The idea that there were people who were going to take care of me—to get me a prosthetic and help me walk on my own—allowed me to dream again,” he said.

Surveying the destruction and poverty all around him, Oscar says he is “committed now more than ever to be like Bill Gates.” He is studying computer programming with the long-term goal of effecting meaningful change by bringing health and education to Haiti and the developing world at large.

Tags for this story: Disabilities, Health / Medical Issues

Subscribe to our RSS feed: Feature Stories – JDC Around the World
X

An error occurred during your login.

X

JDC, Cookies, and Your Privacy

Cookies are small pieces of information sent by our web server for storage on your computer, to be retrieved when you return to this site. We use cookies to allow you faster, more convenient access, and to prevent you from being required to log in on every page of our sites.

For more information on JDC’s use of cookies, read our Privacy Policy.

X

An Error Occurred

X

Logging In With One of Your Social Web Site Logins

Instead of trying to remember a bunch of special username/password combinations to log in to different web sites that you visit, you can now link your account on this web site to your account on one (or more) of the social media web sites shown and log in with the same username/password combination that you use on that social web site to log in to our site.

To provide this connection in a secure manner, we use Gigya, a social network connection provider that works behind the scenes to make safe, secure connections between user accounts on different systems, such as popular social media web sites like Facebook and web sites like ours where you are actively involved in social issues and causes.

Each time you log in, Gigya uses special application programming interfaces (APIs) to establish the connection between the sites and validate your username and password. Neither our web site or Gigya receive or store your social network passwords.

In addition to reducing the number of logins you have to remember, connecting your accounts can make it quicker and easier to share an activity or cause you feel passionately about from our web site with your friends on your social web sites.

You can break the connection between your accounts at any time.