One Step Beyond – Afghanistan – Prosthesis Rehabilitation
Just meters away from the Bicycle Rehabilitation buildings, the International Red Cross runs an orthopedic workshop. There, the organisation distributes prostheses to anyone in need. A plastic prosthesis is produced directly from a plaster mould made of the person's stump and is carefully fitted to both the patient's posture, and to his or her gait.
The amputees stand in front of a mirror while a physiotherapist teaches them how to walk with a prosthesis. The training includes simulations of some of the difficult situations they may encounter, such as crossing a river that has a bed of stones, or ascending a flight of stairs. Before the prosthesis is actually fitted, the amputees are given lessons in physiotherapy and massage techniques, and are shown physical exercises – all of which help keep the stump soft, malleable, and maintain a good blood-flow. Many people arrive at the International Red Cross workshop with improvised, home-made prostheses. Some have simply fitted their stumps into straight plastic tubes or shell-casings.
Prostheses have a life-span: children require a new prosthesis every two years; adults – depending on their weight and the mechanical strain – every two to seven years. 32 people work at the ICRC: doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, technicians, administrators, warehouse clerks, cleaning staff. All of them are themselves amputees.