Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

May 4, 2013

Volunteers bring mobility to amputees

TRAVERSE CITY — Todd Stone and Ryan Fettig expected to have the weekend off when they arrived in the Dominican Republican several weeks ago with 27 prosthetic arms, hands, legs and feet weighing a total of 300 pounds.

Instead, the Teter Orthotics and Prosthetics team found 24 amputees waiting for them early Saturday morning when they arrived at the Samana Hospital. They worked from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., fitting and adjusting the new artificial limbs for 16 amputees who traveled the longest distances.

“I can’t tell you how happy these people were,” said Stone, Teter’s new owner and CEO since May 2012. “It was unbelievable. Most were crying. Some forgot to take their crutches and had to come back. And food just kept showing up every day.”

The parking lot was full and waiting room packed, he said. Many families had traveled long distances and camped on hospital property. By week’s end, the team had fitted 26 amputees with free prostheses especially made for them in Traverse City. They also measured 16 amputees who unexpectedly showed up at the hospital in the hope of getting an artificial limb, too.

Stone and Fettig worked on three patients at a time in the hospital’s delivery room. Anytime a mother-to-be was ready to give birth, the room had to be cleared of people and work materials.

“Fortunately, there weren’t many births that week,” Stone said.

The trip was a follow-up to a previous journey Stone made to Samana in October with a Midwest Medical Mission group composed of Traverse City, Cadillac and other mostly northern Michigan doctors and nurses.

Samana is a city of 90,000 located along the eastern shore of the small Caribbean nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Many people cannot afford medical care. Most of the amputations resulted from machete fights, moped/motorcycle-pedestrian accidents and birth defects. Dominion doctors often amputate injured limbs because poor people there don’t have access to complicated orthopedic surgeries that can save arms, legs, hands and feet.

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