Program finds jobs for those with mental challenges

October 22, 2010 10:37:58 AM PDT
Five years ago, a group of prosthetic experts from the Chicago area started providing artificial limbs to developing countries.

It has changed the lives of many individuals who received these devices.

ROMP -- Range of Motion Project -- is a not-for-profit organization that started at Scheck and Siress, a Chicago-area prosthesis company.

Prosthetist Eric Neufeld is the director of the project.

"We collaborated with another group, Hearts in Motion, they're out of Indiana, who already existed, and provided different medical services to the community," said Neufeld. "They established a need here in Guatemala for prosthetics...Scheck and Siress was able to donate the equipment, and most of the components, and the staff to start it up in 2005."

"We have a building and a facility that exists in Zacapa, Guatemala ,where there's full-time staff," said Neufeld. "A network of people know that we exits the government is aware, there are doctors in the area that are aware, and they send patients to see us at our facility."

Prosthetics are expensive.

"If you were to get an average prosthesis, here in the States, it would be about $10,000 for a below-knee prosthesis, maybe $25,000 for an above-knee prosthesis. In Guatemala, we're able to do it on a cost of about $200," said Neufeld.

Amputations in Guatemala are on the rise.

"A big one is trauma, car accidents," said Neufeld. "The infrastructure in the system of roads is extremely treacherous, there's no real regulations and things like that, you hardly see a traffic light in most areas. So car accidents are the big ones, motorcycle accidents, machinery equipment, farming accidents.

"So you see a lot of young men. It's the exact opposite of what we see here in the States, which is mostly elderly, diabetic patients."

John Angelico, Eric's business partner, is a ROMP volunteer.

"I think it's a little bit different with the ROMP organization in that these people are having the opportunity to get a prosthesis they wouldn't ordinarily have because of funding," said Angelico. "And ROMP is there no matter what the person's funding is -- you're going to get a prosthesis."

Even future prosthetists are moved by this project.

Jonathan Naber is a University of Illinois engineering student who went to Guatemala.

"We finally got an opportunity to field test the three concept arms that we have been developing," said Naber. "We saw people write their names and tie their shoe laces with the arms that we developed."

"It's incredibly rewarding how people are so gracious and thankful, and just every day was a large reward," said Neufeld.

They also have programs in Ecuador and Haiti.

If you are interested in getting involved with ROMP, go to www.rompglobal.org.


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