3D prin­ters get­ting Ugan­dan am­putees back on their feet

The China Post - - LIFE - BY AMY FAL­LON

Doc­tors am­pu­tated Ugan­dan school­boy Jesse Aye­baz­ibwe’s right leg when he was hit by a truck while walk­ing home from school three years ago.

Af­ter­ward he was given crutches, but that was all, and so he hob­bled about. “I liked play­ing like a nor­mal kid be­fore the ac­ci­dent,” the nine-year-old said.

Now an infrared scan­ner, a lap­top and a pair of 3D prin­ters are chang­ing ev­ery­thing for Jesse and oth­ers like him, of­fer­ing him the chance of a near-nor­mal life.

“The process is quite short, that’s the beauty of the 3D prin­ters,” said Moses Kaweesa, an or­thopaedic tech­nol­o­gist at Com­pre­hen­sive Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices (CoRSU) in Uganda which, to­gether with Canada’s Uni­ver­sity of Toronto and the char­ity Chris­tian Blind Mission, is mak­ing the pros­the­ses.

“Jesse was here yes­ter­day, to­day he’s be­ing fit­ted,” said Kaweesa, 34.

In the past, the all-im­por­tant plas­ter cast sock­ets that connect pros­thetic limbs to a per­son’s hip took about a week to make, and were of­ten so un­com­fort­able peo­ple ended up not wear­ing them.

Plas­tic printed ones can be made in a day and are a closer, more com­fort­able fit.

The scan­ner, lap­top and printer cost around US$12,000 (10,600 eu­ros), with the ma­te­ri­als cost­ing just US$3 (2.65 eu­ros).

Aye­baz­ibwe got his first, old­style pros­the­sis last year but is now part of a trial that could lead to the 3D tech­nol­ogy chang­ing lives across the coun­try.

Life-chang­ing Tech­nol­ogy

The tech­nol­ogy is only avail­able to a few, how­ever, and treat­ment for dis­abil­ity in Uganda in gen­eral re­mains woe­ful.

“There’s no sup­port from the gov­ern­ment for dis­abled peo­ple,” said Kaweesa. “We have a dis­abil­ity depart­ment and a min­is­ter for dis­abled peo­ple, but they don’t do any­thing.”

There are just 12 trained pros­thetic tech­ni­cians for over 250,000 chil­dren who have lost limbs, of­ten due to fires or con­gen­i­tal dis­eases.

The 3D tech­nol­ogy is por­ta­ble and al­lows tech­ni­cians to work on mul­ti­ple pa­tients at a time, in­creas­ing the reach of their life- chang­ing in­ter­ven­tion.

“You can travel with your lap­top and scan­ner,” said Kaweesa, adding that the tech­nol­ogy could be of great use in north­ern Uganda, a part of the coun­try where many peo­ple lost limbs dur­ing decades of war be­tween the gov­ern­ment and Lord’s Re­sis­tance Army rebels, who spe­cial­ized in chop­ping off limbs.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing his first 3D socket Aye­baz­ibwe was over­joyed. “I felt good, like my nor­mal leg,” he said. “I can do any­thing now — run and play foot­ball.”

The boy’s 53-year old grand­mother, Florence Akoth, looks af­ter him, even car­ry­ing him the two kilo­me­ters (miles) to school af­ter his leg was crushed and his life shat­tered. She too is thrilled.

“Now he’s liked at school, plays, does work, col­lects fire­wood and wa­ter,” said Akoth, who strug­gles to make ends meet as a poorly paid do­mes­tic worker car­ing for five chil­dren.

AP

Ugan­dan school­boy Jesse Aye­baz­ibwe, 9, sits next to his 3D-printed ar­ti­fi­cial limb at the Com­pre­hen­sive Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices Uganda (CORSU) in Wak­iso on April 24.

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