Ronnie Dickson, a graduate of SPC’s J.E. Hanger Orthotics and Prosthetics Program, was serving his residency at Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in Orlando when he heard about a mission to Haiti to help victims of the January 2010 earthquake. He and another prosthetist decided to go along.
He ended up spending a week there in January, fitting seven amputees with prosthetic devices under less than ideal conditions. He and his colleague, Michael Littles, worked 12-hour days in a facility about 10 miles outside of Port-Au-Prince.
Dickson, who at 23 is an amputee himself, writes a column for O and P Edge, a trade journal for the orthotics and prosthetics industry. He devoted one of his recent columns to the experience in Haiti.
From his experiences at SPC to his residency work at a modern facility in Orlando, Dickson was used to dealing with state-of-the-art equipment and materials. That was not the case at the Haitian clinic, Prosthetics of Hope.
“As compared to here (in the U.S.), care was much more a matter of simply getting legs on people,” he said. “We were able to provide cost-effective care, typically fitting older components – anything that we had available. It was not very technically advanced, but I guess it was better than nothing.”
All of the seven patients Dickson treated had lost limbs in the earthquake. Six of the seven had previously been fitted with prosthetic devices, but needed new ones.
Conditions were very difficult, from the available equipment to the heat and lack of air conditioning to the constant media attention. Countless other patients at the facility needed help, but seven patients were all they could handle in the limited time they had available.
As difficult as the work was under primitive conditions, Dickson said the training he received at SPC served him very well.
“One of the great things is that Tampa Bay is saturated with tough competition in this field – everyone has to be better than the other guy, and that made it a great learning environment for the students there,” Dickson said. “I learned from a great many people in the community, and then through SPC I was able to get my job here in Orlando.”
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