Helping Children with Limb Disabilities: A child who cannot walk due to a limb disability experiences struggles that many of us never have to face: they cannot walk to school, run, or play with friends. They are often vulnerable to abuse and neglect, or left untreated because their family cannot afford expensive medical care.
Access to orthopedic care can dramatically improve the life of a child with a limb disability. Being fitted with a prosthetic limb, leg brace, or undergoing corrective surgery can be life-changing. Suddenly, a child who was forced to spend their days indoors can walk to school, keep up with their peers on the playground and grow up with greater independence.
2013 Honoree Mead Welles of A Leg To Stand On (ALTSO) has provided orthopedic care for more than 11,000 children with limb disabilities living in 10 developing countries. One of those children is Mujtaba, a young boy from Afghanistan who was born with Genu Valgum, or “knock knee.” Thanks to free orthopedic care from ALTSO, Mujtaba’s legs will grow normally, and he will be able to live an active, healthy life as an adult.
For more than 1 million Afghans living with a disability, life has a tendency to feel like a series of roadblocks. Is your health clinic on the second floor? Don’t be surprised if the facility doesn’t have an elevator or ramp to help you get there. Need to use the toilet while away from your home? Good luck finding a handicapped-accessible bathroom.
Though the Afghan government has recently started making strides to respect the rights of disabled people, this lack of infrastructure could be seen as a reflection of how Afghan society tends to view disability: a punishment and financial burden on the family.
This is the kind of environment that 1-year-old Mujtaba was born into. As he grew, he began to develop Genu Valgum (known as “knock knee”) in his left leg. Genu Valgum forces a child’s knees to grow at an inward angle, making it difficult to walk. If severe conditions of Genu Valgum are left untreated, the child could be prone to injury, knee problems and severe difficulty walking later in life.
But for a child like Mujtaba in Afghanistan, it also means a lifetime of roadblocks, missed opportunities and isolation.
Fortunately, Mujtaba got treated for Genu Valgum at a very young age, increasing the chance of a successful recovery. His family was connected to A Leg To Stand On (ALTSO), a program founded by 2013 Honoree Mead Welles. ALTSO fitted Mujtaba with ankle foot orthotics that will help his legs grow straight and strong. Now, Mujtaba can walk easily and without pain. As he grows, ALTSO will keep a close eye on Mujtaba’s progress, checking in with him and his family to make sure his treatment is effective, and replacing his orthotics as needed.
Thanks to ALTSO, Mujtaba has the chance to grow up as a healthy, active adult who can choose his own path in life…Step by step.