Restoring Guatemala: Mobility Mission
Often an effort that can help dozens of lives in a poverty stricken area thousand of miles from home can start with a simple conversation between friends.
Eddie Fuentes first met P&O Care’s clinical director, Jon Wilson, CPO, while working at Shriners Children’s Hospital in St. Louis as a prosthetist/orthotist. When Eddie retired from Shriners, he returned home to Guatemala to start his own prosthetic and orthotic practice, but remained friends with Jon despite the distance.
After maintaining a friendship for many years, Eddie returned to St. Louis and stopped by the P&O Care office. Jon Wilson distinctly remembers the conversation he had with Eddie in 2001, and later recalls it was the beginning of an international partnership. Jon explained to Eddie he had a growing pile of used prosthetic parts because patients would return their old prostheses to P&O Care after they no longer fit. Legally, medical components cannot be sold or reused in the United States, so he asked Eddie if he would like to take them back with him to Guatemala. Eddie gladly accepted the donated parts and a partnership was born.
Eddie’s brother, Julio, also a certified prosthetist/orthotist, now travels to St. Louis once a year on his own dime to gather the donated prosthetic parts from P&O Care.
The Fuentes own Ortopedia Centrolamericana, a prosthetic and orthotic practice in Colonia San Ignacio, Guatemala. They have both a private practice and charity practice. With the income generated from their private practice and the donated parts from P&O Care, the charity practice is able to provide patients prosthetic and orthotic services at no cost.
There is plenty of need. While Guatemala’s economy has shown some improvement recently, there are still pockets of significant poverty. “Every day, patients needing charity help arrive at my clinic. I also receive many calls, emails and messages from patients who need a prosthesis but cannot pay,” says Julio. “We spend two to three weeks per year to work only with patients who are not charged for their prosthetic care.” Julio says he tries to help as many patients as possible, but there are so many patients needing assistance.
Charity patients are referred to Julio by social workers, doctors, nurses and former patients from all the regions of Guatemala. Some travel many hours seeking prosthetic care. P&O Care’s partnership has spanned nearly 15 years, and dozens of Guatemalans have been helped.
Julio has started bringing his son to the States to gather the parts each year, and P&O Care hopes to continue donating prosthetic parts for those in need for years to come.
Do you have an old prosthesis or orthosis you no longer use? Donate it today! Click here for more information.