Learning to Live Without a Limb: Pilot Uses Her Tragedy to Inspire Amputee Children in Haiti

10/13/16

Welcome to a special Beyond the Village themed post! Christy’s story was featured in our recent edition of the Beyond the Village publication. You can also listen to Christy’s story on Children of the Nations’ Beyond the Village podcast.
 

For Air Force pilot Christy Wise, the unimaginable happened one year ago—she lost her leg in a paddle boarding accident. That night changed her life, and now it’s changing the lives of children in Haiti.

“We always joke that the miracles started that night in the water,” says Christy, “and they just haven’t stopped.”



In April 2015, Christy (left) lost her leg. She never dreamed this experience would lead her to help amputee children in Haiti.


The night of the accident, every second was critical. Miraculously, Christy was pulled from the water just minutes before she would have bled out.

In the months that followed, Christy was overwhelmed by the amount of love and support she received from family, friends, and military colleagues. But even with their support and the best medical care available, Christy found the experience incredibly humbling and difficult. “Losing my leg was stripping me to the very core of who I am, while everyone watches,” she says.

In less than a year, Christy was back to living life—competing in Paralympic events, skydiving, resuming her military flight career, and starting a nonprofit, One Leg Up On Life (OLUOL).

Christy knows she’s one of the “lucky” ones, and through her nonprofit, she wants to give this same support to amputees in developing countries. Her sister, Jessica Wise, is COTN's International Clinic Coordinator for the Dominican Republic and Haiti and had been a medical consultant during the 2010 earthquake. Haiti has a large amputee population, due in part to that earthquake, but only a handful of prosthetic clinics. Christy decided to serve the children Jessica had worked with.



Because there are only a handful of clinics in Port-au-Prince, many amputee patients are unable to get much needed appointments and are often unable to afford the care they need.



 

 


Planning their first One Leg Up on Life trip was complicated. Their team had to include a prosthetist to build the prosthetic limbs and a rehab specialist. A hospital in Port-au-Prince offered the use of their prosthetics lab, but Christy and Jessica didn’t know what kind of shape it would be in. They had to find and pack special prosthetic supplies because there was no way to predict what the children would need.



Prosthetic limbs require regular care. Adults will need repairs or part replacements throughout the year. And as children grow, they need to be fitted with re-sized prosthetic limbs.


Their careful preparation paid off. As soon as they arrived in Haiti, the team got to work and Christy discovered she had a unique job—mentor. The amputee children surrounded her, asking all kinds of questions, comparing scars.

“I feel like maybe there’s just an amputee language,” says Christy. “It was so amazing to show them we’re all in this together.”

For Kervens, an above-the-knee amputee like Christy, this trip was especially meaningful. Before the earthquake Kervens had loved to play soccer. After losing his leg in the earthquake, he received a prosthetic leg but struggled to walk. Running was impossible. When the team surprised Kervens with a running leg, just like the one Christy uses, he couldn’t stop smiling. Now he has joined a Haitian amputee soccer league.



                                          Christy did strength-training workouts and rehab with the children.



          The children learn how to strengthen their muscles to best support and use their prosthetic limbs.  


Christy wants to show children that their disability doesn’t have to hold them back from a full and successful life. She and Jessica introduced the children to a thriving Haitian amputee community, from medical professionals to a nonprofit that provides jobs and training to Haitian amputees.



                                   One Leg Up on Life is able to fix and repair many prosthetic parts on-site.


 



Recently, Christy and Jessica returned for a second trip with a One Leg Up on Life team. They were able to finish fixing or replacing prosthetic limbs for all the COTN children and to help local amputee patients. Amputees need specialized care, at minimum, twice a year. Christy and Jessica are already planning their next trip and are working to find a way to provide consistent care.

“It’s really been a crazy journey that we’ve been on the last year, Jess and I and everyone involved, but it's crazy just how you see God’s hand in everything,” says Christy.



                                                              The One Leg Up On Life group.
 

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