By Katie Leatherwood
RIGA, Latvia – I had the privilege to help at the Wings for Wheels camp for people with physical disabilities, Challenge 9. It is a camp that brings people with disabilities together to be challenged, have fun, meet new friends and learn about God’s love for them.
Last year I was a personal assistant but this year I would do something different. The idea was to have an Orthodics and Prothestics (O&P) clinic for the participants. Evaluate at the beginning of the week and deliver a completed brace at the end of the week. I knew it would be an intense time, but with God’s help I prayed it would be possible. I asked Dina to be my assistant, as she is an O&P student and knows the basics of evaluations and fabrications, plus can speak Latvian.
The first day of the clinic, we evaluated and casted those that were interested in orthotic intervention and would benefit. A pre-screen was done to determine if the participant was a candidate to receive service from local O&P practices and if denied previously, why? Out of 7 people, 3 had previously received orthotic care. Minor repairs were made to these items to ensure safety and a longer use of the device.
Once we had casts for the custom braces, we spent the next day modifying the molds. All of this was done from the back end of my car using the workstation. 5 molds were modified and ready for final fabrication.
The following day, Dina and I made a trip to the O&P lab in Sloka with all the molds, about 3 hours from the camp. There we used the big oven and pulled plastic over all the molds.
The first mold was for a complicated case that needed the stiffness of a thicker plastic with reinforcements at the ankle. I had just enough thicker plastic for this brace (AFO). During the process I got distracted and burned the plastic which made it unusable. Plan B using thinner plastic would have to work, hoping it would be rigid enough to handle the patient. I went to cut a new sheet of plastic and to my surprise there was another piece of thick plastic, the exact size I needed!! So either we were very tired and overlooked it previously, or God provided that extra piece of plastic….I think it was God’s gift to us.
After a long day of pulling plastic and cutting out molds, we headed back to the camp. We stayed up late smoothing up and adding finishing touches. The next day we continued to make the final touches right up until delivery time. An added praise was the donation of a professional sewing machine from a Latvian friend. He even helped sew up several straps for us! Throughout the day the participants came to receive their new braces, custom made or modified for them.
It was such a blessing to be able to help these people in this practical way. Their gratefulness and appreciation were so encouraging. Throughout the week, Dina and I were constantly encouraged by the other campers and assistants as we worked hard to complete the tasks. I thank God for orchestrating the entire process, as it went surprisingly smooth! We had all the necessary supplies and tools to complete all the tasks and all braces fit well and functioned as anticipated.
With each delivery, I prayed a blessing over the participant and asked God to use the brace as a tool to make His name known. I give all glory and credit of the success of this O&P clinic to God! He provided all that was necessary before and during the camp. Also, thanks to my support team who provided the necessary equipment and funds to purchase the tools and materials to make the braces.
The final night of camp was a celebration of all things that had happened during the week. 2 participants that I had the privilege to work with accepted Christ into their lives that night!!
The simple braces that I provided will help to improve mobility but I pray that those that received them will also be impacted spiritually and know God’s love for them. He blessed this O&P clinic immensely and I am humbled I got to be used by God as a tool to share His love!