'Beautiful response' to call for crutches for Haiti victims

Hopkins doctor's garage too small to hold them all

  • A line of people relaying crutches from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center to a FedEx truck includes PauleAnne Pruneau, left, pediatrics financial analyst, and Dr. Rachel Thornton, a pediatrician. More than 1,000 pairs of crutches were donated.
A line of people relaying crutches from the Johns Hopkins Children's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim…)
February 03, 2010|By Joe Burris | joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Returning from a medical mission in earthquake-ravaged Haiti two weeks ago, Dr. Rana Hamdy reflected that one item sorely needed there was crutches. The Johns Hopkins Children's Center physician joined the center in making a public plea for the walking devices, and then she volunteered to store them in her garage, anticipating about 100 pairs.

Within days, she ran out of places to put them.

"We got to 1,000 pretty quickly," Hamdy said Tuesday morning as Hopkins employees loaded about 1,000 pairs of crutches, as well as canes and walkers, onto a FedEx truck to be shipped to Miami by today. After that, the equipment would be on its way to Port-au-Prince, where the items are to be delivered to a hospital tent run by Project Medishare, a Florida-based nonprofit group seeking to improve medical conditions in Haiti.

In all, the Children's Center has shipped about 2,500 pairs of crutches. Hamdy is among several Hopkins residents who assisted in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake that has left about 170,000 dead and thousands injured. The residents said they saw virtually no crutches for victims of crush injuries and amputations. Dr. Karen Schneider, a Hopkins Children's Center emergency physician who has led the pediatric residents' efforts in Haiti, said the public response was overwhelming.

"When people started pulling up with 50 pairs of crutches because they collected them at their church," Schneider said, "or 200 pairs of crutches because they collected them at a school, when people come up with van-fuls of crutches, it's an absolutely beautiful response."

For more than 10 years, Schneider has taken groups of pediatric residents to developing countries as part of a tropical medicine elective in the Hopkins School of Medicine's pediatric residency program.

Schneider spoke as she was about to return to Haiti Tuesday evening to continue offering medical assistance there. She said the donations, relief efforts and medical support were making an impact in Haiti, but added, "We're nowhere near out of danger."

She added that the ravaged island nation still has more than one million displaced people who don't have homes (with some living under tarps and sheets), and its health care system is still in shambles. "And the rainy season is coming."

Hopkins officials say they are no longer accepting crutches.


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