Prosthetic rehabilitation in Vanni

[TamilNet, Saturday, 05 October 2002, 00:37 GMT]
Land mines and aerial bombardment have made hundreds of Tamil civilians disabled. But help for the disabled wasn't immediately forthcoming. Fitting artificial limbs was costly and there was severe shortage of hospitals and medical equipment. The organization, Venpura (White Pigeon), was born to address this need. Following the opening of its first site in Kullapiddy Road, Jaffna in 1994, Venpura has been offering free prosthetic services to people in the NorthEast enabling many to become productive members of the society.

Venpura was registered as a social service organization in 1996, and in its early days depended for financial support on proceeds from cultural programs, local donors and collections from Temples. Offices of Venpura are now located in Konavil, Kullapiddy, Karadipokku junction and Puthukkudiyirippu.

Kilinochchi Venpura director, Veeran (left), and a co-worker shaping leg prosthesis from aluminium sheets
Old technology is giving way to new technology at Venpura. In the past, arm and leg prosthetic devices were manufactured using discarded aluminium sheets and leather obtained mainly from abandoned boots and belts used by military. New technology uses plaster-of-paris for building moulds to match the shape of amputees limb and light weight fiber glass for manufacturing the prosthetic part.

Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), Germany with help from TRO (USA) is organizing to modernize the prosthetic technology used in Vanni. Mr. Hoger Thamm, a prosthetic expert from a German company, is on his second visit to Kilinochchi to conduct training classes and to transfer technology to local technicians.

German prosthetic expert, Herr Holger Thamm, conducting practical training
Manufacture and fitting of prosthesis for above-knee and above-elbow amputees is more complex. Expensive mechanical knee joints need to be procured from abroad to carryout such procedures.

A fitted artificial limb needs to be readjusted or repaired once in about six months. Fiber-glass prosthesis can last longer before requiring readjustment. Between 1994 and December 2001, Venpura has fitted arm or leg prosthesis to over 1200 amputees. For about 10,000 cases, the existing prosthesis was repaired or refitted. "For my work I need to ride a motorbike for most of the day. I can even kick start my bike with the prosthetic leg," says Sri, who holds an important administrative position in Kilinochchi.

Fitting prosthesis with complex mechanical, computerized joints is organization's next challenge
Technicians in Kilinochchi are confident that they can handle more complex hand prosthesis fittings with motorized fingers and elbow joints. For Venpura to transition into an organization capable of making the latest technology available to people of NorthEast, the organizers depend on support from donors. "Many expatriate visitors have promised financial help after seeing firsthand the importance of our work to the community," says Veeran, director, Kilinochchi facility.

Venpura has expanded its rehabilitation services to include mine clearing. The organization has been very effective in educating the public and school children on the precautions to be taken to avoid becoming victims to land mines.


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