Azerbaijan International

Winter 1995 (3.4)
Page 33

New Orthopedic Center

On September 18th, 1995, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) opened a much-needed Orthopedic Center in Baku. Its task-to make prostheses (artificial limbs) for soldiers who have lost a leg or foot from accidentally stepping on land mines in and around Karabakh. Mines are the "Number One Enemy".

The ICRC Team is made up of three dedicated orthopedic technicians from Portugal. Miguel Fernandez, the Director, is assisted by Pedro Marques and Alexander Fernandez. Their new Center was originally a very old hospital which took six months to remodel and refurbish. Today, it creates a bright, clean and hopeful atmosphere.

In the first month, ICRC had already fitted about 80 young men plus two children, also victims of mines. "The service is absolutely free. People can't believe they pay nothing here-from start to finish, from when we first take measurements, to the manufacture of the leg, the fitting, and the therapy to learn how to walk," said Pedro, 59, who has been in this profession for more than 30 years and who used to serve as the Vice President of the International Association of Orthopedic Technicians.

Twenty Azeris are employed in the process of making all the components and melting the plastic to fit the molded model of the stump left from the amputation. "We see many people cry here, overwhelmed with emotion when they or some family member gets fitted with a new leg," says Pedro. "When they cry, we cry with them. It's a joyous occasion. That's just part of this profession. In our job, you have to have good hands, a good head, but most of all, you need to have a good heart-the 3 H's!" ICRCs orthopedic effort receives support from the European Common Market, USAID, and other donors.

Sahan Assadov, Black Belt Karate sportsman with his friend, Fikret Mehtiyev. Both lost their legs to mines in Karabakh. Even the doctors didn't believe Sahan would live since he had lost 2.5 liters of blood when the mine exploded. Doctors believe he's alive today only because he was a strong sportsman and his organs were able to handle the shock. Sahan was among the first to be fitted with a prosthesis by the ICRC. Today, he walks very normally. You'd never guess his story by watching him walk down the street.

From Azerbaijan International (3.4) Winter 1995.
© Azerbaijan International 1995. All rights reserved.

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