There was a young guy completely funded by the non-profit who got a below knee prosthesis. He was the most adorable 18 year old guy, and absolutely dominated his first day of walking. He had the biggest smile on his face while he practiced his gait with his dad cheering him on. It was awesome to think that this prosthesis cost him nothing and could totally change his life. I only say could because a lot of the effectiveness is up to the patient - whether they are actually using the prosthesis and practicing with it. But on our side of things, the process is completely sustainable. What's great about David's non-profit is that he has hired local Ecuadorians to work for him and he himself lives in Quito. Many other prosthetics non-profits aren't long-term because they provide an expensive prosthesis but don't stick around to make adjustments when the fit is off or when the patient's limb shrinks over time. With ROMP, the patient simply has to come back to the permanent clinic to get tuned up.
Another guy we had was nicknamed Nacho, and he allowed me my first in-person look at cheetah blades (curved prostheses used by runners in the olympics, etc).
So, Nacho had an awesome cheetah blade on his left side -- it was a great opportunity to see the difference in gait that occurs with the blades. He was really comfortable with his, so the difference was almost imperceptible. The biggest deviance was that he didn't bend his knee on the left side nearly as much as the right, and that's simply because without calf/lower-leg muscle on that side there is no process by which to push off the ground. The real benefit of the blade is that it is much lighter than a day-to-day prosthesis and the carbon fiber material is springy and allows a higher energy return as well.
As the days go by I get more and more into the swing of things here in Quito. What I like most is being surrounded by Spanish, new foods, good people, and my work of course. I'm not so keen on the smoggy-ness/car infestation that there is here. Sometimes when I'm walking to work it is almost hard to breath because of the exhaust fumes from cars and busses. I think it would be tough to live with that for a long time. Quito is a great location, however, to have weekend excursions to places with tons of fresh air and nature.
This past weekend I went to an adventure sports town in the direction of the jungle (the Amazon that is) called Banos. I went with a couple of friends - an American and a British guy - who I know through my roommate. We headed out on Saturday and had a 4 hour haul to get there... we got a bit of a late start and arrived around 1 pm. But we wasted no time in going to a spa - Banos is known for waterfalls, chocolate, and spas - called el Refugio. There, we all got something called "Banos de Cajon" which were wooden boxes that you sit in (your head sticks out) that fill with eucalyptus infused steam. You get all toasty in the steam and then they pour cold water over you... it felt great! In addition they give you some awesome tea-juice stuff to rehydrate with and the boxes are located in front of a huge glass window overlooking the mountains and river.
After getting loosened up in the BdC we all got massages... it was the first time I've had a massage with hot rocks. At one point the masseuse left the rocks resting on my back and in my hands = immediate sleep.
Needless to say, that was awesome. However, it was totally topped by the whitewater rafting we did the next day. We went to sign up for the rafting and the dude asked us if we'd ever done rafting before. Worried that we wouldn't be allowed to go we said yes of course. I think the last time I rafted I was 8 and mostly just sat there. Lucky for us, everyone going on the trip was a newbie and there wasn't really any prior experience necessary. They took us in a fun wagon-car thing, blasting music, as we drove to the river entrance. There they split us up and instructed us about how to paddle together and what to do if someone were to fall out. Everyone in my boat was from the US, Canada, or Britain so our team name was the Allied Powers - woohoo! The rafting was a level 3+, meaning mostly 3 with some 4 sections (the scale goes 1 to 5). It was a rollicking good time with just the right balance of excitement - ahh, almost fell out! - and relaxation. The leader we had on our raft was a definite pro and seemed to be the alpha male of the raft leaders because he was always yelling at them to do things. He had a very urgent way of yelling "Forward! Paddle! Faster!" that made the whole thing more life-or-death seeming (in the best of ways). At one point we got a bit turned around and he yelled at us to row backward very fast... we didn't quite catch on fast enough and went directly into a huge rapid while facing backwards. It was awesome.
The Allied Powers. Spoiler alert: We Win WWII.
If I happen to have the time, I'd definitely go back to Banos because there's so much to do there and everything is so cheap compared to the states... rafting for a half day plus lunch was only $30.