Su (11) is a grade five student. She lives with her mother, two sisters and a brother in a village in Ayeyarwady Division, Burma. Su and her younger siblings go to school. Her mother and her oldest sister weave mats at home out of bamboo for a living. Together they earn 200,000 kyat (approx. 200 USD) a month but this is not enough to cover all their expenses – it is just enough to pay for basic health care at the local clinic.
Su was born at home with the help of a traditional birth attendant. She was born with a malformed right foot and ankle. As a result of this, her right leg was shorter than her left. Her mother could not afford to seek treatment for her leg but despite the difference in leg length, Su learned to walk. She was only able to walk short distances though, because if she walked for a longer period, she developed pain in her right leg.
In September 2019, Su developed a fever, and her mother took her to a village clinic. Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF) was running a wheelchair fitting and training at the clinic when they arrived. When BCMF’s director saw Su, she asked Su and her mother if she would like to receive a prosthetic leg to help her walk more comfortably. However, she would have to amputate her lower right leg for the prosthesis. Su and her mother agreed to this procedure and BCMF staff referred her to Mawlamyine Christian Leprosy Hospital (MCLH) for the surgery and the prosthetic fitting.
When Su arrived at MCLH, she received a blood test and an x-ray of her right foot. Her right lower leg was amputated on 24 October 2019. Before surgery, the doctor explained Su’s treatment plan. Su found it reassuring to be with other children undergoing similar procedures at the hospital. “I saw other children like me [at the hospital] so I was not scared,” she said.
A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Since her surgery Su has a lot to look forward to. “I am so happy that I will be able to wear beautiful shoes once I receive a prosthetic foot,” she said. “Before [surgery] I felt sad because I could not play like other children. Once I receive my prosthesis, I will be able to do things I could not in the past.”
Once Su was discharged from the hospital, they went back home. The doctor at MCLH had told them to go to Yangon for a prosthetic leg but only three months after her surgery. However, three months had come and gone but Su’s parents could not take her to Yangon; they did not have enough money to pay for a prosthetic leg let alone food and transportation. Around March 2020, a retired prosthetic technician called U Saw Moses came to a charity clinic in Hinthada. Since he quit his job at a hospital in Yangon 13 years ago, U Saw Moses has been making custom fitted prosthetic legs in his home for recipients. After a friend of Su’s family, who helps at the charity clinic, called to tell Su’s parents about U Saw Moses, they took Su to the clinic. Four days after she was measured for the prosthetic leg, and after her parents paid 130,000 kyat (approx. 130 USD), Su went home with her new prosthetic leg.
Su was very happy to finally receive her prosthetic leg. She is exceedingly happy to be able to ride around with her friends on her bicycle by herself. Although she was able to ride in the past, she felt uncomfortable and someone always had to accompany her to help her up when she fell down. She is also excited that she can now walk longer distances without any discomfort and without needing to be carried or pushed in a wheelchair. Furthermore, she is now able to play tag and hide and go seek with her friends. “Now, I am very happy that I can ride a bicycle, walk to my aunt and uncle’s house and play with my friends,” said Su.