Most everybody likes a good detective story so let's set the stage. Brian, our Mission Director, brought six sets of prosthetic hands with us on the Cebu Mission. These prosthetic hands were donated by the Pleasant Hill California Rotary Club and designed to be a simple and easy to maintain prosthetic. Once in place, the wearer manually closes the jaws of the prosthetic hand around an object which can then be held until manually released. Elegantly simple.
While on our Sunday bus tour of historic sights, David, one of our operating room nurses, spotted a man with a missing hand in a very impoverished part of Cebu City. The man appeared to be an ideal candidate but the tour moved on and no contact was made.
Fast forward three days. David has conferred with Brian (“we should go find this guy cuz that would be really cool”) and there’s no trying to talk him out of finding the man with one arm. David enlisted the help of a local girl, Rachael, to be their guide and with nothing more than a starting point of the Cebu Heritage Site they set off looking for the one armed man.
Typical scene in the poorer neighborhods of Cebu
David had last seen the man going into a small grocery store near the heritage site. Keep in mind that this is not a nice area of town with high poverty, people begging in the streets, and high crime. The man he’d seen wore no shirt or shoes so it was likely he lived nearby. The clerk thought for a bit about the description and then pointed the pair down a dirty street looking for a place that “sold clothes”. The people at the place that sold clothes then directed them up an alleyway where kids were taking showers from buckets of water, up two flights of stairs into a makeshift passage way that led to a room about half the size of our motel rooms.
They found a family of a man and wife with five or six kids all living in the single room. They also found the one armed man. David asked that man if he’d like to try the hand and the man smiled, of course he would and they began fitting the arm.
While fitting the arm, David got a little background on the man. He’s 34 now but when he was sixteen he picked up some fireworks which exploded in his hand. He and his father both said that since then he’s been depressed, has no job and has no girlfriend and drinks too much. He isn’t able to wear long sleeve shirts or nice clothes that people would wear to ask for work. When asked if the hand would help he absolutely beamed. Yes it would help, now he could get a job and get a girlfriend. The only concern the man had was if the hand was actually free, was there a cost? He was assured that it was his to keep.
David told me that when they walked away he felt like a million bucks. He said that it was due to all the Rotarians and their efforts that come together in unexpected ways. He felt that he was just the means of transport and delivery.