Working to change a life

This item appears on page 36 of the April 2010 issue.
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In a letter on a Spanish-language school I attended in Antigua, Guatemala, in July ’09, I wrote about meeting Juana, a 12-year-old girl with no hands. Taking an interest in her welfare, I did some Internet investigation and contacted an organization that agreed to help her obtain prostheses (Oct. ’09, pg. 34). Here’s an update.

In late September, a couple of her neighbors and I bundled the girl, whose name is actually Dariana López (my misunderstanding), and her mother into a van and headed to Guatemala City and the office of Wayne Cottle*, a veritable magician who can replace missing body parts with working prostheses.

Wayne Cottle and Dariana López.

There was a line of children and adults out into the street in front of his office, each with some type of physical problem. Mr. Cottle, with decades of experience in this type of activity, provides the prostheses at no charge for children and charges adults a nominal amount.

After explaining in detail exactly what he was going to do, he took casts of Dariana’s limbs, to which he would match prostheses when he returned to Lexington, Kentucky. He also examined her feet, which have no toes, and made plans to obtain a filler for her shoes which will enable her to maintain proper balance as she ages.

Mr. Cottle would return to Guatemala City in January with Dariana’s prostheses and shoe fillers. Meanwhile, I assembled a team in Antigua (Monica, who is a teacher from the school I attended and happens to be a neighbor of Dariana, plus other members of her community) to transport Dariana and her mother to his office for both fitting and training without my being on site.

Well, thanks to those wonderful people in Antigua and that extraordinary Kentuckian Wayne Cottle, who resembles Santa Claus in so many ways, Dariana received her new arms and hands on Jan. 17.

I gave Mr. Cottle $100, but that’s a drop in the bucket when you think about his flying back and forth to Guatemala, hiring a staff there, constructing prostheses, etc. I’m not sure how he does it.

Also, thanks to those same citizens with huge hearts and the staff of an amazing private school in Antigua called Colegio Americano Superior, Dariana has a chance to become fluent in English and an expert in the use of computers.

All did not go entirely smoothly, however. At the beginning, a local told me that another American had already tried to help Dariana but, because her begging provided the primary support for her family of nine, the mother had put a “thumbs down” on her getting prostheses. This time, fortunately, her mother seemed to be a big fan.

Unfortunately, I have since learned that Dariana is not using the prostheses at school. I checked with Mr. Cottle and he advised that this is normal for a child who is unaccustomed to them, and only time and a lot of urging will help her to become more proficient.

Monica, who has taken the girl under her wing, says the mother is continually asking for money (I admit I have given her some) and she does not seem particularly pleased with the turn of events regarding the new school. However, Monica is a tough lady who will not allow Dariana to be pressured.

Nevertheless, I am paying for Dariana’s education at about $500 a semester, which is not much when you consider everything: uniforms, clothes, computer lab, etc. My financing of Dariana’s future is the least important part. My role in all of this has been as more of a facilitator.

When you get into your 70s, it is a common belief that all your challenges have been met. Not true. Not even close. It is remarkable the things that can make you really happy.

RALPH McCUEN

El Paso, TX

*Mr. Cottle was Director of Prosthetics at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Lexington, Kentucky, and recently worked with the organization Children of the Americas in Guatemala City. He told ITN, “I have worked taking care of Shriner Children in Lexington for 38 years, and over the last nine years I have made 33 trips to Guatemala taking care of needy patients, especially children.

“Karina Diaz and I have formed the organization Guatemala Walks, which provides prosthetic devices for children at no cost to them or their families and, based on their ability to pay, to adults whose lives and those of their families would be changed by having the devices.”

Questions may be directed to Wayne Cottle c/o ITN or, in Guatemala, the Director of Guatemala Walks, Karina Diaz (e-mail karinadiaz96@hotmail.com).

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

In a letter on a Spanish-language school I attended in Antigua, Guatemala, in July ’09, I wrote about meeting Juana, a 12-year-old girl with no hands. Taking an interest in her welfare, I did some Internet investigation and contacted an organization that agreed to help her obtain prostheses (Oct. ’09, pg. 34). Here’s an update.

In late September, a couple of her neighbors and I bundled the girl, whose name is actually Dariana López (my misunderstanding), and her mother into a van and headed to Guatemala City and the office of Wayne Cottle*, a veritable magician who can replace missing body parts with working prostheses.

Wayne Cottle and Dariana López.

There was a line of children and adults out into the street in front of his office, each with some type of physical problem. Mr. Cottle, with decades of experience in this type of activity, provides the prostheses at no charge for children and charges adults a nominal amount.

After explaining in detail exactly what he was going to do, he took casts of Dariana’s limbs, to which he would match prostheses when he returned to Lexington, Kentucky. He also examined her feet, which have no toes, and made plans to obtain a filler for her shoes which will enable her to maintain proper balance as she ages.

Mr. Cottle would return to Guatemala City in January with Dariana’s prostheses and shoe fillers. Meanwhile, I assembled a team in Antigua (Monica, who is a teacher from the school I attended and happens to be a neighbor of Dariana, plus other members of her community) to transport Dariana and her mother to his office for both fitting and training without my being on site.

Well, thanks to those wonderful people in Antigua and that extraordinary Kentuckian Wayne Cottle, who resembles Santa Claus in so many ways, Dariana received her new arms and hands on Jan. 17.

I gave Mr. Cottle $100, but that’s a drop in the bucket when you think about his flying back and forth to Guatemala, hiring a staff there, constructing prostheses, etc. I’m not sure how he does it.

Also, thanks to those same citizens with huge hearts and the staff of an amazing private school in Antigua called Colegio Americano Superior, Dariana has a chance to become fluent in English and an expert in the use of computers.

All did not go entirely smoothly, however. At the beginning, a local told me that another American had already tried to help Dariana but, because her begging provided the primary support for her family of nine, the mother had put a “thumbs down” on her getting prostheses. This time, fortunately, her mother seemed to be a big fan.

Unfortunately, I have since learned that Dariana is not using the prostheses at school. I checked with Mr. Cottle and he advised that this is normal for a child who is unaccustomed to them, and only time and a lot of urging will help her to become more proficient.

Monica, who has taken the girl under her wing, says the mother is continually asking for money (I admit I have given her some) and she does not seem particularly pleased with the turn of events regarding the new school. However, Monica is a tough lady who will not allow Dariana to be pressured.

Nevertheless, I am paying for Dariana’s education at about $500 a semester, which is not much when you consider everything: uniforms, clothes, computer lab, etc. My financing of Dariana’s future is the least important part. My role in all of this has been as more of a facilitator.

When you get into your 70s, it is a common belief that all your challenges have been met. Not true. Not even close. It is remarkable the things that can make you really happy.

RALPH McCUEN

El Paso, TX

*Mr. Cottle was Director of Prosthetics at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Lexington, Kentucky, and recently worked with the organization Children of the Americas in Guatemala City. He told ITN, “I have worked taking care of Shriner Children in Lexington for 38 years, and over the last nine years I have made 33 trips to Guatemala taking care of needy patients, especially children.

“Karina Diaz and I have formed the organization Guatemala Walks, which provides prosthetic devices for children at no cost to them or their families and, based on their ability to pay, to adults whose lives and those of their families would be changed by having the devices.”

Questions may be directed to Wayne Cottle c/o ITN or, in Guatemala, the Director of Guatemala Walks, Karina Diaz (e-mail karinadiaz96@hotmail.com).