Reconstructive Surgery and Physiotherapy Training

September 2023

For the second time we organised a reconstructive surgery and physiotherapy training in Makassar. This was mainly possible thanks to Dr Wim Theuvenet and Dr Ton Schreuders who came to Makassar partly on their own costs to work with surgeons and physiotherapists, to share their immense experience and to give 14 young people who had been operated on, a new perspective on life.

The Leprosy Mission Netherlands (Leprazending Nederlands) again supported us generously for training, including costs that are not covered by the Indonesian health insurance. Many thanks for that!

The Tadjuddin Chaled Hospital in Makassar, formerly a leprosy hospital, was willing to host the training again this year and to cover part of the costs. Nurses, surgeons, physiotherapists, admin staff: all helped us with all their strength to solve the many operational problems that arise when you bring together 14 young people from remote areas all over South Sulawesi for surgery.

Our team of young PerMaTa members were ready 24/7 to help the patients, they stayed overnight near the hospital and helped with travel to and from the hospital, organising referrals, sitting with the patients for hours in the examination rooms during preparation phase, picked them up from the operational theatre, buying meals, pouring eye drops, provided motivation and encouragement, phoning back and forth deep into the night.  Without them, none of this would have been possible.

The patients came from the districts of Makassar, Sinjai, Bulukumba, Jeneponto, Bantaeng, Barru, Gowa and Wajo in South Sulawesi. Most of them are in their early 20s or younger. We had started months earlier to identify those whose hands, feet or eyes could be improved with surgery, which was very difficult because there is no data and in many cases surgery is too late. Economic factors then played another important role, making it impossible for some people to have surgery and thus be limited in their ability to work for up to 3 months. Even if they knew that an operation would improve their ability to work enormously in the long term, they had to think about their families here and now. Most of the operations were claw hand tendon transfers, one drop foot tendon transfer, 3 corrections of lagophtalmos and a thumb webspace deepening.

The participants of the physiotherapy training were physiotherapists from Tadjuddin Chaled Hospital (RSTC) and Kelet Hospital, a former leprosy hospital in Central Java. We were particularly pleased with the active participation of Dr Matilda as a Rehabilitation Specialist. Orthopaedic and ophthalmology surgeons from RSTC, Wahidin hospital and Kelet hospital worked together with Dr Wim Theuvenet. Special thanks to Dr Iswahyudi for all his dedication!

We thank all involved from the bottom of our hearts for this successful training and the surgery that will change the lives of these young people! For many years there has been no reconstructive surgery for people affected by leprosy in Indonesia. Now there are specialists again! However, operational issues are often difficult to solve, especially costs for transport and inpatient care. The patients will all come back in 4 weeks and get 10 days of physiotherapy at RSTC, which is only possible because RSTC and especially Leprazending Nederland make this financially possible. Local solutions need to be sought and found and we hope to continue to work on this with the help of those involved in this training!

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