Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brace Trafficking

13 03 2011

Well. Lets call it just one more lesson learned.

It turns out, that if one has more than 10 of the same item when they travel internationally… said person must prove that they are not going to sell the items. To get more specific, if one asks a friend who is coming to visit to bring “a few braces” which turns out to be a donation of 56 braces, that person should ask for a letter verifying that these braces are in fact donations. If not, this poor friend will have to attempt to defend herself (in Spanish of course… which she does not speak) and explain why she has 56 braces (which for those of you who are not great at math is 46 over the legal limit). Basically you put said friend in a horrible position– she is now a brace trafficker.

The trafficer herself

The trafficker herself

Luckily we had Magnolia the super-translator who they let enter to help Cappie. The result was that we had to get a few letters from the orphanages to prove that we would be providing them with braces. One day later we had the black duffel bag in hand– a black duffel bag the size of a small adult, filled to the brim with braces. At this point I should send a HUGE thank you to the fantastic people who provided us with all these braces. CASCADE http://www.dafo.com which seriously is the best pediatric brace company in the world (I feel I have the authority to say that since I have seen braces in 4 countries now and they are hands down the best I have seen… okay, maybe I don’t have that authority– but I am going to say it anyway) They have a fantastic program in which they send gently used (or braces that did not fit kids appropriately) to organizations (like Super Kids) to provide bracing option for kids in need. And the other box of braces came from my FANTASTIC friends at Allied Therapy and Consulting http://allied-therapy.com in Arkansas where I did my residency last year. Thank you all so much for your kind (and not to mention speedy) donations.

We transferred the braces to my backpack and off we went to fit the kids. It was sooo awesome to see how the braces helped some of them. There is one little toddler, Louisa, who has increased muscle tone in her legs and thus has a hard time standing and attempting to walk– but with the braces she was able to take steps with me holding onto her hands… oh my gosh it was so awesome. I almost cried.

I think she liked them too

still happy... and walking!

We found braces that fit 8 kiddos (16 braces for those of you keeping score), plus two pairs of stretching braces. Magnolia, Cap and I took these braces to ”el Centro” the downtown part of the city where all the street vendors are, cheapest of the cheap merchandise, and we bought shoes for everyone. It was kind of funny– I just marched up there with my bag of braces and started sticking them inside shoes to see if they would fit. You have to understand that finding shoes to fit over braces is quite difficult even in the US. Usually you need to have pretty wide shoes to fit everything appropriately, but we made it work.

Cap modifying braces

Late night brace modifying session....

Finally… Cappie and I spent one evening a few night before I left pounding, glueing, cutting, ripping, sanding, poking holes… the experts call it adapting/modifying braces. I think what we did was more of a beat the crud out of it til it works type mentality. But we did it. And here are a few little dudes in their shiny new brace and shoes.

This little guy needs braces so he can spend time standing to help strengthen his bones

One of the much needed "stretching braces" that several of the kids can use

This little guy wasn't so sure about his braces... its the first time his little feet have experiences anything like this

Braces help this little girl stand up straighter when she is walking

She was really excited that these little pink braces fit her... they were her favorites

And there are still lots more braces to take to the special needs orphanage that I will go to in Costa Rica (and don’t worry, I will have a letter prepared for this journey.) Braces can REALLY make a difference in a child’s function movement (skills like walking, playing, running…. the normal “kid stuff”) so I am thrilled to have these available!!!

Thanks again to everyone involved in making this happen!

KO